"Urban Asia: Kirk Pedersen" Examines Urban Japan, Old and New

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist
A haunting cityscape, Night Rain, Dalian, by Kirk Pedersen
The population shift of Asians toward large cities has captured the imagination of Kirk Pedersen, and he in turn has captured its complexity in a series of photographs and photographic montages on display at the Asia Society.

Rudyard Kipling's dictum "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" has consistently been eroded since Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853 opened up trade with Japan through "gunboat diplomacy", according to U. S. Naval records. But, while there are tacit references to East and West, Pedersen has really centered on Urban Asia today vs. Urban Asia of yesteryear.

They photographs indicate both urban decay and the construction of residential units in buildings so high they would have seemed impossible a few years ago. There is an impersonal element to many of the photographs, as we see architecture, but no humanity.


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The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Isles of the Dead

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Vito Schnabel and McClain Gallery
An ingenious re-staging of Arnold Bocklin's famed Isle of the Dead

This is a most unusual exhibition, interesting and innovative, and also almost a demonstration of how crucial color choices are.

Arnold Bocklin's 1880 painting, Isle of the Dead, shows a white-shrouded figure being rowed to an island. Inevitably, it is perceived as Charon on the River Styx carrying souls to the afterlife. Bocklin created five variations between 1880 and 1886, and the image has become iconoclastic, even fabled, and has influenced many distinguished artists.

The enterprising Bruce High Quality Foundation ingeniously re-staged the painting in 2008 by having two of its members in a dinghy, one standing, in a white shroud, photographed as the dinghy moves toward the New York City skyline.

The exhibition at the McClain Gallery shows a number of silkscreen images of Bocklin's painting, as well as a number of silk screen images of the Bruce High Quality image. This latter is a broader panorama, while Bocklin's image is more of a close-up, and I preferred the panorama for its scope. Each one has a dramatically different color scheme, from festive to somber.

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Raw Material Exhibit Shows off Works by Mari Omori, Kia Neill and Cassie Normandy White

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Hunter Gather
Kia Neill's graceful and elegant watercolor, Spore Study #14

Mari Omori first captured my eye - and my imagination - as part of a brilliant two-person show at Total Plaza in July. She is Japanese born, now a Houston resident and educator, and she creates delicate, graceful, surprising art through use of teabags . . . yes, teabags! I quickly forgot the sheer novelty, as the results stand on their own as art.

Here in the "Raw Material" exhibit she shows pyramid dreams, a half-ruff, white, so elegant that it might be worn as a necklace to the opening of a world-famous opera. A large wall-hung work, Katachi, 83 inches by 45 inches by 2 inches, might be an Australian aborigine's flattened kayak. It has various shades of white and brown, and looks like wood, but of course it's not. Orb Web is a gossamer sail hung high that might easily carry Peter Pan to Neverland. It has elegance and style.

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Black Friday's Free Art Events: Field of Light, Hidden Treasures and More

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo by Mark Pickthall
Field of Light by Bruce Munro
It took 42 people working in rotation over five days to place the 4,500 radiant glass spheres that make up Bruce Munro's Field of Light installation at Discovery Green. Each sphere is set atop a thin, clear stem. Installed in the ground on either side of the Brown Promenade, under the park's alley of oak trees, the site-specific display is dazzling. The spheres wave back and forth in the wind; each is illuminated by a web of fiber optics. The wide variety of vivid colors alternate randomly, with each sphere being illuminated individually.

"Color is integral to the Field of Light, allowing it to come to life," Munro tells us. "The colors...change in a gentle and rhythmic fashion. [This] creates an illusion of movement within the Field of Light when viewed as a whole. As you walk through the promenade, the Field of Light is on either side. So you will be able to experience the Field of Light around you, but you won't be able to walk through the landscape itself."

See the Field of Light from dusk to 11 p.m. Daily. Through February 8, 2015. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For information, call 713‑400‑7336 or visit discoverygreen.com. Free.

This story continues on the next page.

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The Hidden Treasures of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photos courtesy of MFAH
Walking Man by Auguste Rodin
Tucked away next to a parking lot, a remarkable collection of majestic sculptures by internationally famed artists is on display behind attractive stone walls in an open-air park. It's the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed and created by Isamu Noguchi, himself a world-famous sculptor, landscape architect and pioneer of modern interior design.

The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden first opened to the public in 1986 -- Noguchi had submitted his initial design in 1979, and refined it over the next five years. MFAH reports that, working with Houston landscape architect Johnny Steele, Noguchi himself selected the plants and trees for the garden, favoring native species when possible.

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Buildering: Misbehaving the City

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artists and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
The sculpture El Barrio by Los Carpinteros dominates its surroundings
"Buildering" is a word you probably have never heard before, and the same is true of the French word "parkour", but both these describe overt acts of artistic expression with elements of rebellion against the establishment - a "flash mob" may be a contemporary example. Both have an unsanctioned, "in-your-face" attitude. More importantly, both are great fun.

This is a traveling exhibition, and the Blaffer Museum has done us a service by scheduling it. There are striking sculptures, exciting videos, and photographs of some of the coups that mischievous practitioners have pulled off in the past.

One such striking sculpture is El Barrio, consisting of a number of individual cardboard structures, like boxes, with openings for windows and doors, piled together as an exhibiting gallery sees fit. The Blafffer Art Museum has chosen to heap them together, creating an imposing edifice that necessarily brings together the vista of a favela in Rio de Janeiro, or, moving dramatically up the economic scale, of Habitat 67, the model community and housing complex created by Moshe Safdie for Montreal's Expo 1967.

El Barrio was created by "Los Carpinteros", the name used by Cuban artists and collaborators Marco Antonio Castillo Valdes and Dagoberto Rodriguez Sanchez. It simultaneously references upscale cliff-side residences, urban slums, disposable housing, and art itself, no mean feat.

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"Monet and the Seine" Is a Must-See Show if You Can Find the Right Spot

Categories: Visual Arts

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Claude Monet, The Seine at Lavacourt, 1880, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund
As museum-goers, it seems we can never get enough French Impressionist painting -- or at least that art museum curators and directors think we can't. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is giving us another opportunity to test that proposition with the exhibition "Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River," on view through February 1.

The premise of the show is straightforward: Claude Monet (1840-1926), the artist who is perhaps the pre-eminent Impressionist, was born in Paris, through which flows the Seine; he grew up in the Normandy port city of Le Havre, at the mouth of the river; and for most of his life, he lived and painted in one place or another along the river -- including Giverny, made famous by his presence -- taking the river and its banks as the subject of countless paintings or at least the framework for them (more about that later).

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Carole A. Feuerman's Solo Exhibition Celebrates Hyperrealism

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of Octavia Art Gallery Houston
As realistic as art comes - Christina by Carole A. Feuerman

Hyperrealism is in full swing at the intimate Octavia Art Gallery, as Carole A. Feuerman displays a major new work, Christina, created for this exhibition, along with a number of works from the past few years. Hyperrealism art is intended to simulate reality so precisely that the art can easily be mistaken for the real thing.

Christina is a life-size sculpture, composed of painted resin, a statue of an attractive, fit woman in a white bathing suit with orange and yellow designs on it, and a helmet-style bathing cap. She is turning her face to the sun, and the gallery's lighting adroitly simulates that sun. Though in a discreet one-piece bathing suit, Christina is dressed to please, with silver strap-on open shoes with high heels, though not spiked.

She is aware of her beauty, poised and confident, perhaps prepared for the pose as her armpits have been groomed. On her back there is a detailed zipper for the bathing suit, with a few hairs escaping from the bathing cap. So vivid is the impersonation that a viewer might imagine he had seen her at a pool.

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Texas Visions of an Earlier Time: An Exhibit Worth Taking Your Time Over

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of William Reaves Fine Art
Robert Wood is justifiably famous for his bluebonnet paintings, and strong composition
In this very large exhibition, 57 works of early Texas art, there are two paintings that should be seen, for historical reasons. One is On Texas Waters: USS Constitution; this wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate won many victories in the War of 1812, and became much-loved, nick-named "Old Ironsides" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. It went on a three-year tour from 1931 to 1934, and was painted by Paul R. Schumann in 1932 as it appeared in full sail in Galveston Bay. It anchors the exhibition with a specific moment in local history.

The second is a 1936 portrait, 40 inches by 28 inches, by Emma Richardson Cherry of her son-in-law, titled Major Reid. It shows him to be handsome, in uniform, and its warm tan tones here posit the glamor of war, ignoring for a moment the agony in the trenches. The painting resonates with love, almost palpable, alive after all these years.


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The Mystifying Element to Larry Bell's Paintings

Categories: Visual Arts

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Photo courtesy of the artist and the gallery
Larry Bell's mixed media AAAAA 98 dominates the Nicole Longnecker Gallery
There is a mystifying element to Larry Bell's paintings - distance seems to add further enchantment. Up too close, I felt I was missing the forest for the trees. Nicole Longnecker Gallery has wisely hung the wonderful AAAAA98 at the furthest reach, so it dominates from afar.

I liked it enormously, without being able to determine why. It has a grey fish at the top, colorful vertical slivers, definitely a 3-dimensional feel, with perspective of depth. It reminded me both of the 1939 NYC World's Fair, and of an Oriental sedan chair, so I decided just to savor the mystery.

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adds a highly attractive salmon color, and has some representational clues, a central roll-up window-shade, some grey fabric at the right and bottom, and a glimpse of an alien sunrise or sunset. Somehow, I sensed that Larry Bell had been there, and seen it.


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