Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dishonorable Mention--Houston Art Scenesters' Least Favorites of 2011

by Robert Boyd

Lots of folks in the Houston art scene selected their favorite shows/performances/whatevahs for Pan--so many that it took five blog posts just to list them all (you can read them here, here, here, here and here). But of the 14 who responded, only three offered up their "worst of Houston," and two of them requested anonymity. I can understand this--writing (and thinking) about things you don't like is often not as fun as doing it for things you like. I think this is one reason that there are more good reviews than bad reviews. But I think it's important to express the negative as well as the positive. Otherwise, we exist in an uncritical environment, a kind of pollyannish boosterism. No one is held to account. Critical dialogue is completely one-sided. So listed below are the worst of Houston, as chosen by Jim Pirtle and two anonymous local artists.

The attack on the Art Guy's tree. Jim Pirtle selected this without comment, but I wasn't sure if he saw it as the best or worst of Houston? I asked him to clarify, and he sent the following: "the killing of the art guys tree at the Menil. [Was that the best event or the worst?] more in the surreal category that a work of was so clearly misunderstood as commenting on gay marriage and that the piece was so controversial...and said sad things about the Menil.... and shocked me almost like book burning but by what I consider to be the most enlightened...and if art is about thinking the saga of that tree is conceptual agony" Nuff said!

Darke Gallery "If you didn't get to Austin to see the Texas Biennial." An anonymous respondent wrote "the principal of this was the worst. Lazy curating/zero curating, crazy title, overall tacky." Brutal. (That said, I thought the Darke Gallery had some fine shows--I especially liked the Kathy Kelley show.)

Gale Bills by Mark Wagner, 2011, currency and mixed media on panel
Mark Wagner's Gale Bill was on view at the Houston Fine Art Fair, symbolizing all the money whirling around the joint

The Houston Fine Art Fair. Here's what one respondent had to say: "Ugh. Just... man. So overblown and all-around awful." Weirdly enough, this was the only mention of either of the art fairs by the respondents to my polls.

Workworkworkworkwork by Charles LeDray at MFAH. One of my respondents really didn't like this show: "Charles LeDray work work disgusted me. I'm not interested in his tedious OCD-related doll clothes and I don't think they're art." (For a somewhat different take--mine--read this.)

Bel Air Trilogy

Walter de Maria, Trilogies at the Menil. The same respondent also loathed de Maria's show. "Walter de Maria was epic fail...a 25 cent idea with a million dollar budget."

George Gittoes, Witness to War at the Station Museum. That correspondent completed his own trilogy of vituperation by writing, "But the worst ...The Station's endless survey of propaganda posing as art hit a new low with the Witness To War: George Gittoes. If this is the left, color me totalitarian."

That's all from the Houston art community (at least the ones who answered my questions). Next up, my own personal favorites (and most disliked).


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