it's black, it's white
Third Ward impresario and veteran Austin artist collab on striking new exhibit on racial equality
To paraphrase the opening lines from the classic sitcom The Odd Couple, can an African-American artist from Houston and a white artist from Austin share a collaboration without driving each other crazy?
Beginning Saturday, May 20, artists Robert Leroy Hodge and Tim Kerr will prove they absolutely can when they debut “Robert Hodge x Tim Kerr: No Kings But Us.” The new exhibit at Blaffer Gallery consists of collaborative pieces the pair spent nearly a year working on.
This union has been a long time in the making. Both men were already aware of each other’s work. “I had a show in San Antonio at a gallery with another friend and [the owner] just kept telling me about Robert — that we should do something together,” Kerr, 67, tells CultureMap.
Third Ward art vet Hodge admits he’s been a longtime fan of the DIY artist/musician. “I’ve been following Tim’s work since I was a kid,” says Hodge, 44. “He’s well-published, so I wasn’t a stranger to Tim’s work… That’s why it was so easy for me to say yeah.”
Art enthusiast/hip-hop producer Russel Gonzalez finally got these two working together. As someone who’s hung pieces from both artists in the lobby of the Dakota Lofts (where he also serves as property manager), Gonzalez knew this was a creative partnership waiting to happen. “As I’m looking at these pieces, Robert is telling me how he pretty much knew all about Tim and knew some things about Robert,” says Gonzalez. “But I just started thinking about how this could be a really wonderful collaboration because of their color.”
“Just the colors that they were using, and some of the messaging,” he adds. Both men do have a knack for creating striking pop-art collages, usually sprinkled with righteous agitprop. “Robert and Tim’s themes are very aligned. They may have different images for different things on the paper or on the canvas. But I see their themes as being very much aligned.”
The collaborating started back in August, with Hodge and Kerr sending pieces back and forth to each other and Gonzalez serving as a courier. “From that point on,” says Gonzalez, “we just started to build the ideas and grow and throw in different ideas about what we wanted to do for branding, logos, names, where we wanted it to be at — and, then, go after it.”
Eventually, they knew they had to be in the same space together. Gonzalez got Hardy & Nance Studios to provide a two-week, temporary space for the pair earlier this year, and that’s where the work started flowing.
“Tim did a lot of work and, then, I’d have to figure how to respond to things he was saying in the work,” says Hodge. “When you collaborate, you gotta be thoughtful. You gotta think about where your placement is, what are you responding back to… It was always a trade-off, back and forth.”
With both men in the same space, the pieces became more unified. Says Kerr, “Because it’s not just a Black man saying this or a white man saying this, it’s Black and white saying the things that we’re saying — which kinda come off, to me, a bit stronger.”
With both men showing off the fruits of their labor at the Blaffer (they previously did a test run earlier this month at a Marfa gallery), the pair hopes this could lead to more projects in the future. “I’m looking forward to building more works with Tim,” says Hodge. Adds Kerr, “I’m sure we’re gonna kinda keep going with this.”
Robert Hodge x Tim Kerr: No Kings But Us will run through June 4 at Blaffer Art Museum, 4173 Elgin St. The opening reception starts at 6 pm Saturday, May 20 and is free to the public. For more information, visit the exhibit's site.