Monday, May 31, 2010

Indeterminant Authorship at the Temporary Space

Robert Boyd

The show currently up at The Temporary Space was built around the idea of collaboration in a way, but it might be better to say that it was built on the idea of riffing off other people (with their blessings). Curator Jeremy DePrez was so into this idea that for the most part, he didn't credit the individual works in the show. After all, they all were based on interpretations and translations of someone else's work. Hence the title of the show.

The primary tool he used to facilitate this riffing was Flickr. The more I get to know artists around town, the more I understand how important Flickr is to them for finding kindred artists working all around the world. DePrez used these relationships to spark the show.

Much of his own work is based on melted and warped action figures. Several of these were on display on various corners of the Temporary Space.

Jeremy DePrez, untitled, melted plastic toys

Jeremy DePrez, untitled, melted plastic toys

He took pictures of these toys and asked his collaborators to respond to them in their work. One of these collaborators, Geoff Hippenstiel, was just down the hall from DePrez, but made sure he only looked at the Flickr images of the pieces. He explained that consequently he didn't have an idea of the scale of the originals--in fact,  DePrez apparently photographed them made them to look huge. Collaboration via Flickr is bound to have this kind of imperfection. But at the same time, not knowing the scale of the original probably provoked some interesting reactions.

One reaction was by Argentine artist Pablo Boffelli.

Pablo Boffelli, untitled, ink on colored paper

His responded to DePrez's melted action figures by making little drawings of architectural scenarios--perhaps toy architecture. They look playful and remind one a bit of Paul Klee or Boffelli's great countryman, Xul Solar--two artists for whom play was a key feature on their work.

DePrez, getting work back like this from Boffelli and others, then riffed off their work for some sculptural installations. All this riffage could have resulted in hermetic works that only make sense in the presence of the pieces that inspired them. But each piece has its own existence. The adjacent pieces aren't requirements--they are, in the words of DePrez, "art friends."

Jeremy DePrez, untitled, wood and plastic sheeting

The Batman cape was inspired by one of his collaborators. The 2x4s? Maybe he was thinking by Francis Giampietro's recent sculptural work.

One of his collaborators, Mitchell Cumming from Australia, took the melted toys as more of a conceptual starting point. He sent back an essay by Roland Barthes on toys in which Barthes advocates for blocks, which permit the child maximum creative expression, over other kinds of toys. He included a sheet of black shapes which could be combined like blocks. DePrez blew the shapes up and made large plywood versions of them. These were stacked together like a classic kid's fort. But something funny happened on the way to the art gallery.

Mitchell Cumming and Jeremy DePrez, untitled, painted plywood

Instead of looking like a fort, it looks like a minimalist sculpture. I was specifically reminded of Anthony Caro's classic metal pieces. It's hard to leave art history behind in a gallery.

Francis Giampietro and Ivan Monforte, untitled, hair and resin

Francis Giampietro and Ivan Monforte had a rather intimate (but completely long distance) collaboration. These two bricks each contain body hair--one with Giampietro's, one with Monforte's. At the end of the show, the artists will keep the resin brick with the other artist's hair. Obviously this recalls various manhood and brotherhood rituals--becoming blood brother, becoming a "made man," etc. Monforte called this cutting of hair for trade "man-scaping." It was also suggested that the famous piece by Robert Grober with hair growing off a piece of cheese was an influence.

The Madness of Art

In New York, there is a gallery called Jim Kempner Fine Art. It is, as far as I can tell, a real gallery. And Jim Kempner is a real guy, selling mostly contemporary prints. And for some reason, he decided to do little video vignettes with him (and various guests) all playing themselves under the collective title The Madness of Art. And they are freaking hilarious.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to embed any of them here. So go over to their site and watch them--they are all pretty short. The first one, with Tony Fitzpatrick, is really good, and the one where he is hiring a new assistant, "Interviews," is great, too.

The Madness of Art
Jim Kempner and Tony Fitzpatrick from The Madness of Art episode 1

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Great Contempary Art Bubble

I would love to see this. Supposedly it can be bought from Ben Lewis's website, but I can't figure out how. It doesn't seem to be available from iTunes either (but so much that I want to see it not there--Paris, Texas, In the Mix, etc.--that I have stopped being disappointed when they don't have something).

I don't get too worked up over super-high prices and the people who pay them. After all, there is plenty of exciting contemporay art available at very reasonable prices. The main downside is when you have situations like with the New Museum or the Chaney Family shows at MFAH, in which a collector in essence hijacks a museum to show their collection. (Although I am sure the New Museum and the MFAH would object to the term "hijack").

Enter the Big Show

Last year I went to my first Big Show and was really impressed by the quality of the work I saw there. So artists, the next big show is coming up. Here are the rules for entry. Apparently this $30 entrance fee is new. I wonder why they have added it. I'm sure it will discourage some marginal, less committed artists, but it also may discourage some artists who just don't have $30 to spare for a crapshoot.

Still, $30 is not a fortune, so hopefully they'll see a huge number of entrants in a bewildering variety of media and styles.

Recent Acquisitions: Marzia Faggin, Eric Faggin and Woody Golden

As I mentioned in my last post, I bought some art at the AMG Stimulus Package.

Woody Golden
Woody Golden, untitled, laminated paper, 2009

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I liked the work of Woody Golden. He's a sculptor, and the work I was responding to were these pieces where he carved a hole into a large book, then took the carved out pieces, laminated them, and sanded them into organic, stone-like shapes--then put them back into the void in the book.

This piece is related to those sculptures. Golden has again taken paper (colored paper this time), somehow laminated it into a solid block, then sanded it into this shape. The paper used is important. In the book projects, the paper was slightly yellowed and covered with small black type. The solid shape ended up being a pale tan with black speckles. They looked like smooth stones or of eggs--very natural and organic. But this piece, with its colors, looks more like an oversized piece of hard candy! (I got the long thin one. I wanted to show both, though. They look great against the grain of the plywood walls--kind of the perfect backdrop for them, don't you think?)

Eric Faggin
Eric Faggin, various untitled works, tape on paper

I was definitely attracted to this suite of paired pieces by Eric Faggin. The figures are made out of tape, and the red tape is much brighter in person--it's actually fluorescent. Anyway, they all looked great and the pairings were intriguing (often implying a dialogue between young and old, or across cultures, or between people who might be at odds for some personal reason). Here's the one I ended up getting.

Eric Faggin
Eric Faggin, untitled, tape on paper

Finally, I got a piece by Marzia Faggin. I have no idea what relationship Marzia and Eric Faggin have (if any). Google doesn't really turn up much on them. They were both in a recent group show at Poissant Gallery. There is an Eric Faggin who is a designer, but I don't know if this is the same guy.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, Marzia Faggin's work goes in a lot of different directions.

Marzia Faggin
Marzia Faggin, Zor and Zam, ceramic, paint and other materials, 2010

This is so unlike her paintings it's sort of a shock to think that it is by the same artist. The bullet, wings and flower seem to be glued on and perhaps made of plastic. The ceramic part is unglazed--the colors are paint. (At least as far as I can tell.) Of course there is a delicious irony in combining the flower and ceramic with the bullet. This aesthetic choice reminds me of the work of Charles Krafft, who makes machine guns and hand-grenades using the ancient somewhat kitschy, little-old-lady-like techniques of Delftware.

I think this genre of work (Faggin had another similar piece in the show) probably would have a lot of appeal to certain collectors. She should make molds of them and make multiples using slipcasting.  I could envision some beautiful glazes on them...

As I have mentioned before, I have a strong interest in accessible collecting--art collecting for beginners, one could say. I like schemes that bring high-quality art (with the value-judgments and presence of aesthetic gatekeepers that the word "quality" implies) to non-rich collectors. This show is a pretty successful example of this kind of thing. I certainly am happy with what I got--and if I had had more extra money to spend, I would have gotten more!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Second Stimulus Show

Last year, the Apama Mackey Gallery put up a one-night only show called The AMG Visual Stimulus Package. The show's gimmick was that all the artwork was on sale for either $50 or $100. It was in their really cool gallery made of old shipping containers up on 11th in the Heights. I've wondered what happened to them. The last show they had that I know about was last December, and the gallery always seems locked. I have been assuming they went out of business--or at least on hiatus.

The new Stimulus Package was tonight, and it didn't really settle the questions because it was held at Ggallery. It was still put together by the same people, but now in a bigger gallery. It looked like there was more art, too.


Here's some of the art I liked there.

Sarah Jawda
Sarah Jawda, untitled, photograph

I liked the juxtaposition of barcode and "fuck me heels." I guess it could be read as saying sex is a commodity. Jawda is a designer and half of the design crew Jawda and Jawda.

Marzia Faggin, not sure what the title is, painting

I saw a couple of Marzia Faggin paintings at Poissant Gallery last month, and liked them a lot. I liked her work in this show as well. The work she showed here--this painting and a couple of other pieces--is drastically different from the work I saw before. I wonder where she is coming from with her work? It's hard to reconcile the work I've seen. I like it all, though.

Chris Olivier
Chris Olivier, untitled, lightbulbs, nuts, bolts, wire, 2010

I liked these a lot and I almost got one. Picking them up is a trip--they weigh quite a bit. I was worried about how to display it. It seemed very fragile, very breakable. A functionless object made out of very functional pieces. Chris Olivier was apparently part of I Love You Baby and now also makes art under the moniker Bexar.

Allison Hunter
Allison Hunter, untitled 23, photograph

I was really harsh about Allison Hunter's Diverse Works installation Zoosphere. On the opposite scale, her four tiny pastel photos of lambs and birds that were on display here were really good. They seemed so plastic and wrong, yet with a subtle hint of sincerity that undercut the airless irony. I liked them quite a lot.

unknown artist, unknown title, phtoograph

I don't remember who this artist was. It looks like he or she took a piece of 35 mm film and blew it up, sprocket holes and all. The image could almost be newsreel footage of Evita Peron. The photo I took of it has a bunch of blue reflection in it. At first I was bummed, but the more I look at it, the more I like the reflections! It was just what the piece was missing! Kidding--I liked it for what it was. The hugely blown up motion picture film worked for me.

I liked some other art as well--enough that I bought it. But that's another post.

Julie Heffernan

This is a painting by Julie Heffernan. You can see a lot more here. The phrase that comes to mind is "mind-blowing."

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Julie Heffernan, Self-portrait as Big World, oil on canvas, 2008

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Daniel Heimbinder at the Joannex

 Robert Boyd

The Joannex continues to have some of the most interesting shows in town (I'd put them even with The Temporary Space on that score). I knew nothing about Daniel Heimbinder before this show, but I was blown away by the sheer draughtsmanly exuberance of his work. He can draw--there is no doubt about it (and my photos really don't do his drawings justice)--and what he chooses to draw just works on multiple levels.

For example, he has a bunch of watercolors and colored drawings called Time Wounds All Heels (inspired by Nick Lowe perhaps?).

Daniel Heimbinder, Time Wounds All Heels, watercolor (?)

Daniel Heimbinder, Time Wounds All Heels, watercolor (?)

Daniel Heimbinder, Time Wounds All Heels, watercolor (?)

Really fun pieces. In their surreal cartoonishness, they recall Saul Steinberg. But I think there is an even more direct precedent.

Philip Guston, Rug III, oil on canvas, 1976

These bigfoot shoes started appearing regularly in Guston's paintings towards the end of his life. Heimbinder's heels are more antic, less autumnal. They are a young man's shoes.

There were several extremely large drawings with highly textured figures (very abstract, generalized figures--they are relatives to the "PED XING" man). They have white areas that define their structure--they look like the lines you would make a stick figure out of. On these white "bones" is a bumpy, somewhat diseased looking flesh. The figures are doing terrible things to each other, and are caught in moments of violent motion--with manga-like motion lines added.

Daniel Heimbinder, not sure about the title, drawing on paper

Daniel Heimbinder, not sure about the title, drawing on paper

The surface of these "people" is so detailed, so obsessively worked over.

Not everything Heimbinder had inthe show had such a strong relationship to cartooning. This multi-part piece were black velvet paintings of various crystal chalices, goblets, etc.

Daniel Heimbinder, Crystal (installation view), painting

Daniel Heimbinder, Crystal (detail), painting

Heimbinder's work feels like he's coming out of an illustration background. What ultimately comes through is a love of drawing. The sheer size of these pieces speaks to that as well--that's something that can easily be shown here on the webpage. Their size afford them a real presence for the viewer. Moving the Joanna to the larger Joannex space allows them to show work on this scale--which is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shepard Fairey, Dorm-room Decorator

It’s difficult to keep an open mind when approaching the work of Shep Fairey, née Shepard Fairey. I know he’s responsible for those Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers and for OBEY; he did the Obama poster and he was sued for cropping a copyrighted photograph. Other than that though, his work seems like little more than Urban Outfitters ready-made dorm decoration. And as with the store, Fairey’s success has followed a similar course of (un)cool. Like many other Deitch artists (Barry McGee, Jo Jackson, Futura, Larry Clark, etc.) Fairey comes out of the skate punk community whose juvenilia is one thing when relegated to the street, but it’s quite another when moved indoors, what with the referent for its alleged grittiness long since forgotten. (Alice Gregory, May 22, 2010, Idiom)

Ain't it the truth?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blau and Baptism

Sorry Pan readers for light posting lately. I have been in the middle of a busy time. That said, there are several good shows I want to write about and I hope to have new stuff for you soon.

In the meantime, I saw a dance performance last night at Diverse Works, and I want to recommend it. Tonight is the last night. The show consisted of two companies each doing a suite of performances. Vault lead off with a bunch of dances, Blau, that involved trapezes and removing clothing. (No nudity though--the content of the dance wasn't erotic.) I don't really have the language do describe dance works. Some might say the same when I try to write about visual art, but at least I am familiar with how other writers deal with the subject of visual art. With dance, I am stepping into a void. Nonetheless, a lot of what I saw in the Vault pieces made me think of restless sleep.


A lot of it took place on the floor with dancers tossing and turning (artfully, not randomly). Even the removal of the dress made me think about what a sleeper does when she is too warm--she kicks off the covers.
One dance had a dancer who removed her dress three times--she was wearing three dresses. That communicated a feeling of never being able to get comfortable, of unending restlessness.


Maybe when Amy Ell, the choreographer, conceived Blau, she wasn't thinking about sleep. But that was the impression I got, and it was pretty powerful. (The photos above are from here, and there are more there was well.)

Baptism was the second part, and it was by the dance company . They used a lot of water in their program--raining from above or in a bowl on the ground. This work didn't have a single overpowering metaphor for me like Blau did. Dancers at times seemed to be representing animals or even plants. There was one piece where Toni Leago Valle (the choreographer) danced with Bianca Torres-Aponte (a young girl who was part of the company for Baptism) clinging to her front the way some baby animals cling to their mothers in nature. It was a really powerful piece (not the least because it makes you realize how physically strong Valle must be). Blau, despite its apparent theme of restlessness, was full of graceful moves. Baptism was full of deliberately awkward, jerky, even comic moves. (Sorry I don't have any photos of Baptism.) It was a great double program--both Blau and Baptism were fantastic and quite distinct in style.

They had a full house (and you can probably expect the same tonight, so I would buy tickets right away--if they haven't already sold out). Still, Diverse Works is a small performance space. And if you look at these companies' websites, they don't perform in big halls. Sometimes they even stage their programs in people's houses. This is perplexing to me. I was utterly entertained by last night's performance. I loved it. This next statement may betray a sense of me being in an ivory tower, but I honestly can't understand why this kind of work isn't much more popular. As someone with limited time and money to spend on live performances, this was a bargain. (And as a heterosexual man, I was enthralled watching these beautiful, powerful women dance. And yet, the audience was probably 2/3 women and 1/3 men. Why? My guess is that a lot of the women were people who had themselves danced at one time.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Favorite Art Cars 2010

Sorry Pan readers for being so lazy the pst week or so. I'll try to make up for it. As is my custom, I went to the Art Car Parade this year. I was with my brother, one of my sisters, and a niece and nephew. (We were supposed to meet my cousins but managed to never find them.) Great fun as usual, and unusually nice weather!

I don't know who created the cars below. If you do, please comment! But I liked them all.

Art Cars

This car was badass.

Art Cars

Dogs were a common theme. Why? Because everybody likes dogs I guess. (I'm more of a cat person, but that's OK. I like dogs, too.)

Art Cars

Art Cars

Art Cars

This one was actually the last car in the parade, and a good choice for the closer.

There were other animals, too.

Art Cars

Art Cars

Art Cars

I think this amazing vehicle was made by Mark Bradford, aka Scrap Daddy.

Art Cars

I thought this truck looked cool, and was amazed to see that it was a rolling tribute to Molly Ivins.

Last, here are two that use yarn.

Art Cars

Art Cars

It's a tough choice, but I think this last one is the most beautiful car. The colors and wavey patterns just feel right to me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Best Lawn Art Ever

After the Art Car Parade, my sister wanted to show me a house on Longwoods Lane, a very elegant street off of Memorial that goes all the way back to the Bayou. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw this:

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

This is a sculpture by Bernar Venet. It is barely visible from the road. I had to climb through some bushes to get this shot. (I don't recommend this--the neighborhood is plastered with signs promising "armed response".)

My sister did a little research and determined that the house belongs to John and Becca Thrash. He's the CEO of eCORP, a company that specializes in natural gas storage. Looking at his Facebook page, he seems to be friends with several people involved in contemporary art in Houston, and given this massive piece of lawn art, one has to assume that the Thrashes are big collectors.

Now if you don't want to trespass on the Thrash's lawn, you can see a bunch of Bernar Venet sculptures in Hermann Park, where they will be on view until September 30.

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