Critics’ Picks

Lisa Davis, untitled [Kay Turner playing with Girls in the Nose], n.d., pigmented ink-jet print on matte surface paper, 11.5 x 17".


Lisa Davis

Austin History Center
810 Guadalupe Street
April 24–July 22, 2018

The world is full of worlds—crucibles of connection and affinity that can make the present bearable or, better yet, a whole lot of fun. One such world existed in Austin in the 1990s, a group of queer musicians (mostly women) committed to expanding and refining their art, moving their listeners, and unsettling the status quo of their surroundings. “We’ll Just Rock for Ourselves” is a small but deeply felt exhibition drawn from the archives of Lisa Davis, who was there the whole time, capturing it all on film.

Davis was, to crib a term from literary theory, a minor artist, working in the major language of concert photography. Many of the photographs here reveal a blurry, bright whirligig of color and bodies, sweat and steam—a readily recognizable visual analogue to the feeling of nights spent in close proximity to amps, guitars, and cheap beer. Yet Davis’s photographs are more than this, consistently privileging joy over too-coolism. In one image, Kay Turner, lead singer of Girls in the Nose, opens her mouth wide, while behind her a guitarist and a bassist face off against what is likely the rocky façade of Chances—a beloved and now defunct queer bar. Gender play and queer/punk-rock pugilism were the lifeways of this and other bands Davis photographed: Power Snatch, Two Nice Girls, Meat Joy, Sincola. So what if Davis thought herself more a journalist than an artist? And so what if she thought she was simply helping out her friends? Echoing the sentiment of the exhibition’s title, Gretchen Phillips (one of the denizens of the ebullient world Davis captured) noted on opening night, “Of course it feels amazing . . . to have this recognition, but guess what? These fucking shows were enough.”