Matt Devine's Small Metal Works and Christy Rogers's Experimental Photography Now Showing at Laura Rathe Fine Art

Categories: Visual Arts

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Undercurrent by Matt Devine, one of his abstract sculptures at Laura Rathe Fine Art

Matt Devine and Christy Rogers are shown in tandem at the Laura Rathe Fine Art Gallery, with no connection between them, except that both are highly contemporary artists, with Devine working with small metal pieces assembled together to form complex, abstract patterns, while Roger uses experimental photographic techniques to achieve colorful results, often combining the abstract with the representational.

Devine's Undercurrent is composed of shiny blue metal tapes, far too many to count, assembled to form a circular presence (60" round, 6"deep) of power and authority. There is an air of brassy insouciance, as though the sculpture was feeling its oats, yet the lingering effect is warm and welcoming.

I admired Devine's La Luz (60"x64"x6"deep), composed of brown metal tapes, but here spaced more openly, so that the shadows of the tapes against the wall enlarged the depth, and seemed to become part of the sculpture. His Little Cottonwood (44"x48"x6"deep) uses white metal tapes tightly clustered to create powerful energy, enticing but dangerous, like a welcoming briar patch.


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Artist Elena Wortham Digs Deep and Sparkles at d.m. allison gallery

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo by Elena Cusi Wortham
Demolition 2 by Elena Wortham, at the d. m. Allison gallery.
Elena Cusi Wortham was born and raised in Mexico City, but has lived in Houston since 1975. She works in various mixed media, and the current exhibition of her work at the d. m. allison gallery features striking collages, usually with a dominant central image.

One work, titled Demolition 2, (35"x43") shows a tall, slender and multi-layered brown-and-white building rising from the detritus of a garbage dump, with the walls of each floor missing, and the insides - like its origins in the dump - trashed. The result is unlivable, like trailers from hell piled at odd angles one over another, yet there it is, towering above us, and daring us to admire it. Whether we do or not, it is impossible to ignore, a driving force outlined against a blue collaged sky.

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Evocative Watercolors Showcase Another Side of John Singer Sargent

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MFAH Houston/Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by Special Subscription.
John Singer Sargent, "The Bridge of Sighs" c. 1903-04.

The amazingly prolific American-born John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) had already secured his reputation and fame as the leading oil painting portraiture artist of his time. But by the turn of the 20th century, he felt the medium had grown...well...as staid and stale as some of his subjects.

So as a challenge to himself -- and to allow a more fluid and faster-paced creativity -- he began to concentrate on producing watercolors. Two exhibitions of these works at New York's Knoedler Galleries in 1909 and 1912 (curated by the artist himself) were massive successes.

The entire group of Sargent's works at each show was purchased by the Brooklyn Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, respectively -- the latter before it even opened to the public.

Now, more than 90 of what one contemporary critic called "swagger watercolours" from both exhibitions come together in the MFAH's "John Singer Sargent: The Watercolors."

"At the turn of the century, Sargent was at the top of his game, but he felt he had achieved all he could in portraiture," says Kaylin Weber, assistant curator of american painting and sculpture at the MFAH.


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The Non-Traditional Native American Art of Christine Nofchissey McHorse

Categories: Visual Arts

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All Photos by Olivia Flores Alvarez
Detail from Spine by Christine Nofchissey McHorse
Native American clay artist Christine Nofchissey McHorse uses what many might consider traditional materials and techniques, but she achieves some very non-traditional results.

"When people talk about traditional shapes and methods, I don't believe in such a thing because there's all kinds of ways to arrive at the same place," McHorse told the crowd during last week's opening reception for the "Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse" exhibit at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. "I learned from my husband's grandmother, but who knows who taught her and who taught that person. There's so much sharing and overlap, it's just amazing who influences who."

Elizabeth Kozlowski, curator for the HCCC, says there are several things that set McHorse's work apart from other contemporary Native American pottery. "[Her works] tend to be larger and definitely more sculptural. They refer to the vessel so I think she's certainly influenced by her culture and her roots, but because of her form and scale, she's taking it to a whole other level. I think for her it's not about the maybe more functional approach to things. She's using her environment and the landscape as an inspiration and then moving beyond the literal translation of that."

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Wanted: Visual Arts Writers for Quick Looks Around Houston

Categories: Visual Arts

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Interested in making a big splash about visual arts writing in Houston?

The Houston Press is looking for additional freelancers to add to its visual arts coverage. Specifically we're looking for people who can write short reviews of shows and galleries around town that will appear both in our print edition and online at Art Attack.

Qualifications: Applicants need to not only know about visual art but be able to communicate their thoughts by writing in clear, entertaining and authoritative fashion. Accuracy is essential as is a basic knowledge of English grammar. Ability to hit weekly deadlines is also crucial.


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"Great Art in Ugly Rooms" Is Exactly That

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Great Art in Ugly Rooms
Someone once said that beauty was everywhere, you just have to find it. The exact quote has been bastardized, morphed and flipped around so many times who knows what the actual saying is or who should get credit. Regardless of who said it first, it's a played out saying and there is something almost corny or ironic about it now. If you could bottle the clichéd irony of this saying and shake it up and paint a wall with it, it might turn into Paul Kremer's "Great Art in Ugly Rooms" (GAiUR), now on display at The Brandon (what was once Domy Books)

If the title sounds familiar, it's because Kremer's tumblr of the same name has gotten a boatload of write-ups since its launch, although Kremer's name has mostly been kept out of the press. The site is a series of images of aesthetically unpleasing or "ironically" unattractive rooms that play house to a beautiful piece of famous art. A Normal Rockwell hangs on wall of a boring conference room, a Basquiat adorns the wall of a fast-food joint, a Dan Flavin illuminates a dingy bathroom; you get the point. For the current exhibition, Kremer has blown up several of the images from the site, as well as printing others on stretched canvas. The result is fantastic.

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"50 Shades of Green" at the Archway Gallery: The Name Says a Lot

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Harold Joiner "Spring Green in the River Canyon"
Noted art collector Peggy Guggenheim is quoted with saying, "My knowledge of art ended at impressionism." Guggenheim was a well-known fan of abstract and avant garde art; she was married to Dadaist Max Ernst after all. Whether Guggenheim was complimenting the Impressionist movement or putting it down is up for debate, I have felt this way at times. It seems sometimes as if the Impressionist movement never ended; we won't let it.

The influence of the impressionists is very much at play in the new collection "50 Shades of Green," at the Archway Gallery. The show, which opened this weekend and runs through the end of the month, is the works of painters Judy Elias and Harold Joiner.

Let's put aside the horribly clichéd title and concentrate on the work itself. The collaborative collection features a variety of oil paintings mostly of outdoor settings in which "the artists realized... the prominence of green as a modifier." The artists also share a similar style and good deal of overlap in content.

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Saying Goodbye to the Old West at G Gallery

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Felice House
There is an old western proverb that says, "If you're riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there." It may be the herd that has wandered off, or it may be the Old West itself that has morphed into something different before your very own eyes. The latter is the subject of the newest exhibition at The G Gallery called "Re-Western." The collection features the works of two artists, Felice House and Dana Younger, and their exploration of the American Western Frontier from a contemporary perspective.

"Re-Western" examines many of the quintessential western emblems and turns them on their heads. Younger, a sculptor and installation artist, has taken the western theme and has pushed it into a post-modern era. One section of the gallery is dedicated to Younger's constructed bull skulls. The classic icon of the Native Americans, which is often known as a representation of bravery and strength, has been turned into a modern symbol of razzle-dazzle painted in bright neon colors.

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Dana Younger


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Our Annual Thanks to the Houston Arts Scene

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Photo by Jann Whaley
Venus in Fur with Nicole Rodenburg as Vanda and Michael Bakkensen was just one of many endeavors that fired up the Houston arts scene in the past year

It's become a tradition to ask our Art Attack bloggers what they are thankful for in the Houston arts scene this year. Here's this year's reaction:

Think of our performing arts scene as a grand banquet, a great groaning board full of savory dishes. Just since the official opening of the current season, look upon the entrees we've already tasted: classic fare like Main Street's The Real Thing; Houston Ballet's The Merry Widow; the Alley's You Can't Take It With You; Houston Grand Opera's Aida; A.D. Players' Arsenic and Old Lace, all prepared by the finest of chefs.

Then there were the mouth-watering side dishes, like TUTS new underground series that began with the grunge musical Lizzie; GEXA on Broadway's Peter and the Starcatcher and Chicago; and the Alley's Venus in Fur, the flavors were tantalizing. And let's not forget the highly spiced appetizers: Music Box Musicals' Avenue Q; Mildred's Umbrella's Carnival Round; Catastrophic's The Pine, Bayou City Concert Musicals' The Pajama Game. The food never stops, it's finely served, and just makes you hungry for more.

Not satisfied yet, just wait. Look what's in store for the next seating: 50 Shades of Grey; Wagner's Das Rheingold; Other Desert Cities, Aladdin, The Diary of Anne Frank, Vera Stark, American Idiot. The banquet in Houston never stops. Go gorge yourself, giving thanks all the while for Houston's performing arts bounty which is, as we all know, food fit for the gods. - D.L. Groover

I've written several Creatives profiles this year and I am so grateful to see so many people in Houston making a living (or at least a go) at a lifestyle that does not require sitting inside a cubicle. It gives me immense confidence in the creative diversity of this city. It's also so inspiring on a personal level to talk to people who are overwhelmingly passionate about what they do. That makes me want to be a better writer. - Brittanie Shey


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"The Wartime Escape" at Holocaust Museum Houston Illustrates the Daring Escape of the Creators of Curious George

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photos by Altamese Osborne
Allan Drummond, illustrator, stands in front of an enlargement of one of his illustrations.
The little brown monkey floats down the river on a plank of wood, his face set in its famously quizzical expression: eyes wide, eyebrows arched, mouth upturned at the corners. He and The Man in the Yellow Hat have been visiting friends in the country, but the monkey, wandering after some tempting distraction, as he is known to do, has gotten lost! After about 30 minutes (and two or three repeat trips past the same floating rock,) the monkey deduces his location, creates a mental map and is able to find his way back to his owner and his friends. When he finds him, The Man in the Yellow Hat shrugs and laughs. It's just another day in the life of Curious George.

Before George's animated turn as an early morning children's television character, he was the charming scamp in a series of children's books, "The Adventures of Curious George."

Before it was a popular children's book series, "The Adventures of Curious George" was originally titled "The Adventures of Fifi," created, written and illustrated by Hans and Margret Rey.

And before H..A. and Margret Rey created "The Adventures of Fifi," they were a couple desperate to flee Paris in advance of approaching Nazi forces.

Their epic journey is depicted in a series of 25 giclee (liquid) prints on watercolor paper, drawn by illustrator Allan Drummond and is titled "The Wartime Escape: Marget and H.A. Rey's Journey from France." The exhibition dots the halls in the Central Gallery at the Holocaust Museum Houston's Morgan Family Center.

This series of illustrations originally appeared in "The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey," a book penned by Louise Borden.

"My [illustrations] are only half of the story," said Drummond during last week's preview reception. "It's really [Borden's] story."

Drummond's illustrations are as expressive as Curious George's innocent eyes, relying on a cool color palette that surprises with pockets of red, orange and yellow, the last paralleling the signature yellow of the "Curious George" book jackets.

Across from and next to Drummond's pieces, The Reys' own historic pieces -- photographs, journal pages, letters -- hang in the Central Gallery, contrasting with the bright illustrations of the former. "H.A. and Margret Rey at a book signing" is a black-and-white photograph of the smiling couple signing copies of their books. Children surround Margret in the foreground, while in the background, H.A. draws a kangaroo onto a chalkboard. Likewise, on "Diary page from May 1980," the closest the frayed, worn paper gets to the book series' signature sunny yellow is a faded custard curled into the tips of H.A.'s journal page.

Curated around Drummond's illustrations and the Reys' memorabilia is a vivid red background. Textual explanations of each pictures hang nearby. Instead of bland copy, these summaries are written as a picture book's question-and-answer format. With this, "The Wartime Escape" is designed to appeal to both adults and children -- and curious little monkeys.

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