"45 Days: Explore the Arts in Houston" Initiative About Halfway Through Its Run

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Photo courtesy of Houston Arts Alliance
Houston Cinema Arts Festival
More than two weeks into this year's "45 Days:Explore the Arts in Houston" initiative, Jonathon Glus, president and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance, says the campaign "to drive cultural tourism and to drive people who already partial to the arts to do something new " is working well.

"The response has been great. More than 50 organizations are participating.," Glus says. They've been encouraging an Instagram program through social media, asking people to send in their photos of themselves having fun at arts events.

The program's efforts seem to be working, Glus says and the crossover factor -- where someone interested in one type of arts attends others -- is especially high in Houston. And he and his office later provided statistics to back that up:


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"Texas Before the Boom": Texas Art Before the Turn of the Century and Before Clichés Set In

Categories: Visual Arts

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Courtesy of the Pearl Fincher Art Musuem
A photo of the artist's wife by Louis Grenet.
The exhibition "Texas Before the Boom, 1850-1900: Selections from the Bobbie and John L. Nau Collection," currently on view at the Pearl Fincher Art Museum in Spring, consists of 40 or so paintings and drawings made in Texas or by Texans, mostly before 1900. Since most people, when they think of Texas art -- especially the old stuff -- probably think first of bluebonnets, cowboys and longhorn cattle, this show might just as aptly be titled Texas Art Before the Clichés. There's not a single blue-bonnet or cowboy, and only one longhorn, in the show.

To be fair, there's nothing inherently wrong with any of those subjects, all of which came along big time for Texas artists after the turn of the 20th century. Even bluebonnet paintings can be good -- it's all in the execution, and those illusive qualities that transform a painting into art. But the works in this show are especially intriguing in part because the subjects are so different from those conventional ideas of what makes a work "Texas art."

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"Earl Staley: Reconstructions" Mixes Greco-Roman Myths With More Modern Techniques

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and Jung Center
Earl Staley's Awakening portrays the growth in nature
The first thing a person notices in entering the Jung Center gallery rooms is that there is a strangeness to the paintings. Not strange in the sense of inappropriate, but strange in the sense that they are highly unusual and distinctive. The explanation lies in the duality of the art.

The artist Earl Staley, who did a series of paintings of Greco-Roman mythology 30 years ago, has now cut each of these works into strips of canvas, repainted over them with brush strokes and dots, and reattached the strips to a new canvas. The result is a double image resonating of both the past and the present.

In some paintings, the original image has almost entirely disappeared; in others it is still dominant. It is most visible in Polyphemus and Galatea, portraying the Cyclops Polyphemus forcing his attentions on the nymph Galatea. The overpainting seems to screen the sensuality, but curiously, it actually heightens it.


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Literary Inspirations: The Art of Carl Köhler

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Henry Köhler
Portrait of the playwright Antonin Artaud
Carl Köhler (1919- 2006) was a portrait painter who never met his subjects, at least in person, though he came to know them intimately through reading their books if they were writers, or learning about their lives, if they were politicians or celebrities. Köhler varied his artistic style to match the subject - for example, the portrait of the French poet, playwright and critic Guillaume Apollinaire was superimposed upon a newspaper.

While Köhler usually drew heads only, for Antonin Artaud, playwright, theater director and author of The Theatre of Cruelty, Köhler included his torso and hands as well . . . perhaps to permit applause?

There is an intellectual and emotional power in these portraits that is compelling. Köhler's subjects tended to be intellectuals, iconoclasts who challenged the rules of conventionality, and often lived outside these rules. For authors such as Henry Miller, Günter Grass and Franz Kafka, Köhler used woodcuts where the heavy dark ink suggested a seriousness of purpose.


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The Left Bank on the Bayou: Avant-garde Art & Theater in 1930s Houston

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of O'Kane Gallery
Nione Carlson's untitled portrait is believed to be of Edith Sitwell
Houston became the largest city in Texas in population in 1939, ending the decade with 400,000 residents, before World War II caused a further rapid expansion. Major events in that decade were the University of Houston becoming a four-year institution in 1934, and later moving to its present location. Braniff Airways and Eastern Air Lines came in 1935 and 1936.

Underneath the growth was a burgeoning art scene, fueled by Margo Jones, dynamic producer and director who founded and directed the Houston Community Players in 1936, and almost single-handedly began the decentralization of American theater. The opening of The Little Gallery on Branard Street provided local artists with an opportunity to exhibit their works, including some that were (gasp!) abstract.

And now that era can be re-visited, thanks to a fascinating exhibition at the O'Kane Gallery curated with wisdom and enthusiasm by its director Mark Cervenka. One of the most striking works is a portrait by Nione Carlson, believed to be of the poetess Edith Sitwell, almost certainly a correct attribution when compared to other portraits of her. We see instantly the power of a commanding personality, and also sense the theatrical self-presentation for which the 6-foot Sitwell was famed, in addition to her luminous poetry. I heard Sitwell speak at Yale University in the early '50s, where she caused a tempest in a teapot by receiving the post-lecture accolades from Yale's distinguished academics while she remained seated and condescending.

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Just Ink 4 Had Something for Everyone, and They Could Buy It Right Off the Wall

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photos by Robin Baker
Some of the work of Julie Zarate.
Talk about an art sale: Robin Baker curates an annual event in which artists hang their art, sometimes as many as 60 pieces per artist, and the exhibition lasts just one night! The East End Gallery, managed by Liz Ortiz, hosted this event, "Just Ink 4", on Friday, August 22, and 39 artists participated.

The art is hugely varied, and often amazingly good; there is something here for all artistic tastes. And it was a pleasure to see some of the 300 patrons - yes, 300! - who attended walk out with art under their arms; when sold, it comes off the wall.

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"From the Pinnacle to the Prize" Exhibit

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the Mariago Collective
Ariane Roesch's Rung by Rung adds softness and inner light to a familiar shape
Two artists with dramatically different approaches to art are showing at the Mariago Collective in the "From the Pinnacle to the Prize" exhibit. One, Ariane Roesch, is warm and gentle, shifting shapes which are normally rigid into softer contours, and adding an inner luminosity.

The other, Scott Proctor, perhaps says it best in his artist statement, which says: "The unmentionables... not quite so subtly alluding to what we are all thinking about ... butts, balls, boobs, blobs, and sweat stains ... right? Or is it just me?" The contrast is between celestial and earthy, between romantic and pragmatic, between - well, you get it.

The first floor of the very attractive building is given over to Roesch, with the major piece being Rung by Rung, a soft vinyl ladder of nine rungs, displayed on the floor and covered in what seemed to be old-fashioned vinyl. LED lights enhance the rungs, making it attractive, and welcoming, as though the artist had decreed: "No more hardness, the world will be soft." And yet there is another dimension to its appeal, a hint of treachery, as this ladder is certainly treacherous, echoing the poisoned apple in Snow White.

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Coalescence: Interlocking Metal Frames Ghostly in Their Strangeness by Jessica Kreutter

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist
Jessica Kreutter's sculpture at post-studio projects
The first impression is of an irregular and very complicated . . . what? There are no ready-made words to describe the strange, very strange architecture of Jessica Kreutter's sculpture at post-studio projects in her exhibit "Coalescence."

It is composed of interlocking metal frames, covered with whitish clay that has been pressed onto the metal, so the overall effect is sepulchral, ghostly, a graveyard at midnight. The metal pieces - all of them white, white, white - may be a child's crib, or a bedstead, as long, thin square poles hold them together, bridges and perhaps also weapons, lances.


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Rest in Peace: Johnathan Estes

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www.facebook.com
The Houston arts community is mourning the loss of one of its own this week. Johnathan Estes, executive director of the Southern Artist Foundation, died early Tuesday morning. Estes was well known for operating Montrose Proper Art Gallery on Westheimer and Kingspoint Community Art Lab, affectionately called "The Mullet," an art warehouse located behind Almeda Mall.

According to HoustonPolice.org, HPD patrol officers were called on Monday night in response to a shooting at 10900 Kingspoint in Southeast Houston. The victim, later identified as Estes, suffered from multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.


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Secrets of the Heart: Dario Robleto at The Menil Collection

Categories: Visual Arts

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Dario Robleto's Things Placed in the Sea, Become the Sea (2013-14).

The Setup:

The human heart is a strange thing. It beats, pushing blood through the arteries, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the trillions of cells that make up our physical being. Without the beating heart, life simply does not exist. Yet, can the prime mover of our physical existence give insight into our interior lives, the emotional terrain that constitutes our dreams, desires, and faith? This is the question Dario Robleto attempts to answer in "The Boundary of Life is Quietly Crossed", an exhibition now open at The Menil Collection.

The Execution:
The culmination of Robleto's research of the human heartbeat is seen in his two new sculptures, as well as select items from The Menil's holdings. Visitors young and old will marvel at his table of curiosities, Things Placed in the Sea, Become the Sea (2013-14). Thematically, the sculpture speaks to the historical confluence of the United States' race to conquer space, and the medical community's creation of the artificial human heart. Both endeavors reached a zenith of activity and success in the 1960s.


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