Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Going Darke

Robert Boyd

Darke Gallery is closing. Ratio, a group show featuring Jonathan Clark, Tara Conley, Allison Hunter, Catherine Colangelo, Heath Brodie, Nicholas Auger and Sophie Clyde, is the their last. It opens this Friday.

Allison Hunter, still from Honey Bee, 2011, 3D stereoscopic color video with sound, RT 7.5 min

Darke Gallery is closing because gallery owner Linda Darke is having serious health problems which will require two surgeries and lengthy recovery time. She told me, "I wanted to make it clear that the gallery was for the most part a great experience.  And that I wasn't closing because it is too hard to make a commercial gallery operate at a profit in Houston."

Kathryn Kelley's sculpture outside Darke Gallery

Darke  Gallery opened in 2007. It's in a strange location, pretty far from all the other galleries in town. When I started going there, there was a big empty lot across the street that made parking easy. But their neighborhood, Rice Military, has been built up so quickly that empty lots don't last. Parking was a bit of a pain after they filled that lot with townhouses.

Darke Gallery was fairly adventurous for a commercial gallery. "I very much enjoyed being able to create the artist in residence program.  It gave me the chance to put on wonderful exhibitions for Emily Sloan, Kathy Kelley, Joshua Goode and other artists whose work would not normally be shown in commercial spaces," Darke said.  (Most of the photos here are from Kathryn Kelley's show in 2011, which featured an amazing installation. There are few other galleries in town that would exhibit an installation like that.) As a gallery goer, I appreciated Darke Gallery's willingness to take this kind of risk.

Kathryn Kelley wall pieces

By my count, The Great God Pan Is Dead wrote about 11 Darke Gallery shows starting in October 2009, shortly after the blog began. I think my favorite pieces were Dean Liscum's review of Baby Ruth in a Swimming Pool by Emily Sloan and my piece on John Adelman.

Kathryn Kelley installation

I also bought work at Darke Gallery--a wonderful drawing by Rabéa Ballin and a photo printed on fleece by Magsamen + Hillerbrand.

Kathryn Kelley installation

That's Linda, seen from inside a Kathryn Kelley installation. She intends to stick around--"I will continue to be involved in the Houston art scene, once I get this medical stuff resolved I am going to plan my come back.  I may reopen Darke Gallery in a new space, focus on art fairs or pop up exhibitions.  As I said in my note, the art scene is changing so fast, I think there are a lot of exciting possibilities.  And we have an apartment in NYC so we'll be able to spend more time there.  (I threw that in so that you can't feel sorry for me!)" I already look forward to her triumphant return.


Four Painters

Robert Boyd

Pop-up shows drive me crazy. You blink and you miss it. And the policy of this blog is primarily to write about shows our readers can see, not shows that happened in the past. It's an expression of humility, believe it or not. We want to say to the reader, here's what we thought, but go see it for yourself. So pop-up shows, which almost by definition can't be reviewed before they're done, are frustrating.

New Paintings by Brandon, Dylan, Guillaume and Isaiah at the MAS Gallery (studio 227) at the Spring Street Studios is a pop-up show. But fortunately, it is lasting more than one day. I saw it Saturday. If you want, you can see it Wednesday between 1 and 5 pm.

Brandon Araujo is a painter about whom I've written recently. The work in this show isn't substantially different from the work in the previous show. He still likes taking a texture and spraypainting it to exaggerate its surface.

Brandon Araujo, Untitled, 2013

But Araujo doesn't stick to one technique. As a painter, he's like a clothes shopper, trying on different suits in different styles. Whether he will settle on one is the question, but for now it means we can go from a spray-paint on plaster production to a heavily impasto painting like the one below.

Brandon Araujo, Untitled, 2013

The super-creamy horizontal application of paint reminded me a little of Nick Kersulis' paintings from his recent show at Devin Borden. It's almost like cake icing.

Brandon Araujo, Untitled, 2013

And this piece reminded of some of the recent Jeff Elrods I saw at Texas Gallery. The only commom traits of Araujo's paintings are their black, white and grey palettes and the fact that they are abstractions. I'm not going to say he needs to settle down on one style--I quite liked the variety--but he needs to find his own voice. I liked what I saw here a lot, though. I think Araujo is an artist to watch.

Dylan Roberts, I.S.Y.B.N.O.T.I., 2103

Dylan Roberts is someone I had known previously as a painter of highly colorful, highly painterly works. And in I.S.Y.B.N.O.T.I., there is the remnant of something quite colorful, peeking through a large field of white. It's almost as if he is embarrassed by his earlier self, the Philip Guston-like architecture of paint. I don't quite get it--I liked that earlier iteration. But artists gotta evolve.

Dylan Roberts, O.S.O., 2013

And that evolution can include figuration, as in O.S.O. Roberts pasts a crude drawing of a rather upset-looking face on top of what appears to be a larger painted version of the face.

Guillaume Gelot, Green (left) and Cat Dreams (right), 2013

They say you should paint what you like, which suggests that Guillaume Gelot likes pussy. Two of his four paintings in the show focus on that area of anatomy. Cat Dreams is an abstracted beaver shot.

Guillaume Gelot, Wet Flowers (left) and Brown (right), 2013

Wet Flowers is a bit more demure.  In both cases, the subject is dehumanized by the focus only on the genitalia. They have the subtlety of bathroom stall art. And humorously, they are paired with two fairly severe abstractions. It's as if Gelot is saying that your puritan, minimal, intellectual abstract artworks are no different from the scrawls of horny teenagers. It's a theory I'm willing to entertain.

Isaiah López, Untitled and Untitled, 2013

Isaiah López's paintings feel pretty similar to some of Araujo's, except that he adds a color to each one. I'm also reminded a bit of Nathan Green's paintings.

Isaiah López, Untitled, 2013

Which is to say that while I found the work pretty likable, it didn't bowl me over with its originality. I don't know how old  López is, but if he's a young artist, I'd call this work a good start. It's enough to make me want to see more. I like the way the paint is applied (and scraped off?). He achieves some interesting visual effects.

All in all, I found this exhibit pretty enjoyable. I don't know where these artists are going next, but they've all interested me enough to follow along.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Sig Byrd Met Forrest Bess

Robert Boyd
After supper at Forrest Bess' house at the mouth of Chinquapin Bayou (surely the loneliest spot in Texas), we all went into the shipshape studio to drink tequila and coffee and look at our host's pictures.
That is the opening sentence of an article called "Trawling in the Collective Subconscious at Chinquapin" by the great Houston newspaper columnist Sigman Byrd. It was published on Sunday, March 11, 1956 in the Houston Chronicle. Byrd is one of the very few writers who actually went out and visited Bess in his shack on East Matagorda Bay and wrote about it. (I went to the microfilm library at the University of Houston to read this column as research for an article chronicling a trip to East Matagorda Bay in search of Bess's home.) I greatly admire both Bess and Byrd and was delighted when I learned they had met. That opening sentence, so unlike a good, solid J-school-approved opener, shows why Byrd is such a great writer. He throws us right into the middle of his story with no explanation; he uses an unusual word "shipshape" which happens to describe Bess' studio (which apparently had a concrete "prow"); he mixes tequila and coffee in a family newspaper. (Literally a family newspaper--that was the Houston Chronicle's motto at the time--"Houston's Family Newspaper".)

Byrd was a newspaper columnist who specialized in telling human stories about folks who lived in places where polite middle-class white folks seldom went. He was surely one of the few Houston writers of the 1950s to regularly write about African American and Hispanic subjects. He also was willing to write sympathetically about ex-cons, petty criminals, prostitutes and other denizens of the demimonde. There is one great collection of his columns, Sig Byrd's Houston, which is of course long out of print. (I wrote about it on my old blog back in 2009.) Byrd wrote a classic column called "The Stroller" in the 40s and 50s for the old Houston Press newspaper (back when Houston had three daily papers). Robert Kimberley has been scanning these for a while now and you can read a lot of them on Flickr.

By the time he wrote about Bess, he was working for the Chronicle, where he would stay until 1964. The Chronicle was not so interested in Byrd's stories of low-life and put him on a farm/rural beat. And maybe that's why he wrote about Bess, an eccentric (which would have appealed to Byrd) in an extremely rural setting. I looked up this old article because I was researching the location of Bess's shack for an article I wrote for Glasstire.

Byrd is bemused, and the work is a bit beyond his ken. He was a little too street to have much understanding or sympathy for abstract painting--his appreciation of Bess is strictly on the basis of Bess's status as a likeable oddball.
Forest [sic] calls his paintings ideograms--"pictures that talk back to the other part of our natures." They are filled with symbols trawled up from the muddy bottom of what this fishmonger-artist calls "the collective subconscious."
If I dig this cat--and I'm not sure I do--he first dreams these pictures while sleeping of lying half-asleep and listening to the Matagorda wind and waves. Then he puts them on canvas in bold form and color. And finally he searches out the meaning of his symbology in the literature of mythology, alchemy and Jungian psychology.
Byrd visited Bess with Jack Akridge, a plumber from Pasadena, and  his wife. Akridge was a collector--he already had two Bess paintings and was buying a third on an installment plan.Bess was delighted to include a plumber among his collectors.

Byrd recounts their discussion of one painting in particular.
Then he called our attention to a curious painting in which a couple of dozen unidentified quadrupeds ranged a grey prairie under a pendulous cloud. "Most people get sleepy when they look at this," he said.

Sure enough, Earl [a local fisherman] and Mrs. Akridge started yawning. Not me, though. "Several days after I did this one," said Forest, "I discovered that what you call a cloud is a uvula--the lobe at the end of the roof of the mouth. You are looking at a yawn. What do the small animals suggest to you?"

"Stigarees?" guessed Earl.

"Bacteria," I said. "Probably streptococci."

"They're sheep to be counted while yawning," said the artist. "I call this Sleep."
As soon as I read that description, I knew the painting he was talking about, which is now referred to as Untitled (No. 31).

Forrest Bess, Untitled (No. 31), 1951, oil on canvas, 8" x 10"

This painting is on display at the Menil through August 18 as part of Forest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible. I reviewed this show and wrote about this painting in particular--but certainly didn't see it in the way that Bess described it to Byrd!

Bess and Byrd are hardly household names. But they both have Facebook pages--Bess has 173 "likes" and Byrd has 183. I know about these Facebook pages because I created both of them (in July 2010 and November 2009 respectively). Bess and Byrd are two great Texans who should never be forgotten, and I'm glad they got to meet at least once.


The Day the Plastic Clown Died

Robert Boyd

Two guys in a bar stood up on stage and took turns telling jokes. The jokes usually started, "Two guys walk into a bar..." they did this for 8 hours. Because it was art, it didn't have to be funny. And mostly it wasn't.

The Art Guys at Notsuoh: Michael Galbreth left and Jack Massing right

The Art Guys are celebrating 30 years of collaboration with a new absurd performance each month. Many of these involve some feat of endurance--walking the length of Houston's longest street or shaking hands for eight hours straight. Or telling jokes for eight hours.

The venue was Notsuoh. The format was a stage with two chairs, where Jack Massing would stand up, tell his "joke," then sit down. Then Michael Galbreth would stand up, tell his "joke," then sit down. Sometimes the jokes were long, sometimes very brief. But always two guys walked into a bar.

Galbreth gestures hypnotically

For a while there felt like real tension. One would stand up and say something like "Two guys walk into a bar and one of them takes a shotgun and shoots the other one in the face." The the next would stand up and say something like "Two guys walk into a bar and one of them chops the other one's head off." This went on for quite a while.

But most of the jokes were fairly benign. Galbreth was more a physical performer, wringing an incredible amount of emotion out of a lengthy dissection of the phrase "Two guys walk into a bar."

Massing did a joke where he combined every element of every "_______ walks into a bar" joke he could think of. He did another where he muttered his joke inaudibly--but at great length.

People wandered into Notsuoh, checked out the act, had a beer or two, left. The jokes never stopped.

Me, I was there for about two hours. Then I had drunk just enough Lone Stars that I could still drive home, so I left.

Joke books on stage.

And when I was about to leave, Notsuoh owner Jim Pirtle came up to me and shook my hand. He was seriously upset. He had just learned that a local performance poet, Al-Gene Pennison III, also known as the Plastic Clown, had died late the previous night. He had been at Notsuoh, went to a friend's place, and then fell off a balcony. Pirtle was quite broken up about it.

As for the Art Guys, well, the death of a Plastic Clown is a hard act to follow.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pan Recommends for the week of July 25 to July 31

Robert Boyd

It's not quite the dog days of summer, but with triple digit temperatures, things are slowing down in Houston considerably. The events below are just about everything happening this weekend as far as art goes (I may have missed something--if I did, feel free to mention it in the comments). Fortunately, it all looks pretty fun--fun enough to brave the soul-crushing heat to see!


my autographed copy of Do It: The Compendium

Do It: Houston with Regina Agu, Debra Barrera, Caleb Churchill, Joseph Cohen, Jamal Cyrus, Jack Eriksson, David Feil, Lauren Moya Ford, Joseph Havel, Rachel Hecker, Katy Heinlein, Otis Ike, Jang Soon Im, Erin Joyce, Autumn Knight, Cody Ledvina, Massa Lemu, Gabriel Martinez, Ayanna Jolivet McCloud, Senalka Mcdonald, Madsen Minax, Mari Omori, Mark Harold Ponder, Davide Savorani, Carrie Marie Schneider, Patrick Turk, and Ronnie Yates, organized by Max Fields and Olivia Junell at Alabama Song, 6 to 9 pm. Do It celebrates the 25th anniversary of Hans Ulrich Obrist's Do It project and the recent publication of the Do It: The Compendium. I'm mainly curious to see Alabama Song (with a name like that, they better have a whiskey bar). They have an Indie Go Go campaign going right now, and I want to see this show before I decide whether or not to contribute!

Salon des Refusés 2013, part 2, with Magdalena Abrego, Megan Badger, Nicole Bean, N. Blanca, Cherie Bright, Aaron Castro, Diane Fraser, Quinn Hagood, Sarah Hamilton, Jane B. Honovich, Luke Ikard, David Letchford, Rebecca Lowe, Jonathan Lowe, Yma Luis, Michael Mallory, Penny McDonald, Adrienne Meyers, Eric Ockrassa, Kati Ozanic-Lemberger, Annette K. Palmer, Tony Parana, Tara Ratliff, Peggy Sexton, Caleb Sims, Karen Smith, Joelle Verstraeten, Joyce Matula Welch and Jo Zider at BLUEorange, 6 pm. This is week 2 of BLUEorange's four week series of pop-up exhibits of artists who failed to get selected for the Big Show at Lawndale.


Denise Prince, Warm Grape Soda, photograph on acrylic, 5 x 5 inches

The 5th annual Visual Stimulus Package at GGallery, open for viewing at 11 am and then for buying at 6 pm. Apama Mackey's annual pop-up show of inexpensive artworks by well-known Houston artists is back. All art is either $50, $100 or $200. This show usually has some great stuff, and the prices are unbeatable.

Tod Bailey, Hide Out, 2013, oil on canvas, 70 x 65 inches

Open, an Artists Studio Event with Tod Bailey, Karim Alston and Richard Garcia at Summer Street Studios, 3 pm to 9 pm. Three painters show their work in this show organized by Jay Wehnert of Intuitive Eye.

A piece by Dylan Roberts

New Paintings by Brandon, Dylan, Guillaume and Isaiah (i.e., Brandon Araujo, Dylan Roberts, Guillaume Gelot and Isaiah López) at the MAS Exhibition Space at Spring Street Studios, 6 to 10 pm. The ever-evolving Montrose Art Society has some new young members apparently--it should be a show worth checking out.


Julon Pinkston, Shirtless, Young and Catching Flesh, 2013, acrylic on wood panel, 10 x 7 x 2 inches

The Big Slide Show Artist talk: July 31 and August 1, 6–7 pm each night at Lawndale Art Center. Every year, Lawndale gives its Big Show artists an opportunity to talk about their work. This talk is split over two nights--Wednesday's talk features John Adelman , Kari Breitigam Adrian Landon Brooks, Felipe Contreras, Jennifer Ellison, Avril Falgout, Luna Gajdos, Jeremy Keas, Galina Kurlat, Melinda Laszczynski, David McClain, Susannah Mira, Julon Pinkston, Eduardo Portillo, Kay Sarver, John Slaby, Alexine O. Stevens and Martin Wnuk.

Jim Nolan window thingy

Window into Houston: Jim Nolan shifting SCALE at 110 Milam St., 8 to 10 pm. Even though the new improved Blaffer Museum is complete, they are continuing their fun series of window exhibits downtown, this time with Mr. Matter-of-Fact himself, sculptor Jim Nolan.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Real Estate Art Quiz

Robert Boyd

One of my favorite websites is Har.com, the website for the Houston Association of Realtors. It's great for browsing the insane variety of dwellings for sale in Houston and vicinity at any given time. For example, the cheapest house for sale right now is this one--yours for $5,900. The realtor gamely describes it thus: "HIGHLY VALUED THREE BEDROOM, ONE FULL BATH HOME IN GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD."

And then there's 511 South Post Oak.  This condo, apparently owned by Valerie Sarofim, former daughter-in-law of Fayez Sarofim, is decorated in a highly individual (one might say over-the-top) manner, which caused the timid taste arbiters among the Swamplot commentariat to collectively clutch their pearls. But what fascinated me was seeing the art on her walls. I always look to see what kind of art shows up in these real estate photos, and I've decided I'll share some of them with you in the form of a quiz. Can you identify the art in this home for sale?

Now it's not surprising that the former daughter-in-law of a famous art collector would own some art herself. So the object of this quiz is for you to identify the art in Valerie Sarofim's condo.

I'm going to take the first guess. I'm pretty sure the painting hanging on that purple wall is by Rob Reasoner, who specializes is supercolorful striped paintings. Reasoner has a nice show up right now at McClain Gallery through August 24, so you can check out his art in person if you like.

There is the big colorful picture on the left and the pair on either side of the red lamps. Any theories on who the artists are?

Of the two pictures on the right, the bottom looks just a tad familiar. But what about the one above it?

Here's another view of those two paintings.

The bottom of the stairs has an intriguing piece. And then there is that series in the stairwell.

Here's a better view of the stairwell pictures.

So, given this real estate photographer's view of the inside of Valerie Sarofim's condo, do you have any guesses about the identity of the artworks and the artists who made them? Put your answers in the comments. And if enough of you like this feature, I'll try to run it semi-regularly--at least, whenever I notice a house for sale with interesting art in it.


Making art to make a difference at Brasil

Dean Liscum

Sunday's are generally art free days. Of course, the museums are open and the hoi polloi pour in. But the local galleries and the local artists generally give themselves the day off after a Thursday to Saturday series of openings and parties.

On July 21st, however, several artists associated with ArtBridge Houston, gathered at Brasil on Dunlavy to make some paper sculptures and raise money for the Southside Community Center. Southside provides educational and cultural enrichment programs to kids. Recently, it's been the victim of multiple burglaries in which thieves stole everything of value: 14 computers, 4 digital cameras, 4 TVs and supplies.

Artists Cody Ledvina and Diana Sanchez work as art facilitators (I think that means teacher) and Nick Meriwether is the co-executive director for ArtBridge, which works with Southside.  They figured, how hard would it be to teach adults, most of them artists or at least arts aficionados, to create some orgami sculptures for a donation to help Southside get back on it's technological feet?

They got schooled. The point obviously wasn't the art, but they earnest in their endeavors. After a half-hour and the onset of a migraine headache, I managed an origami box, and Diana Sanchez started a tab at the bar. Other donors proved just as challenging for the facilitators, so we spent most of our time learning about some of the cool things they do at Southside and gossiping about art and artists.

It was a nice way to spend a Sunday evening and a good use of expendable income. If you missed it, it's never too late to donate directly to ArtBridge Houston or contact ArtBridge to see how you can helpout Southside Community Center.  


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gabrielle Bell on Paul McCarthy (NSFW)

"We were in there for hours despite my revulsion and horror. Why? Because it was art. Because air-conditioning. Because we'd spent a lot on it. And because, beneath the repugnance, it was fascinating and special."

(from Lucky, 7/20/13 by Gabrielle Bell)

What Gabrielle Bell saw. (From "Photos: Snow White Gets Dirty Inside Paul McCarthy's Massive Park Avenue Armory Show" in Gothamist, 6/18/2013. Photo by James Ewing.)


5 x 5 x 5 (plus): Huete, Liscum and Boyd on the Big Show at Lawndale

Robert Boyd

Since 2009, I've been writing about the annual Big Show at Lawndale. This year's edition was juried by Duncan KacKenzie, the force behind the popular art podcast, Bad at Sports. He's a brash, forceful personality, and I think the art in the show reflects his personality and tastes. So perhaps because of that, I decided that I wanted The Great God Pan Is Dead's posts about the Big Show to be something other than just my opinion. So I enlisted long-time contributor Dean Liscum and new contributor Betsy Huete to help. Three writers, three points of view, three tastes. Each of picked five pieces to write about.

Betsy's five pieces

Melinda Laszczynski, Hold On, 2013, Watercolor, acrylic, tape, wax, beads, 16 x 16 inches 

Dean's five pieces

JooYoung Choi, Sacrifice of Putt-Putt, 2013, acrylic and paper on canvas, 75 x 70 inches

Robert's Five pieces

Avril Falgout, Black Veil Brides, 2013, paper maché, 75 x 50 x 105 inches

But after I chose five pieces, I realized that I really wanted to write about more pieces from the show. So I dragooned Betsy and Dean into picking some "honorable mention" pieces. These we've published in a post called "More from the Big Show."