The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum holds a unique place in Austin: a lush outdoor oasis only blocks from the heart of the city focusing on both midcentury and contemporary sculpture. Founded in 1989 when Charles Umlauf, professor of sculpture at the University of Texas at Austin from 1941-1981, donated 168 works and deeded nearly 2 acres to the city of Austin as a place to show his bronzes. From 1989 to 1991, adjacent land was secured and in 1991 the sculpture garden moved permanently to their current space just across the river from downtown.
In 2013, when it became time to find a full-time curator separate from the executive director, the Umlauf was incredibly fortunate to bring in Katie Robinson Edwards. Previously a professor of Art History at Baylor University for eight years, she got the news that Umlauf was searching for a curator and spread the word to her graduate students. After thinking further about the job compared to her research and interests, she realized that it would suit her perfectly. Edwards got the news that she would be the new curator directly before the semester began, secured a replacement to teach her classes, and began at Umlauf in August of 2013.
In keeping with the spirit of the Umlauf, Edwards began as a volunteer. She spent time working with the outgoing executive director/curator before beginning as the full time curator directly after Labor Day 2013. Edwards’ curatorial vision, a wonderful synthesis of old and new, is what makes her work at the Umlauf truly stand out. She plans on continuing to showcase Umlauf’s work, but also works to put him in context with his contemporaries and show the trajectory of contemporary sculpture from the 1980s until today. Focusing on seasonal exhibitions, at least four a year, two are Umlauf cornerstones and two concentrate on contemporary sculpture. The Umlauf Prize, a juried exhibition and cash prize awarded to a University of Texas at Austin MFA student, is also included on top of these four exhibitions.
On view until early 2015 is Umlauf: Process, an exhibition of the fiberglass sculpture molds used to cast Charles Umlauf’s bronze sculptures. Never before seen by the public, this exhibition is an intriguing look into the process and materials behind the masterful finished bronzes. In January an exhibition of the sculpture of Luis Jiménez opens, celebrating a great Texas artist and bridging the gap between Umlauf and contemporary sculptors working figuratively.
2016 is the 25th anniversary of the Umlauf, and it is sure to be an exciting year. With an anniversary exhibition showing Umlauf’s influences and degrees of separation as well as an Umlauf Prize retrospective group show, stay on the lookout for their upcoming programming! While planning your visit, don’t forget that the grounds are absolutely stunning in the spring.
For more information, please visit umlaufsculpture.org