Gray Contemporary Hosts a Bright, Colorful Show With Aloe Vera

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and Gray Contemporary
A colorful, playful work by Christopher Derek Bruno
Gray Contemporary is a new gallery in the Houston Design Center, large, high-ceilinged and beautifully air-conditioned. This exhibition, a group show of ten artists, is the second one in its new premises.

Several paintings are quite bright and colorful, with "Shape Study 8 (Three Sides)" by Christopher Derek Bruno, the most intriguing. Its charm is not captured in the photo, as it has four three-dimensional vertical square pillars, with the front panel of each white, but each side panel colored and different; it is a work intended to be viewed from several angles.

Part of the charm is the asymmetry of the colors, with the far right pillar black and the unseen (in the photo) other side orange, then blue with textured yellow unseen, then yellow with textured green unseen, then at the far left, red with textured green-to-blue unseen. There is, thank heaven, no logical palette development, but instead a cheerful artist at play, a romantic, I would guess. I enjoyed it a lot.


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HMAAC presents African American Treasures from the Kinsey Collection

Categories: Visual Arts

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William Tolliver's Farm Boy (1990)
The Setup:
It has been 50 years since the passing of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, prohibiting the discrimination of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, which makes the Houston Museum of African American Culture's (HMAAC) presentation of African American Treasures from The Kinsey Collection all the more compelling.

The collection, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey's personal repository of historical artifacts and artworks, is a chronicle of the African American experience from the 1500s to today; it's a startling reminder that the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 was a momentous occasion hundreds of years in the making, but it's also a celebration of Black achievement and perseverance in the face of incomparable adversity.


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Modernism, Long Ago: A Texas Art Retrospective Scans the Years From 1935-1965

Categories: Visual Arts

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Courtesy of Private Collection
Ruth Pershing Uhler, Earth rhythm #2
Nineteen thirty-five seems a long time ago, in the fast-moving world of art, and indeed it is: almost 80 years. The exhibit "A New Visual Vocabulary: Developments in Texas Modernism from 1935-1965," presenting Texas art primarily from 1935 to 1965, showcases some of the Texas artists at work in that era, which of course included the cataclysmic event of World War II and the semi-idyllic postwar Eisenhower years, when America basked in prosperity, its manufacturing facilities undamaged by war.

The exhibition brochure suggests that Texas was "a vital current of modernist paintings and sculpture," yet the paintings and sculpture shown here tend to undermine that assertion. The artists are talented indeed, but the explosive force of dynamic change seems absent. France and Greenwich Village were alive with innovation, and the small town of Water Mill, Long Island, New York, and surrounding areas saw such diverse artists as Jackson Pollock, Bill de Kooning, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Joe Cornell and many others.

The Texas art is wonderful, if not pioneering. Oyster Shucker (1946) by Lowell Collins captures the melancholy and danger of the sea, its loneliness and tediousness, and by showing a single expressive eye permits us a look into the worker's soul. It is powerful and haunting.

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One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Art: "Transitional Artifacts" at Fresh Arts

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The Center for Imaginative Cartography & Research
One of the most cliché sayings is that one man's trash is another's treasure. In the case of the evolving display at Fresh Arts by Houston-based collaborative The Center for Imaginative Cartography and Research, this phrase morphs into "another man's art." Or perhaps it is another man's inspiration as the Center, comprised of the team of Emily Halbardier and Erik Sultzer, are using another man's trash to make a statement on the ever transitioning world in their new exhibition "Transitional Artifacts."

The duo was more or less inspired by trash to create this show. Halbardier and Sultzer live and work together in the Museum District of Houston and had spent many an evening walking the area. What they found was that their neighbors' garbage was full of untapped potential.

"When we proposed this project," says Halberdier, "we had been observing all of this waste and thought it should be used for art material."

There were many items which Halbardier and Sultzer didn't understand why they ended up as trash. A book shelf with minor issues and lawn chairs in perfectly good shape were among some of the garbage items they came across and snatched up. Although they weren't quite sure what they were going to do with these items at first. This is a part of the evolution of this show.

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"The Beat'n Trail" Exhibit Contains Some Powerful Work, As Well As Pieces by Chicken George That Will Make You Smile

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Marc Newsome
A giant wooden necklace by Katie Pell
It's wonderful to enter a gallery and be struck immediately by a powerful work, and to exit a half hour later with a smile on one's lips. Such was my experience with an exhibition of Texas artists titled "The Beat'n Trail", at the Alliance Gallery. The Gallery is part of the not-for-profit Houston Arts Alliance, described as the leading force for the arts in Houston.

The striking visual, a sculpture, is by Katie Pell, and is titled Charming Are Your Unformed Wishes. It is a number of large wooden links, some curled on the floor, with interlocking links rising to the ceiling, to be continued even there. It was inspired by a family heirloom, a locket, and it gains enormously by its size.

The wood is warm, making the links an ornament instead of a chain, and its immensity suggests a generosity of spirit, a dedication to the hard work of construction, and a rich and expansive personality. There is a companion piece, charcoal on paper, that is a sketch of the chain.

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In "The Cutting Bridle" Exhibit, Allison Rathan Shows a Keen Literary Sense

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and Archway Gallery
The Exchange by Allison Rathan has a mythic quality
The dominant picture in "The Cutting Bridle" exhibition, The Exchange, 60x48", is a self-portrait of the artist Allison Rathan, striding behind a very large wolf, the animal on a metal leash, in a dark-green forest under a crescent moon. It captures the confidence of this artist, who has blond movie star looks and the poise and litheness of a fashion model.

This painting has an air of ambiguity, and might be a book cover for an exciting combination of medieval myth and sci-fi ruminations. There is another figure in the lower left hand corner, which looks like a serpent whose head is the desert-bleached skull of a steer. Ponder away, if you wish, looking for significance, but I prefer just to savor the mystery.

The leash holder has a slit skirt that exposes a graceful leg, and her left hand is lightly cupping her left breast, a reminder that we are living in a world where sensuality, like it or not, rules. This theme runs throughout much of the other art as well.


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The Hindu Deities Unleashed at Asia Society Texas Center

Categories: Visual Arts

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Maa Laxmi, by Manjari Sharma
The Setup:
The pantheon of Hindu deities is almost too great to number; many of the gods and goddesses of the Indian subcontinent reincarnate at certain points in their mythologies into different forms, avatars with distinct attributes and temperaments. For the people of India, their deities are not passive onlookers of the human experience, but active participants that shape the word on both micro and macro levels. Asia Society Texas Center is currently showing Transcendent Deities of India: They Everyday Occurrence of the Divine, an exhibit that features the Hindu gods and goddesses as rendered through the valences of three artists working in different mediums and generations.


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The Old Friends, Horton Foote's Most Outrageous Play, Starts the Alley Season

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo © 2013, Joan Marcus
Hallie Foote as Sibyl Borden and Betty Buckley as Gertrude Hayhurst Sylvester Ratliff in the Signature Theatre production of The Old Friends
There's the usual rivalries and gothic relationships between families and friends. Yet the characters are more jet-set swingers than salt of the earth - even when they call the fictional town of Harrison, Texas home. Or so it seems.

Acclaimed playwright Horton Foote (Trip to Bountiful, The Young Man From Atlanta, Orphans Home Cycle, Dividing the Estate) was venturing pretty far afield from his usual work when he did The Old Friends. It's the story of what occurs when Sibyl Borden (Hallie Foote, the playwright's daughter) returns home and creates a domino effect that uncovers long hidden secrets and longings.


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lntroducing the Subtle Wit of Elizabeth Fox and Striking Sculptures of Jesse Lott

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and the gallery
"Wishing You Were Here" by Elizabeth Fox, featured in a group show at d. m. allison gallery
The d. m. allison gallery is dedicated to the exploration of new and emerging talent, as well as being a venue for nationally known visual artists. In its new group show, the gallery is featuring the works of Elizabeth Fox, whose paintings have a sprightly, highly contemporary look, not too far from what might expect in a New Yorker cartoon - that, by the way, is a compliment.

The men in her paintings are all fit, and the women are slender, with great anatomies made clear by tight-fitting garments. Fox's artist statement is unusually interesting, reading in part: "Tensions are introduced to question sexual, gender, and age relation. These questions are left unanswered as to who or what is the dominant power." Along with Camille Paglia, I'm betting on the women.


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Marta Chilindron & Graciela Hasper: Dialogues

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artists and Sicardi Gallery. Photography by Os Galindo.
The works of Marta Chilindron and Graciela Hasper at the Sicardi Gallery.
The Sicardi Gallery has paired two artists, both born in South America, one in Montevideo and one in Buenos Aires, who share an interest in creating colorful, vibrant art, though they are not collaborators with each other. Graciela Hasper works with acrylics on canvas to create wall art, and Marta Chilindron uses colored, transparent acrylic to create flexible sculptures.

Hasper doesn't title her works, and they are designed to be hung horizontally or vertically, with the possibility of being varied at will. A 2014 work, 53x77", has cascading transparent planes of different colors, some square, some rectangular, along with a few cubes and rectangles. It has enormous power and energy, and somehow it seems orderly as well as chaotic - I sensed that the varied elements would glide past rather than run into one another.


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