The Tapestries Are Nice, but the True Stars of "Spectacular Rubens" Are the Paintings

Categories: Visual Arts

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Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
An exhibition with the formidable title "Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist" opened this week at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The show comes to us from the Prado Museum in Madrid by way of the Getty in Los Angeles. It consists of four huge 17th-century tapestries along with the small (very small by comparison) paintings by Rubens that served as their designs, plus assorted other things that I'll mention later. Houston is the last stop before everything is shipped back to the owners, mostly in Madrid, perhaps never to travel again, almost certainly not all together.

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Patrick Renner's Sentinel Stands Guard at City Hall

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All photos by Monica Fuentes
Sentinel by Patrick Renner
There's a plain esplanade, with grass and trees, on Montrose in front of the Art League of Houston building now. Up until recently, the colorful, whimsical Funnel Tunnel snaked its way through the trees. The public art installation was created by Patrick Renner, a 2015 Houston Press MasterMind Award winner. Made up of hundreds of thin strips of wood painted in a wild variety of colors and attached to a steel frame. Renner's Funnel Tunnel was recently dismantled and a new Renner installation popped up on the plaza of City Hall's front door.

Made of materials similar to those used in Funnel Tunnel, the round sculpture is three feet wide and 12 feet tall and resembles a tower. "It's called Sentinel," Renner tells us. "Originally it was going to be two smaller pieces, one o each side of the front doors. But then that idea was scrapped and I was told I'd have to move away from the doors. So instead of two six foot tall pieces I made on 12 foot tall piece."

This story continues on the next page.

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Zoya Tommy Reunites Contemporary Artists for Final Show Before Moving Downtown

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Zoya Tommy Gallery
"Long May She Wave" by Marco Villegas
Viewing the New Work: Group Show exhibit at Zoya Tommy Gallery is a bit like attending a class reunion - an opportunity to see classmates from years past and find out what they're doing today. A collective of ten artists, most of who have shown here in the past, represents the swan song for this location, but not for this gallery, which will reopen in a larger venue at 4102 Fannin on March 6.

Marco Villegas' Long May She Wave was a standout, a 60" x 72" latex on canvas piece with multi-dimensional layers of blacks on white and a thoughtfully placed breaking waves stencil effect.


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Prepare Yourself for a Journey Into Darkness

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of William Reaves Fine Art
"Dissection" by Jack Boynton

Prepare yourself for a journey into darkness at William Reaves Fine Art, with its current modernist exhibition, The Reductive Landscape: Paintings & Drawings by Jack Boynton and McKie Trotter. Boynton's Blind Beast, a monstrously large side profile of a flat nosed mythical creature's head with course hair and yellow mouth against a somber gray background is incredibly powerful. He might not have eyes to see, but he should be feared nonetheless. Dissection, which was painted a year later, is almost certainly representative of the demise of this same creature, with the lightning cleaved halves showing the fading heartbeat on one side, the empty void of life on the other, and a cataclysmic background of iridescent green.

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Art or Not, Mel Chin's Work Is All Over Houston

Categories: Visual Arts

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Courtesy of the artist
The Funk & Wag from A to Z at the Blaffer Art Museum.
As a non-professional Houston gallery-goer, I've been aware of Mel Chin sort of floating in the ether for a long time. I've even seen his work in group and solo shows, I know, though the only one I can definitely remember is his The Funk and Wag From A to Z at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in 2012. I remember liking it a lot.

Well, Chin is no longer floating in the ether. For the next few months, he's practically taking up the whole art atmosphere of Houston with his 40-year retrospective "Mel Chin: Rematch." Chin and the show have already done the same with stops at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

It's a show so big that here in Houston, it takes four museums to hold it all. The Blaffer Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Asia Society Texas Center and the Station Museum of Contemporary Art will all have parts of it into March or April, varying by venue. And as a special treat for hometown folks, there's even an added bonus of Chin drawings at Art League Houston.

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The Stars Have Fallen on Discovery Green

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo by Katya Horner
"Field of Light" by Bruce Munro at Discovery Green
The stars have fallen on Discovery Green, courtesy of British artist Bruce Munro and his Field of Light installation of illuminated fiber optics. Living in the nation's fourth largest city, light pollution has made it impossible to see the more than 2,500 stars visible to the human eye, but for just a few more weeks we can see something almost as fantastic in the 4,550 radiant, frosted glass spheres along the Brown Promenade of this downtown park.

Mounted on springs and waving in the wind, the lights wax and wane like fireflies, with bright lines of illuminated fiber optic trailing back to the energy sources.


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"The Art of Celebration" Exhibit Explodes in Bright Colors

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Nicole Longnecker Gallery and Celebration Company
A cycle of Rain by Halley Turner
Bright, happy colors, complex themes, and a strong use of red are all evident in the current "The Art of Celebration" exhibit at Nicole Longnecker Gallery, which features artists from Houston's Jewish Family Service's Celebration Company, a program for adults with disabilities. The common theme of this exhibit is joyfulness, and artist Ari Klein said it best, "I enjoy drawing because I am able to think out loud on paper."

Standouts include Arthur Alexander's The Sun at Night, with a tiny little white sun on a blue background in the upper left-hand corner. The theme of houses is repeated in his works, and is executed beautifully in Gray Barn House.

Inspired by Baytown's chemical plants, Ian Spindler used a more muted palette. The yellow red, The green apartment in baytown and The golden chemical plant/blue featured outlined linear structures; one sported red monster goblins, eponymous of leaked poisons and chemical spills.

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John Halaka's "Portraits of Denial & Desire" Tell a Palestinian Story

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo by John Halaka
Umm Hussein

Activist artist John Halaka, of Palestinian descent, was born in Egypt and has roots in Houston; after graduating from the University of Houston he went on to teach at UH, North Harris County College, The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and The Glassell School of Art.

His current exhibit at Rice University, "Portraits of Denial & Desire," focuses on displaced indigenous Palestinians and their stories of exile, resistance and survival. He has enlarged his photographs, stripped them of color and printed them in triptych form on oversized blankets, which serve as both a symbol of protection, as well as an illustration of the temporary nature of refugees.

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Stephen Daly's "Drawings and Sculpture" Exhibit

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Daly
Intervention, ink and water color on paper
Cryptic languages, hidden doors, secret passageways and escape hatches: expect to find this and more in Stephen Daly's "Drawings and Sculpture" exhibit at Gremillion & Co. It is the modus operandi of this former professor of art (now Professor Emeritus, University of Texas) to challenge and lead the viewers into drawing their own conclusions, leaving just enough clues to guide the way.

Daly uses the letter format, with salutation, rows of communication and signature, in both 3/25/14 Letter and 3/8/12 Letter, but the language was none I had encountered before. It is a linguistic foil, not really saying anything, but offering the possibility of communication. Calligraphic characters, pretend redactions and autonomous images are arranged in a collective way to create an atmosphere that allows the reader to enter the work.

Understanding these two smaller works proves to be an excellent training ground for the larger Intervention. On a macro level, its quilt-like squares and edging create an arena for two larger zones, struggling for space across a great blockade. Everything becomes much more interesting when viewed on a micro scale, with small private and public spaces offering false barriers and ways to escape to the next zone through ladders, hidden doors and travel paths. Follow the trails through the composition to discover symbolic repeats, word images and secret treasures in some of the more quiet zones.

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Trey Egan Channels Emotion and Frustration in His "Signal Chamber" Exhibit

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo by Trey Egan
Worlds Apart; Days Turn Into Night
Action painter Trey Egan channels personal emotion and the pain of creative or financial frustrations, amplified by super loud electronic music, to produce multi-layered oil paintings of non-objective physicality in his "Signal Chamber" exhibit at McMurtrey Gallery.

Egan has an uncanny ability to portray depth, with his layering process of earlier stages of flatter, natural tones, followed by later stages of spot-putted saturated colors. He is fascinated by the mechanics of music production, likening his work to the stacking of similar elements to achieve a more powerful outcome. There is a busy-ness to his works, a continuity of his pre-2011 crowds of people, but he has since realized that the subject matter is less important than the energy and controlled chaos of thoughtfully placed shapes and color.


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