Sunday, June 6, 2010

Art Outside the Loop

Robert Boyd

Anyone who has ever looked at my slightly out-of-date art map knows that most art in Houston is inside the 610 Loop. At least, most public venues for art--galleries, museums, art spaces, theaters, performance spaces, etc. So I was intrigued when Spacetaker and the Fresh Arts Coalition decided to bring an art event to CityCentre, which is a new mixed use development on the site of the old Town & Country Mall at the intersection of I-10 and the Sam Houston Parkway. The event would combine performing arts with visual arts.

It started with a show at an art gallery (an actual art gallery outside the Loop!) called Sculptures by Design.  I don't know if the art on display there that night is from their stock or if it was brought in just for this event. In any case, it was terrible.

Belinda Smith, Lisa Shot, encaustic and oil

De gustibus non est disputandum, but seriously what the fuck? The other art in the gallery wasn't as egregiously bad, but it was still pretty bad, ranging from mediocre to terrible. On the whole, it seemed lazy, ill-wrought, poorly conceived, and unintelligent.

This might be a problem with the gallery. Here's what it says about itself on its web-page:
Sculptures By Design showcases a vast range of artistic styles and talents ranging from impressionistic, expressionistic, hard-lined contemporary art, as well as realistic. A full experience is offered to you as well, with the power house of talent working in multiple mediums. The enchanting atmosphere of the studios and the endearing professional artists provide a host of excellent options for artistic desire. [...]

All artwork shown and sold is dedicated to the investment of longstanding value created by serious and professional artists. The studio works closely with artists locally, nationally, and internationally. We claim to be one of the most diverse in collection and style.
OK, that was one event of many. Next I went down to a place which hosted the Houston Motor Club. This is a business where you become a member in order to have the ability to use their range of exotic sports cars. Among the cars on display were various paintings on easels.

Like these paintings by ChicagoKim. I can't say if they were any good. They were overwhelmed by the vehicles all around them. They might as well have been displayed next to large piles of money. I did like the painting below--somehow it caught my attention despite the sea of high-end horsepower that surrounded it.

Matt Messinger, unknown title, oil (?) on canvas

The expressionistically drawn Fleischer-cartoon versions of rabbits appealed to me a lot. It reminded me a bit of the art of Mariscal.

But seriously, could anything compare with this piece of art?

In the same space, I watched some singers from Main Street Theater do some pieces from their Tom Lehrer review, Tomfoolery (coming up later this month). That was really nice, especially for someone like me who grew up loving Tom Lehrer. They didn't sing any of his political songs--they may have been too obscure, dealing with issues from the early 60s (although "Who's Next?" seems ever fresh), and maybe way too liberal for hard right Memorial.

Last, I watched a few short films in the Studio Art Grill.

On the whole, I'd say this was pretty successful. It was definitely a different crowd than the usual suspects one sees at gallery openings inside the Loop. In particular, I noticed a lot of young women dressed to the nines. CityCentre has a lot of happening bars, so younger, single, prosperous types were around. (I've hit some of the bars there with my brother before, and our verdict was that they were way too expensive, especially when the excellent Burlap Barrel is literally a block away). I wish the organizers had tried harder to get better visual art, but they may have been constrained by their gallery partner. A map of CityCentre showing where each performance was going to be would have been useful.

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