The (Texas) Hills Are Alive at the William Reaves Gallery

William Lester
Famed author John Steinbeck once said, "I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion."

Steinbeck goes on to comment on the core of Texas, which he considers to be its people. Although, from a visual perspective, it may just be the Texas landscape that really sticks with you. We Houstonians carp over the flat terrain and lack of scenic diversity, but just a few miles outside of town, Texas is surrounded by beauty.

That beauty is the center of the William Reaves Fine Art Gallery current exhibition, Hill Country Love Affair: Interpretations of a Texas Heartland, which runs through November 16.

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galleryHOMELAND Presents the Dark Work of Domokos Bencze'di

This weekend, Houston's galleryHOMELAND presented the first solo exhibition by artist/musician and experimental noise band, Future Blondes contributor, Domokos Bencze'di. VANISH 3: DOMOKOS, is a large scale installation that will evolve and change over the course of its one month run in the gallery though ongoing performances, "noise sets" and live events.

Currently on display at the gallery is what can be described as the "backbone" of the piece, which consists of mixed-media, projection, print and sculpture. The whole thing feels of a dystopian, futuristic world, especially given the gallery's stark warehouse milieu. Patrons may think that they just drifted onto the set of sci-fi noir film, Blade Runner.

There is one main image in this piece that has been recreated in multiple fashions throughout. It is of a woman's lower face, dark black lips are surrounded by a series of symbols, letters, maybe they are even hieroglyphics, but they seem to come from a world far, far into the future.

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An Exhibition Dedicated to the "SPRAWL"-ing City of Houston

Categories: Visual Arts

Photos by Altamese Osborne
"An Incomplete Articulation" by Paul Sacaridiz
Standing in the doorway to the opening of "SPRAWL," Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's newest group exhibition, is no different than standing at the opening of a toystore, only here you're more likely to find a tool box filled with woodchips than a toy box full of Barbie dolls. Enter into a bejeweled wonderland of gleaming stalactites hanging from the ceiling, miniature houses teetering on seesaws and stained glass windows swinging from metal poles.

Showing at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, SPRAWL explores the tenuous relationship with Houston geography, at once loved and loathed by citizens and non-citizens alike for its far reach and uneven plain. Co-curated by Susie J. Silbert and Anna Walker, the exhibit stretches throughout HCCC's gallery, mimicking the something here, something there, pockets of nothing design of the Bayou City. Additionally, the 16 artists that lent their creative hands to the exhibition provide works drastically different from one another. Like Houston's diverse cultures, cuisines, zip codes gnashed into one "sprawling" space, this clash of craftsmen works.

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"Rachel Hecker: Group Show" Defies Artistic Rigidity

Categories: Visual Arts

Photos by Altamese Osborne
"Finger Statue" (2013)
The massive foam finger isn't even the strangest thing you see in the exhibition.

Nor is the snowman, the twirling bottle of Xanax or the huge ear stuffed with a cotton ball.

Indeed, the most curious thing in "Rachel Hecker: Group Show," Hecker's new exhibition at Art League Houston, is a pile of jumping peanuts atop a white column. The "Peanuts," (2013) which are actual edible legumes, are attached to motorized magnets, causing them to jerk and jump around at random intervals.

It is these "Peanuts," in their abject randomness, that define the entire exhibition, a collection of 18 sculptures and paintings that sit and hang throughout the gallery in no particular order.

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"Nice. Luc Tuymans" Uses Dark Colors to Create Dark Moods About Famous Figures

Categories: Visual Arts

Photo courtesy of The Menil Collection
"The Secretary of State"
With "Nice. Luc Tuymans," the painter of the same name uses his enduring style - realism - in portraiture. The exhibition, curated by Menil director Josef Helfenstein and Menil curator of modern and contemporary art, Toby Kamps, sets 30 of his portrait paintings among 25 pieces from the Menil Collection.

Tuymans has been painting portraits of himself, family members and public figures since the start of his career in the 1970s, but these are no ordinary faces. With the famous figures particularly, Tuymans uses his oils to reexamine feelings about them.He muddies greens into colors of puce and washes out blacks into gray-scale hues, the combination of which leaves an ambivalent or even negative feeling about the person being portrayed.

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"Kermit Oliver: Tracing Our Pilgrimage" Traces the Career of A Great American Painter

Categories: Visual Arts

Pictures by Altamese Osborne
The man's face looks aged and weathered.

Accordionist is the last vocation you would pick for him, as his wrinkled hands relay the same signs of aging; still, he holds the instrument expertly, fingers lingering over keys like a lover's graze upon soft flesh. However nimble and confident his fingers may be, it is his face that catches the eye. He wears an expression of fear, and it's not hard to see why: Behind him, a tiger's body is caught in mid-pounce. His left paw is raised, his claws, unsheathed.

The man is Orpheus, ancient Greek musician famed to be able to hypnotize any living creature, human or animal, with the sounds of music. This explains his fingers over the accordion; apparently he is trying to fend off an attack -- and by the tiger's glazed expression, it's working. Thank goodness.

The success of "Orpheus," a painting by Kermit Oliver, is its realism, created by expert application of oil acrylic to canvas. The oil acrylic is applied in short downward strokes, creating vertical lines that imply movement. Oil Acrylic is also applied in layers, one on top of the other, making the picture look wet. Because liquids are known for their fluidity, this technique also gives the painting kinetic movement. This is what makes the man look so tight, the tiger so taut, as if he (or she) may, in fact, bypass "Orpheus" altogether and jump out of the painting toward you.

"Kermit Oliver: Tracing Our Pilgrimage" is an exhibition of 17 paintings -- including "Orpheus" -- taking up Art League Houston's front and hallway galleries. The 17 works on display span 30 of his 40 years as a painter. Each of the paintings features either a person or an animal, sometimes both. Though realism is the overriding style here, many, if not all, of the paintings, also convey a touch of surrealism. There are pieces that display hanging animals on top of random pieces of paper ("Buckeye Atop a Mexican Wheel"), boys in red paper hats ("Portrait of Khristopher with Red Hat") and paintings that feature female ghosts, seagulls and monkeys resting on a sandy beach. The latter, "Dido and Aeneas" (1997), is confusingly captivating, in the sense that you are aesthetically pleased with what you are looking at, even if you don't quite understand what it is -- at least, not without a little bit of research.

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Hot History: Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley's Bold Art Revolution at the MFAH

Courtesy National Gallery of Art. Ferdinand Lammot Belin Fund.
John Singleton Copley, "Watson and the Shark," 1778

In the late 18th century before the Revolutionary War, a good number of English citizens were pish-poshing the very idea of a United States of America.

So the thought of former colonists creating any kind of unique art worth looking at -- much less comparing to centuries of British tradition -- was not keeping many of King George's gallery walkers up at night.

But nobody told that to Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley. Though the American-born artists (Pennsylvania and Massachusetts respectively) had relocated back to the mother country by the time the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, their unique American perspective and practice of a new genre of painting ensured their massive success in London.

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EYESORE and give up Team Up For a Street Art Gallery Showcase

photos by Marco Torres

To evolve and adapt. In the world of street art, those factors are as important for success as the development of a unique aesthetic and consistent output. You gotta stay up. As street art hits the galleries, the same is true. When the idea of a joint showcase first hit artists EYESORE and give up earlier this year, the venue of choice was the now shuttered Domy Books.

Now that the duo has found a new gallery for their latest works (Cardoza Fine Art,1320 Nance), we spoke to EYESORE in anticipation of this weekend's opening for a preview of the show:

Art Attack: What lead to this collaboration between yourself and give up?

EYESORE: Besides being friends, we hold the same interest in the dark, ugly, and misunderstood subject matter, whether it be animals or people. We are the same in that respect, always riding around and seeing inspiration for our works hidden in the dark.

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"Gary Komarin: The Bowman Sixpence Has Got to Have Soul"

Categories: Visual Arts

Into this art world of faux-philosophizing and "deeper meaning" comes an exhibition that is just for fun: "Gary Komarin: The Bowman Sixpence Has Got to Have Soul," on view at Gremillion & Co. Fine Art.

The first thing one notices about "The Bowman Sixpence" is the absence of theme. There is no identifiable rhyme or reason to it. From the name to the paintings; each oil on canvas tells its own little story. Even the series of birthday cakes hanging between the canvases painting seem random. However, a little bit of prodding reveals that the randomness is the theme.

"He said if he thinks too much about the paining, it'll ruin it," said Bob Russell, a Gremillion employee, of Komarin's kooky designs.

"The Bowman Sixpence" is an exhibit created by, of course, Gary Komarin, a New York artist who currently resides in Connecticut. Komarin graduated from University at Albany, State University of New York, followed by an MFA from Boston University. His curriculum vitae boasts more than 100 solo and group exhibitions in places as local as Houston and as far as Zurich. With all of the accolades Komarin has acquired, it is understandable why his current exhibition is so carefree; like a retired teacher who comes back to substitute when the mood strikes, Komarin can now paint what he wants, when he wants. Unburdened by the looming deadline of negative or positive reviews, he creates with childlike abandon, and so the "The Bowman Sixpence" is the manifestation of this self-actualized freedom: a collection of cute, candy-colored abstract paintings on canvas and on paper.

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"MOVING/STILL: Recent Photographs by Texas Artists" Tries to Make Peace With Nature

Categories: Visual Arts

"Figs from Thistles" by Elizabeth Chiles
"MOVING/STILL: Recent Photographs by Texas Artists" explores the complicated relationship humans have with nature through the viewfinders of 12 photographers. To these artists, dealing with nature means accepting its unpredictability. The exhibition will be showing at both Fotofest and the Houston Center for Photography. An opening reception for the former was held last Friday and the latter, Saturday.

Friday's rainy afternoon lent a solemn mood to the Fotofest opening, one that may have closely resembled Megan Badger's photographs. However, while attendees dodged raindrops to make it into the gallery, Badger's subjects make peace with nature's thrashing waves, glaring sun and gooey mud.

"Gnashing of Teeth" is both ugly and beautiful. First, all of Badger's photographs are inkjet prints, matte alternatives to the glossies strewn throughout the gallery. This works well with the subject of the photograph, who splashes around in muddy waters. Black mud covers her all over, from her black dress to her black hair, but she doesn't appear to be grossed out. In fact, her face is one of pure ecstasy, of giving herself away to a sticky subconscious.

Elsewhere, the relationship between man and nature plays out in environmental distress, figurative dance and subtle manipulation. Elizabeth Chiles's Figs From Thistles series is titled after a book of poetry by the same name, her grandmother's favorite. The photographs look for beauty amongst the now barren. Chiles started photographing plant wildlife in spring 2013, just as Texas's cold winter was turning to warm summer -- however, after a season of drought, wildflowers were hard to come by; what was left; sadly, were bunches of dried-out, burned-out grass. Chiles's photos capture the rare flowers that grew despite this distress, whether they were an unexpected gathering of pink, orange and yellow wildflowers ("Figs from Thistles no.1"), or a lone pink flower ("Figs from Thistles no.4"), surviving amongst the ruin.

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