"From the Pinnacle to the Prize" Exhibit

Categories: Visual Arts

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

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

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

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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"SHOW UP" Documents That Important Art Can Be Great Fun

Categories: Visual Arts

Photo courtesy of Lindsey Prescia
Guus Kemp's The Messenger exudes power and vitality
The Zoya Tommy Contemporary Gallery has a knack for showing works of wit and substance, and for documenting that significant art can be great fun. The current exhibit "SHOW UP" does that in spades.

It has works that range from jocular (painted art on imitation toast in real 'found' toasters by Katie Pell) to powerful abstract art that is exciting. An example of the latter is The Messenger by Guus Kemp, where the paint is slathered on with a generosity of spirit, enriching the texture. It has a multi-colored lavish energy, inviting one in, like a commanding but pleasant vortex.

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Gray Contemporary Hosts a Bright, Colorful Show With Aloe Vera

Categories: Visual Arts

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

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

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

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

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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