The Hidden Treasures of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photos courtesy of MFAH
Walking Man by Auguste Rodin
Tucked away next to a parking lot, a remarkable collection of majestic sculptures by internationally famed artists is on display behind attractive stone walls in an open-air park. It's the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed and created by Isamu Noguchi, himself a world-famous sculptor, landscape architect and pioneer of modern interior design.

The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden first opened to the public in 1986 -- Noguchi had submitted his initial design in 1979, and refined it over the next five years. MFAH reports that, working with Houston landscape architect Johnny Steele, Noguchi himself selected the plants and trees for the garden, favoring native species when possible.

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Buildering: Misbehaving the City

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artists and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
The sculpture El Barrio by Los Carpinteros dominates its surroundings
"Buildering" is a word you probably have never heard before, and the same is true of the French word "parkour", but both these describe overt acts of artistic expression with elements of rebellion against the establishment - a "flash mob" may be a contemporary example. Both have an unsanctioned, "in-your-face" attitude. More importantly, both are great fun.

This is a traveling exhibition, and the Blaffer Museum has done us a service by scheduling it. There are striking sculptures, exciting videos, and photographs of some of the coups that mischievous practitioners have pulled off in the past.

One such striking sculpture is El Barrio, consisting of a number of individual cardboard structures, like boxes, with openings for windows and doors, piled together as an exhibiting gallery sees fit. The Blafffer Art Museum has chosen to heap them together, creating an imposing edifice that necessarily brings together the vista of a favela in Rio de Janeiro, or, moving dramatically up the economic scale, of Habitat 67, the model community and housing complex created by Moshe Safdie for Montreal's Expo 1967.

El Barrio was created by "Los Carpinteros", the name used by Cuban artists and collaborators Marco Antonio Castillo Valdes and Dagoberto Rodriguez Sanchez. It simultaneously references upscale cliff-side residences, urban slums, disposable housing, and art itself, no mean feat.

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"Monet and the Seine" Is a Must-See Show if You Can Find the Right Spot

Categories: Visual Arts

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Claude Monet, The Seine at Lavacourt, 1880, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund
As museum-goers, it seems we can never get enough French Impressionist painting -- or at least that art museum curators and directors think we can't. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is giving us another opportunity to test that proposition with the exhibition "Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River," on view through February 1.

The premise of the show is straightforward: Claude Monet (1840-1926), the artist who is perhaps the pre-eminent Impressionist, was born in Paris, through which flows the Seine; he grew up in the Normandy port city of Le Havre, at the mouth of the river; and for most of his life, he lived and painted in one place or another along the river -- including Giverny, made famous by his presence -- taking the river and its banks as the subject of countless paintings or at least the framework for them (more about that later).

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Carole A. Feuerman's Solo Exhibition Celebrates Hyperrealism

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Octavia Art Gallery Houston
As realistic as art comes - Christina by Carole A. Feuerman

Hyperrealism is in full swing at the intimate Octavia Art Gallery, as Carole A. Feuerman displays a major new work, Christina, created for this exhibition, along with a number of works from the past few years. Hyperrealism art is intended to simulate reality so precisely that the art can easily be mistaken for the real thing.

Christina is a life-size sculpture, composed of painted resin, a statue of an attractive, fit woman in a white bathing suit with orange and yellow designs on it, and a helmet-style bathing cap. She is turning her face to the sun, and the gallery's lighting adroitly simulates that sun. Though in a discreet one-piece bathing suit, Christina is dressed to please, with silver strap-on open shoes with high heels, though not spiked.

She is aware of her beauty, poised and confident, perhaps prepared for the pose as her armpits have been groomed. On her back there is a detailed zipper for the bathing suit, with a few hairs escaping from the bathing cap. So vivid is the impersonation that a viewer might imagine he had seen her at a pool.

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Texas Visions of an Earlier Time: An Exhibit Worth Taking Your Time Over

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of William Reaves Fine Art
Robert Wood is justifiably famous for his bluebonnet paintings, and strong composition
In this very large exhibition, 57 works of early Texas art, there are two paintings that should be seen, for historical reasons. One is On Texas Waters: USS Constitution; this wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate won many victories in the War of 1812, and became much-loved, nick-named "Old Ironsides" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. It went on a three-year tour from 1931 to 1934, and was painted by Paul R. Schumann in 1932 as it appeared in full sail in Galveston Bay. It anchors the exhibition with a specific moment in local history.

The second is a 1936 portrait, 40 inches by 28 inches, by Emma Richardson Cherry of her son-in-law, titled Major Reid. It shows him to be handsome, in uniform, and its warm tan tones here posit the glamor of war, ignoring for a moment the agony in the trenches. The painting resonates with love, almost palpable, alive after all these years.


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The Mystifying Element to Larry Bell's Paintings

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and the gallery
Larry Bell's mixed media AAAAA 98 dominates the Nicole Longnecker Gallery
There is a mystifying element to Larry Bell's paintings - distance seems to add further enchantment. Up too close, I felt I was missing the forest for the trees. Nicole Longnecker Gallery has wisely hung the wonderful AAAAA98 at the furthest reach, so it dominates from afar.

I liked it enormously, without being able to determine why. It has a grey fish at the top, colorful vertical slivers, definitely a 3-dimensional feel, with perspective of depth. It reminded me both of the 1939 NYC World's Fair, and of an Oriental sedan chair, so I decided just to savor the mystery.

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adds a highly attractive salmon color, and has some representational clues, a central roll-up window-shade, some grey fabric at the right and bottom, and a glimpse of an alien sunrise or sunset. Somehow, I sensed that Larry Bell had been there, and seen it.


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Christopher St. Leger's "Mass and Void" Exhibits Amazing Watercolors

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and Hooks-Epstein Galleries
A watercolor shows the architectural strength of Christopher St. Leger

The immediate impression on seeing the amazing watercolors by Christopher St. Leger is that this artist loves architecture, cities, and watercolors, and uses his talents to create vistas of shimmering beauty. This is a large and impressive exhibition, so a viewer in immersed immediately, and surrounded, by cityscapes so enticing as to make choosing which to see first a challenging assignment.

St. Leger's artist statement in part reads "... the delicate spilling of watercolor on concrete isn't a gesture of expressionism -- it's human vulnerability." There is a remarkable feeling that St. Leger is sharing his heart as well as his artistry.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Fast Charging, Brilliant Screen Display and Fun for People Who Like to Handwrite Notes

Categories: Visual Arts

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Ready to write the Great American Novel?
Welcome to the fast-charging world of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Being the proud possessor of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 which has made it possible for me to play Angry Birds on a really big screen anywhere I go (yay!) and to stay in constant touch with my office (well), when our publication got the chance to try out the next generation of the same smart phone it made sense that I try it out.

What made even more sense was to share the assessment duties with my son Tim, a college student who loves all things electronic.

While Tim waxed poetic about 3GB RAM and 32GB of memory and that the "5.7 inch screen looks sharp and vibrant with 2,560 x 1.440 resolution..." I sidestepped the specifics to state at the screen which looked really clear with beautiful, sharp colors -- as good or better than HD TV.


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Earl Staley Tackles a Number of New Approaches in "The Resolution of Doubt"

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Zoya Tommy Gallery
Wonderer by Earl Staley
Earl Staley is not only a prolific artist, he is also a most inventive one, either re-inventing himself or tackling new approaches in his art, exhibition by exhibition.

His recent showing at Jung Center, "Reconstructions," combined traditional portrayals of Greco-Roman legends with abstract over-painting to create a wondrous method for showing the evolution of art, and himself, over a 30-year span.

Staley's new exhibition at Zoya Tommy Contemporary, titled "The Resolution of Doubt", is totally different, and includes a number of approaches within the same showing. His Wonderer suggests perhaps the chaos present as the physical world was formed, a vertical sliver of red controls the center, against a background of irregular blues and dark reds, while a pale green grape-shaped blob seems to have formed into something more definite. It is mysterious, and intriguing.


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"Evidence" Shows Off a Variety of Work With Wit at d.m. allison gallery

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of d. m. allison gallery
Allurement dominates with its colorful beauty
The d. m. allison gallery presents both emerging and established artists, and manages to exhibit a great number of works, somehow attractively arranged, in its fairly intimate space. Wit is often in play, as well as innovative approaches.

What is truly beautiful can be decorative as well, and can rise to the level of stunning art. Such is the case in this group show entitled "Evidence" with Allurement, by Erika Pochybova-Johnson. It is a portrait of a peacock, head turned, perhaps to admire its own magnificent multi-colored train. The colors are vibrant, gripping, and difficult to wrench one's eyes from - no wonder the peacock is straining to see.


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