Friday, September 25, 2009

Six Shows at Box 13 (plus extras!)

Robert Boyd

Last Saturday, I did a big art odyssey, hitting commercial galleries and non-profit spaces, and I was really unexcited by everything I saw. There were a few good pieces here and there (there was a nice Mark Greenwalt piece at Hooks-Epstien). But it was a mostly dispiriting experience.

That night, I planned to go to the Box 13 opening. I don't usually go to openings because I don't like to go to parties where I don't know people (which would be the norm at most openings) and it's hard to really look at the art at an opening. But my friend Matthew Guest was showing paintings there, so that solved the first problem. I'm very glad I went. The art (as you will see) was exceptional. I had a lot of fun. And if I had skipped the opening, I would have missed out on experiencing Carmen Flores's dresses as worn by human models. Flores has made old-fashioned glamorous ball-gowns out of newspapers and magazines. At the opening, she had a bunch of absolutely gorgeous models walking around, wearing the dresses, striking poses.

Carmen Flores, "One Night Stand," paper, etc., 2009

She used comics for this dress.

Carmen Flores, "One Night Stand" detail,  paper, etc., 2009

Carmen Flores, "One Night Stand," paper, etc., 2009

Carmen Flores, "One Night Stand," paper, etc.

Matt Guest is a painter who teaches up at Sam Houston State. I mentioned to him that Huntsville seemed kind of cool--a lot of good artists in the university art program, Dan Phillips and Phoenix Commotion, etc. Of course, Matt poo-pooed this notion, asserting instead that Huntsville was a depressing company town where most people work for the prison. Imagine the psychic weight of it... Still, his art is better than ever, so it can't be all bad.

Matthew Guest, "Double Barrel," acrylic on canvas, 2009

You see a kind of combination of Gary Panter and Sigmar Polke going on in his paintings.

Matthew Guest, "Broken Arrow", acrylic on canvas, 2009

Matthew Guest, "Thick Slice," acrylic on canvas, 2009

But what really strikes me is the horror vacui evident in his paintings. There is no place for the eye to rest. The parallel lines in the "background" doubly reinforce this--by being busy in and of themselves, and also having the effect of pushing the other elements into each other.

In the gallery behind Guest's was a display of sculptural figures assembled from crap by Glenn Downing.

Glenn Downing, Homemade Men and a Dog, mixed media, 2009

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Glenn Downing, not sure the title, mixed media, 2009

They have various proportions, with painted clothes in some cases, and Mr. Potatohead assemblage concepts, as in the one above.

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Glenn Downing, not sure the title, mixed media, 2009

They don't appear to be completely assemblage--there is some carving going on. Oh, and they are slightly larger than life-size, which makes them mildy menacing.

Then upstairs, there was an installation with wall art, three-dimensional objects and sound by Renata Lucia. Somehow the various elements were meant to relate to specific hurricane seasons, but I didn't really quite get that. What I liked were the twisted rebar and concrete, laid out in neat rows. It just looked beautiful, with beautiful curves.

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Renata Lucia, "The Sky Has No Memory," mixed media installation, 2009

Alison Kuo, "Bawdy Issues," stuffed fleece, 2009

They gave Alison Kuo just a closet for her work, and she turned it into a perverse biology exhibit, like a 19th century specimen cabinet, but made of plush fucking alien lifeforms. I was too shy to touch them on opening night, but I think that was the intent--you can rearrange the exhibit so that different extensions are penetrating different orifices. I like it a lot, but the punning title is a bit too much.

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Barna Kantor, "Space Invader", video screen, fans, etc., 2009

This space invader is made of 42 small square fans, like the kind that come with your desktop computer to keep the circuits from overheating. Kantor has it rigged so that they are all running--in this picture, you see multiple blades because they are getting caught by the flicker of the TV screen. I don't know what this was all about, but I liked it because it seemed like a warm and loving depiction of our old implacable enemy.

Speaking of orifices, I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know what this next installation is called. It wasn't one of the "official" openings of the night. But like Alison Kuo's, it was sewn and sexual. It required that you enter through a small orifice. Update: This room is called "My Weltanschauung: Sentient Memory Reified," created by Whitney Riley, with sound design by Doren Bernard.

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Whitney Riley (with sound by Doren Bernard), "My Weltanschauung: Sentient Memory Reified", sewn canvas

There was another orifice on the other side of the room. Inside the room, the walls and floor and ceiling were covered with sewn, painted canvas.

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Whitney Riley (with sound by Doren Bernard), "My Weltanschauung: Sentient Memory Reified", sewn canvas

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Whitney Riley (with sound by Doren Bernard), "My Weltanschauung: Sentient Memory Reified", sewn canvas

The tongues and droplets and the total surroundingness of the environment made me think of some of the surreal science fiction novels of the sixties and seventies for some reason. It was deliciously trippy. After you squeeze through the second orifice, you end up in a bathroom. Here is the bathroom sign:

bathroom sign

That deserves to be credited, too. It's fantastic funny design. If someone knows who made this sign and installation, please contact me. Update: This sign was designed by Kathy Kelley.

One final space I wandered into, even though it wasn't part of the exhibit, was Elaine Bradford's studio. It was open, so I assume it was OK. I hope so!

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Elaine Bradford's studio

I love the taxidermy forms on the table. It is interesting to imagine her putting a skin on the form, then knitting a second skin over the first skin...

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Elaine Bradford's studio

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Elaine Bradford's studio

Box 13 is fantastic. See these exhibits, please!


  1. Whitney Riley made the drip room and :) I made the signage and had fun while doing so (graphic designer gone wrong).

  2. Title of the sewn room is My Weltanschauung: Sentient Memory Reified, Art by Whitney Riley and Sound Design by Doren Bernard.