This was a pretty weird year, because for the first half of the year, I hardly saw any exhibits. This reflects inertia on my part, and this inertia was what induced me to start this blog. The blog itself would be the inducement I needed to get the hell out the front door. Consequently, even though there were some worthwhile shows in the first half of the year, I'm concentrating mostly on the year since June. So here is my list of my favorite artists and/or events of the year.
a "pushme-pullyou" in Elaine Bradford's studio, 2009
1) Elaine Bradford. One of the few shows I saw early in the year was "The Museum of Unnatural History" by Elaine Bradford at the Art League. I loved the combination of taxidermy forms and knitting. Her work was later shown at Lawndale, and I got the opportunity to see her studio one night at Box 13.
Kathy Kelley, (not sure what the title is), rubber, 2009
2) Kathryn Kelley. Kathryn Kelley is an artist who combines a rigorous post-minimalist approach with really personal work. I am not revealing any confidences in saying that this past year has been an emotionally tough one for her--it's all over her art and her blog. I saw her solo show at Ggallery and then saw more work recently at Box 13, where she also has her studio.
Oneself by Oneself, Stephanie Toppin, 2009
3) Stephanie Toppin. I first saw Stephanie Toppin's long, super-colorful "autobiographical" abstract painting at the $timulus show Diverse Works. Then a larger version of the same piece was put up at Box 13 (above). Then she had drawings up at the Frenetic Fringe Festival, and I bought a few (they were a bargain!). Then finally, she had a show at Rudolph Projects, where I took the plunge and bought a painting of hers.
Carlos Runcie-Tanaka, Huayco/Kawa/Rio, ceramic
4) Carlos Runcie-Tanaka. This Peruvian artist had a haunting, moving show of ceramic installations at the Station Museum, which I couldn't stop thinking about for a long time after I saw it.
Havel and Ruck, Give and Take, hollowed-out house, 2009
5) No Zoning. I said some unkind things about this show at CAMH, but loved the catalog. But for me, it was an introduction to a certain art history of Houston and group of artists who were worth knowing. I subsequently met Bill Davenport (and played ping pong with him) and Jim Pirtle, who managed to change my mind about No Zoning. (Plus there were funny comments on Facebook.)
Wayne White, Big Lectric Fan to Keep Me Cool, installation details, 2009
6) Wayne White. This painter/sculptor/cartoonist/puppeteer had a huge genius installation at the Rice Gallery--a huge cartoon head of George Jones. He also had a great art book out this year (signed copies still available at Brazos Bookstore--get it!) and even a couple of paintings at Inman Gallery.
Jorge Galvan, This Land Was Made (detail), mixed media, 2009
7) Jorge Galvan. Jorge Galvan is a student at the University of Houston. He had an installation at Project Row Houses this summer that blew me away with its use of text and construction materials to form a tribute to laborers. Then later, during the Art Crawl, I saw a functional sculpture of his called "American Bred." I liked it so much that I bought it!
Dario Robleto, An Instinct Towards Life Only a Phantom Can Know, mixed media, 2007-2008
8) Dario Robleto. Dario Robleto's work up at Inman Gallery just blew my mind. It was so well crafted and so visually interesting, then had additional layers of meaning added when you learned what it was made of. I'm really still trying to absorb it. It was breathtaking.
One final observation--there seem to be more excellent artists in Houston who are women than who are men. In addition to the ones I listed above, I have seen and loved work by Emily Sloan, Kia O'Neill, Beth Secor, Carmen Flores, Jasmyne Graybill, and Karin Broker. (That said, there was excellent art by dudes as well--the Art Guys, Matthew Guest, Seth Alverson, and Mark Greenwalt, for example.)