Saturday, July 18, 2009

$timulus and I Love You Baby Bullets

Two art shows opened Friday so I decided to check them out after work. First was $timulus at Diverse Works, a group show of 2009 recipients of grants from Artadia, a grant-making outfit that supports selected artists in selected cities, including Houston. So like any group show, you have some winners and losers. Usually I only like to talk about the art I like, but I have to complain about El Franco Lee II (or Junior, for short).

El Franco Lee playas
not sure what the title is, El Franco Lee II
  • Junior's art looks inept and adolescent.
Blacksheep vs. Marvel
Blaqsheep vs Marvel, El Franco Lee II
  • It troubles me to look at it--is Junior being ironic or is this work just plain dumb?
  • You are meant to wonder this when you look at some of the work of, say, Mike Kelley or Lisa Yuskavage. But, y'know, really it's obvious that these two are clever postmodernists producing double-coded art.
  • The only hints that he might be an ironist are his elite education (Yale, UH MFA) and where his art is shown.
  • But for me, that just doesn't make up for the bad drawing and general stupidity of the work.
Blaqsheep vs. DC
Blaqsheep vs. DC, El Franco Lee II
  • If he were 16 years old and drawing this, I'd feel slightly embarrassed for him.
from "The Young Manhood of Dan Pussey," by Dan Clowes
  • But I like to think I'm less naive than "Bubbleman"--I don't care if Junior is being postmodern. This art is horrible.
Blaqsheep Vs. Triad
Blaqsheep vs. Triad
  • I mean "Blaqsheep vs. Triad"--Jesus.
  • But some of the art in the show was good.
Stephanie Toppin self portrait
Self-Portrait, Stephanie Toppin
  • Like this.
Delilah Montoya
La Llorona in Lilith's Garden, Delilah Montoya with Tina Hernandez, 2004
  • And this.
Delilah Montoya detail 1
La Llorona in Lilith's Garden, Delilah Montoya with Tina Hernandez, 2004, detail
  • Here's a detail of that last one.
Dawolu Jabari Anderson
Mam E, Dawolu Jabari Anderson
  • This one made me laugh. (Laugh with it, not at it.) Dude digs Kirby, eh?
I left Diverse Works with mixed feelings. I was worrying over whether ineptitude as a strategy, as a way of questioning certain artistic meta-narratives, butts up against ineptitude that happens because an artist doesn't know any better. With Junior, like with so much postmodern art, context is everything. If you saw one of those "Blaqsheep" drawings in a teenager's notebook, you might be encouraged that he is being creative, but you certainly wouldn't encourage him to pursue an art career. My question is, does this really change just because the work in on the pristine white walls of Diverse Works?

These questions didn't get easier at my next stop for the night. An art group, I Love You Baby (ILYB for short), was showing at The Joanna.
  • The Joanna is just an ordinary house on Graustark across from the University of St. Thomas.
  • Its shows last one night only--on Friday, that was from 6 pm til 2 am.
  • The group I Love You Baby is a collective of anarchic art punks.
  • They were among the exiles from the Commerce Street Artist Warehouse who were in the movie by Skeezer Stinkfist. (They were ones who had the office Christmas party that degenerated into an orgy of destruction.)
  • Their paintings seem a bit cleverer and more knowing than Junior's.
unknown title, ILYB
  • I liked this one.
unknown title, ILYB
  • And this one made me laugh.
  • But even though they were basically exhibiting in someone's living room, context was everything.
unknown title, ILYB
  • The work would seem ridiculously crude and inexplicable outside a gallery.
unknown title, ILYB
  • One last I Love You Baby painting.


  1. Still feel that way about Franco? I think he's one of the most exciting artists in Houston.