Friday, February 8, 2013

Blogging ARTlies -- March 1994

Robert Boyd


Art Lies #1 -- 19 years ago

About a year after I began blogging about art, Houston's only print publication on art, Art Lies, collapsed. I only read the last few issues, and I can't say I was a huge fan. But it was obviously important--a whole magazine devoted to art published in Houston! I knew it had been around for a while. And the thing about a magazine is that while it's being published, it's journalism. But once it's been published, it's history. The first issue of Art Lies was published in 1994. This is quite interesting to me personally, because I wasn't in Houston for the majority of its existence. I have a vague idea at best of what was happening in Houston as far as art goes in the 90s and early 2000s. But now, thanks to the University of North Texas, I can get a glimpse of what was happening then. They have archived Art Lies electronically, and now it's accessible to anyone with an internet hookup.

So it occurred to me that I could read through this archive and educate myself a bit on this era in Houston's art history. And as long as I'm doing this, why not blog about it?

The first issue of Art Lies was published in March 1994. It's not a meaty publication--24 pages total. And it's all black and white. The "executive director" is Wade Chandler and the editor is  Don Carroll, two names I don't recognize. It has a board of directors, which suggests it was a non-profit right from the start, and the Board includes a few familiar names (Dan Allison, Margaret Bott, Benito Huerta).

The look is anchored its time--when the eye-crushing deconstructive typography of Emigre-enthralled designers. Fiona McGettigan is credited as the art director. In retrospect, it feels unnecessarily baroque, and in the case of an interview with Gael Stack, hard to read.

The issue started off with a bang--a manifesto by Dave Hickey. There were reviews of a performance by Jim Pirtle, shows at the CAMH and the MFAH, and a weird and slightly pointless dig at Coagula. There is a review by Donald E. Calledare of a show at the MFAH, Speaking of Artists: Words and Works from Houston, that hilariously neglects to name a single artist in the show. There are two reviews of Texas/Between Two Worlds at the CAMH. Chris Ballou's is unimaginative and mostly congratulatory. Harvey Bott actually questions the curatorial intent and is a bit more critical of the art--and his writing is far more eccentric.

One of the wistful things about reading an old publication like this is that some of what they write about is gone. There is a review of a show by Kelli Scott Kelley, for example. She's still around, but her gallery in 1994, the Lanning Gallery, is not. What happened to it, I wonder?

There was a degree of "Hey, gang, let's get together and put on a show!" about Art Lies with this issue, but you expect that when a publication is starting. And it seemed quite professional (unlike, say, The Great God Pan Is Dead). And while none of the criticism seems especially blistering, they weren't uncritical boosters either. It was a good start.

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