Monday, September 30, 2013

The Great God Pan Is Dead Newsletter Wants You!

The Great God Pan Is Dead brings you an idiosyncratic view of art in Houston. From the biggest art museums to the scrappiest artist-run spaces, from painting and sculpture to performance and social practice, we're there. Every Sunday, we send a newsletter summarizing the week in art. Sign up below and be on top of Houston's art scene.

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Jack Kirby, “I Laughed at the Great God, Pan!” page 1, 1959 (hat tip to kobek)


Friday, September 27, 2013

Cargo Space: How Does It Rate? A Scientific Study

Robert Boyd

Cargo Space made its debut last night. It looks like there is still some work to do, which better be done fast. It is soon taking a long trip to Tulsa, bringing artists to the prairie. They are scheduled to be in Tulsa at the Hardesty Arts Center on October 4. Chris Sperandio, the prime mover behind Cargo Space will be the Neal Cassidy of this trip. The Cargo Space will be shuffling Houston artists up to Tulsa in several trips. The traveling artists are Daniel Anguilu (one of the artists who painted the exterior, along with Eyeful Art, Dual and Beau Pope), Mike Beradino, Natasha Bowdoin, Robert Pruitt, Rahul Mitra and Seth Mittag.

Cool little figures on the back of the bus.

Welcome aboard!

You can write messages to your fellow passengers on the chalk boards, which will come in handy when various passengers decide they aren't talking to one another anymore.

It looks good but not complete. For one thing, no privacy curtains around the beds.

As I was looking at Cargo Space, especially the paint job, I instantly thought of Ken Kesey's bus and the cross country "acid test" trip it took. And that got me thinking about other famous RV-type vehicles. How does Cargo Space stack up? Well, we won't know for sure until Cargo Space hits the road, but here're our RV-comparisons.

Cargo Space vs. Ken Kesey's Furthur Bus

In1964, writer Ken Kesey purchased a bus for the purpose of taking a cross country psychedelic trip (in both senses of the word) with the Merry Pranksters. At the wheel was Neal Cassidy, Jack Keroac's speedfreak buddy who was the model for Dean Moriarty in On the Road. It was an epic trip at the dawn of what we think of as the 60s. They even passed through Houston so that Kesey could meet up with his friend Larry McMurtrey. The whole thing was financed with the profits from Kesey's novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And the trip was immortalized in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. So how does the Cargo Space stack up?

Cargo Space vs. the Breaking Bad meth lab RV

This Sunday, the final episode of Breaking Bad airs. It's the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer, who decides to manufacture methamphetimine in order to leave something behind for his family when he goes. He teams up with an small-time criminal Jesse Pinkman, and the pair initially cook their drugs in the RV below. Why in an RV? Because the process of cooking meth makes a very powerful and distinct odor, so being able to travel to some place remote, park, cook, then move on is very useful. Even if someone did notice the smell, Walt and Jesse would be gone before anyone put two and two together.

Is this realistic? If you've ever read Methland, the harrowing book about the effect of meth on one small town, you know it is. One of the things meth cooks do in that book is make miniature meth labs in liter-sized coke bottles, then strap the bottles to bicycles which they ride around town as the chemicals react. That way the smell is dissipated. This lead the town to literally outlaw bicycles.

The interior of the Breaking Bad RV was a little bit cramped, but highly functional.

Cargo Space vs. the Girls Gone Wild bus

There was a time in America when these buses criss-crossed America getting intoxicated college girls to take off their clothes on camera. Now that Joe Francis, the leader of the Girls Gone Wild empire, is in jail, I assume Girls Gone Wild is defunct--at least as a bus-based pornographic business.

I couldn't find any photos online of the inside of the bus. Just as well, I suppose. This is a family blog.

Cargo Space vs the Lost in America RV

The first part of this video clip is from the brilliant Albert Brooks movie, Lost in America. The second part is an ad with really loud music. You've been warned. The RV in the movie symbolizes their desire to escape their lives of quiet bourgeois desperation and their inability to leave bourgeois comforts behind.

Cargo Space vs. EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle

In Stripes, this innocent looking RV turns out to be pretty bad-ass. Bill Murray and Ivan Reitman use it to rescue their hapless fellow soldiers from Czechoslovakia.

Can Cargo Space live up to its illustrious predecessors? Only time will tell.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pan Recommends for the week of September 26 to October 2

Robert Boyd


Gaia, Mies Van Der Rohe at Charles One Center, Baltimore (Part of Legacy Project), 2012-13

GAIA: Marshland, Rice University Art Gallery, 5–7 pm. I don't know what to expect from this installation by a credentialed "street artist" with a very pompous name, Gaia. Big faces presumably.

Help Yourself: Mark Ponder and Ariane Roesch, curated by Rachel Hooper , EMERGEncy Room Gallery, 7 to 10 pm. I don't quite know what to expect here. Ariane Roesch is known for her work using EL wire, though. And Ponder has a video.

BETSY HUETE: Interiorities at the Matchbox Gallery, 8 to 11 pm. Betsy Huete is a writer for this here blog, which should be the only reason you need to the see her show. Aside from that, all I can say is that I hope this joint includes the above-pictured varmint.


Rachel Hecker, Can't Fly

Rachel Hecker: Group Show, 2013 Texas Artist of the Year, Art League Houston, 6–9 pm. Reportedly this show involves carved styrofoam snowmen in a winter wonderland-style installation. I don't have any photos of that, so here's a photo of a Rachel Hecker painting of a post-it note from my personal collection.

Kermit Oliver, A Swine Before a Silvered Bowl of River Pearls, 2012

Kermit Oliver: Tracing Our Pilgrimage, Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts , Art League Houston, 6–9 pm. An exceptional artist like Kermit Oliver must sometimes feel like he is casting his pearls before swine (like me). Here's a chance to see a room full of this painter's astonishing work.

Luc Tuymans portrait

Nice. Luc Tuymans, Menil Collection, 6–8 pm. A selection of the Belgian painter's monochromatic, washed-out portraits.

MOVING VIOLATION by Mark Nelson,  14 Pews on Friday, 6 to 9pm. Houston artist Mark Nelson presents a multi-media installation on the theme of motion.


Ward Sanders, From the Ruins of Industrie , 2013 , assemblage , 9 x 7.5 x 3"

Q&A Session with Jacqueline Dee Parker and Ward Sanders conducted by yours truly at Hooks Epstein Galleries, 2:30 pm. RSVP strongly suggested. I am very pleased to be conducting this talk Parker and Sanders. Expect French sounding words like "collage", "assemblage" and "bricolage" to be uttered.

Brian Jobe, Channel Modules, 2012, basswood, paint, flagging tape, 7.5" x 64" x 3"

TransAMplitude with J. Derrick Durham, Brian R. Jobe, Carin Rodenborn and Heidi Wehring at BLUEorange Contemporary, 6–9 pm. Take the bus to see  this show that is described as "an investigation of transit."

Jo Ann Fleischhauer, detail of one of the new clock faces

What Time Is It? by Jo Ann Fleischhauer (with composers Anthony Brandt and Chapman Welch and new music group Musiqa), The Louis and Annie Friedman Clock Tower, 6:30–9:30 pm. This sounds like an interesting intervention on the old clock at Market Square.

Did this influence my Pan Art Fair decision?

Eyesore and Give Up: Current work and Collaborative efforts, Cardoza Fine Art, 8–11 pm. Eyesore and Give Up, two wheatpaste-style street artists whose work might be described as "not nice," show new work.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Special Announcement Regarding the Pan Art Fair!

***There will be no Pan Art Fair this fall.***

For a variety of reasons, I have decided not to do a Pan Art Fair at the same time as the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, as I did last year.

The Pan Art Fair in 2012

Now that doesn't mean that you can't have your own art fair. After all, there is no reason you can't rent a room in the Embassy Suites for a few nights from October 10 to 13. A suite on the 3rd floor (next to the pool!) only costs $150 a night. So for four nights, that's just $600. Throw in an extra $200 and they'll remove any furniture you want removed. So that's $800 (plus tax)--a lot cheaper than a booth at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair!

I realize that $800 (plus tax) is a lot of money, but these are big suites. Several artists (or small galleries or artist-run spaces or whatever) could go in together on one. And if anyone does get a suite for their own mini-satellite art fair, I will happily promote it here.
--Robert Boyd


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why Doesn't MOMA Have a Department of Comics?

Robert Boyd

I just read Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, the lushly-produced catalog for the Art Speigelman retrospective that has been traveling around the world for almost two years (the last stop is at the Jewish Museum in New York from November 8, 2013, to March 30, 2014). It's a lovely catalog--I highly recommend it. Right now, we seem to be at a high water mark for comics in museums. Three weeks after the Daniel Clowes exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago closes, Co-Mix opens in New York. So three cheers for comics, right? Well, two cheers. After all, how much comics are in any museum's permanent collection? How many curators specialize in this type of art? Does any major museum have a specific collection or department of comics?

These questions came to me in response to the essay written by Robert Storr that is included in Co-Mix. The essay, "Making Maus," is in two parts--one originally written in 1991, then a long postscript added in 2012. The first part was written for a small exhibit focused on Maus at MoMA, Making Maus. The subsequent part addresses comics as an art, but also discusses comics in relation to MoMA.
It was my hope in 1991 that, as the first MoMA exhibition of comics as art rather than as an inspiration for art, Making Maus might initiate a process of reevaluation that would eventually lead to MoMA's full recognition of this quintessentially modern medium. This would, I hoped, result in the creation of its own department much as was done for film, another genre whose identity is determined by the contradictions of its simultaneous existence as a means of artistic expression and of mass entertainment, its divided territory as a site of independent, artisanal invention and corporate, industrial production. Consistent with that goal I tried to interest colleagues in the Department of Drawings in the curatorial process that, largely driven by Spiegelman's fervor, finally led to the Masters of American Comics exhibition jointly mounted by the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2005--but to no avail. Bu 2005 I was out of MoMA and unable to pursue any further campaign for such recognition. But I persist in believing there is a place for comics in any museum of modern or contemporary art, and the evidence that they have become among the most fertile fields for young artists continues to grow. Someday soon the citadels of culture will be forced to open their gates and let "the barbarians" in--only to discover how sophisticated they are. Then that happens at MoMA, I will be proud to say that I was in the advance party that prepared the way.
I was staggered to read this--Robert Storr tried to start a Department of Comics at MoMA. MoMA has seven departments: Architecture & Design, Drawings, Film, Media & Performance Art, Painting & Sculpture, Photography and Prints & Illustrated Books. How exciting it would be if "comics" had been added to the list! And Storr, far from being a rebel or outsider, is as much an insider in the art world as one can imagine.

But MoMA isn't the only museum in America that could take up the gauntlet. In my fantasies, I imagine that Gary Tinterow reads The Great God Pan Is Dead in slow moments at the office at the MFAH. The MFAH, much more broadly focused than MoMA, has 15 departments, including a film department. So Mr. Tinterow, if you are reading, what do you think of Mr. Storr's proposal? I know the museum is in an expansionary mode right now. Here is an art form primed and ready for major recognition by large institutions devoted to art. Why not be first? And if you are worried about your budget, I can guarantee that a curatorial department devoted to comics as art would be the least expensive department you would have.

Well, we all have fantasies.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reasons to Go the the Houston Fine Art Fair

Robert Boyd

Some writers have suggested that the Houston Fine Art Fair is full of bad art, but personally, I found lots to like there. Here's some of the good stuff.

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake at dpm gallery

At dpm gallery from Equador, Pablo Cardoso had a series of small 120 paintings on paper called Lago Agrio-Sour Lake. Each one is monochromatic--brown, blue, brown, etc.--and is a painting of a photograph. The images each depict a small bottle of water.

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake (detail) at dpm gallery

In the upper left, we see a cup being filled and then being poured into the bottle. Then we see the bottle being transported.

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake (detail) at dpm gallery

It ends up in an airport and is carried onto a plane. (It occurs to me that you can't carry water onto planes, so I wonder how he did it. UPDATE: The bottle was apparently small enough that it fell outside the regulated quantity.)

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake (detail) at dpm gallery

It is put on the dash of a car and driven someplace. Wait, I recognize that bridge! The bottle is now in Houston.

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake (detail) at dpm gallery

We see the freeway and the Houston skyline.

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake (detail) at dpm gallery

And a city limit sign for Sour Lake. Sour Lake is a small town outside of Beaumont.

Pablo Cardoso, Lago Agrio-Sour Lake (detail) at dpm gallery

In 1903, the Texas Company drilled its first well there. This company would become Texaco, and there is a monument marking the site. Here, finally, the water that has travelled so very far is poured out.

Lago Agrio was a large oil field in Ecuador discovered in the mid 60s. Initially it was produced by a consortium of Texaco and Gulf Oil, although by 1976, it was majority owned by CEPE, the national oil company of Ecuador. The extraction of oil there--far from prying eyes--was done in a very dirty way. The area now is deforested and the local water polluted. In 1995, Texaco--to avoid a lawsuit by the Ecuadorian government--spent $0 million dollars to clean the area. The clean-up efforts were shown to be largely cosmetic, however. The litigation was restarted in 2003, this time against Chevron which had purchased Texaco. The case(s) have had a series of amazing twists and turns (including a judge being bribed on camera to rule against Chevron). 

But all the legal shenanigans obscures the real issue, which is what Cardoso focuses on--the area was permanently polluted and Texaco is one of the culprits. Period. As a piece of art with a political meaning, I thought it was strong. As a piece of activism, less so--but that is a problem with most political artwork. I think it was important that this work be seen in Houston, but I would love for it to be displayed for more than three days, though. Maybe a local nonprofit (that isn't dependent on Chevron money) could show it.

Alejandro Leonhardt, Nuevos protocolos (New protocols), installation, variable size at LOCAL Arte Contemporaneo

One of my favorite booths was LOCAL Arte Contemporaneo. The work they showed was not particularly commercial compared to a lot of the other work in the show (and I don't mean "commercial" in a negative way--I just mean that a painting is a lot easier to sell than an installation, usually). I was surprised to see a Chilean gallery with so much conceptual work here. They were just as surprised--they still don't know how HFAF found them. However it happened, I'm glad it did. LOCAL is an artists' space, and two of the artists whose work was on display were there--Javier González Pesce, the director of LOCAL, and Ignacio Murua Daza.

Alejandro Leonhardt, La comida caída se limpia con las manos (Fallen food gets cleaned with the hands), Acrylic piece with low relief inscription on its base, 2010 – 2012

Alejandro Leonhardt, La comida caída se limpia con las manos (Fallen food gets cleaned with the hands), Acrylic piece with low relief inscription on its base, 2010 – 2012

Two of the best pieces were by Alejandro Leonhardt. The one above, La comida caída se limpia con las manos(Fallen food gets cleaned with the hands),  are plastic napkin holders that can double as "brass" knuckles. (That's what it tells you on the bottom.) The object alone isn't the work--it's the act of placing them in a restaurant, which was done for two years in Santiago, Chile.

Ignacio Murua Daza at LOCAL

Ignacio Murua Daza at LOCAL

Ignacio Murua Daza has a series of photos of faded pin-ups found in garages. I guess even in Chile, this is a stereotypical way of decorating a greasy old garage. But Murua Daza suggests that as garages get cleaner and more professional, pin-ups start to disappear. I'd suggest that it's probably less cool for companies that supply garages to print these up for their customers now. So these photos show old faded calendars and pin-ups--the hairstyles on the models look very 80s and 90s.

Javier González Pesce at LOCAL

Javier González Pesce at LOCAL

In my last post, I was pretty bummed out about the pop-oriented art at HFAF. But Daza and Javier González Pesce show a different (and in my view much more effective) way to deal with pop culture. Both artists deal with remnants. They acknowledge the crappy origins of their art. Pesce takes posters and using chemicals, bleaches out the entire image except for specific little bits. The anime posters (Dragonball Z?) are erased except for the distinctive spikey hair of the characters, for example. In doing so, these images that are so common and ubiquitous that they are kind of invisible suddenly become visible again. Pesce makes us think about them. That's what I think the best Pop Art did--it made you actually look at things that your eye normally glosses over.

Rodrigo Araya Yáñez at LOCAL

This image of a vinyl LP was made out of cassette tape--a perfect combination of two mostly obsolete  sound recording technologies.

Seeing LOCAL and dpm gallery reminds me of one thing that HFAF tries pretty hard to do every year--bring some interesting contemporary art from Latin America.

And they do it with local contemporary work as well--apparently they gave Alabama Song the large booth above, which they filled with art by young Houston artists. It was an excellent selection and a great move on the part of HFAF.

Chris Cascio at Alabama Song

The funny thing is that many of the best booths in the whole fair were Houston galleries or art spaces. The one that surprised me the most was Koelsch Gallery. Koelsch is a gallery that I've never been able to quite figure out in terms of the kind of work they show. They're all over the map. But here they had a cool show by W. Tucker, who attempts to channel his inner child in his art. I know that sounds faintly ridiculous, but it works! He draws with his left hand to get a deliberately childlike "ineptness", and the drawings look fantastic. For the art fair, he designed the booth so it really stood out.

W. Tucker's booth for Koelsch Gallery

W. Tucker draws on old 78 rpm records.

W. Tucker, big red elephant house, oil, ink, book cover, nails on wood, 12 1/16 x 15 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches

W. Tucker, light on my right hand, charcoal, resin stick, graphite, ink, 4 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2 inches

Of course, artists have been trying to recreate a childlike approach to their art for a long time, from people like Jean Dubuffet to the 90s-era cartoonists who were lumped into the "cute brut" school (James Kochalka, for example). Tucker's attempts feel very convincing.

One of the nicest booths from a local gallery was Hooks-Epstein Gallery. They decided to show exclusively work by Robert Pruitt, who was selected by HFAF as the 2013 artist of the year. 2013 has been a big year for Pruitt--he currently has a solo exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem that has been rapturously received. Hooks-Epstein's selection of work goes back several years and forms a nice mini-retrospective of Pruitt. Excellent work hung tastefully, it's a standout booth at HFAF.

Barkley Hendricks, Pretty Peggy's Black Box, 1976, oil, acrylic and magna on canvas, 66 x 48 inches

It was cool to also see work by Barkley Hendricks, who seems to be a strong influence on Pruitt, at the fair at ACA Galleries.

Luis Jimenez, Honky Tonk, 1981, lithograph, 35 x 50 inches

ACA Galleries also had pieces by a local favorite, Luis Jimenez.

One thing that HFAF always does well is bring galleries that show older generations of Latin American art. You could see work by Ruffino Tamayo, Joaquín Torres Garcia and Carlos Cruz Diez at the show. There were a couple of galleries that specialized in constructivist abstractions. But my favorite exhibitor was Rubbers Internacional from Buenos Aires. They had a show within the gallery of the great Xul Solar. None of the work was for sale (as far as I know)--they just brought it to show it.

Of course, work like this has a little trouble competing against the visual cacophony of the fair. Solar's watercolors, though bright, are small. But take to the time to look at them--they're beautiful and bizarre.

Xul Solar installation at Rubber Internacional

Xul Solar, Proyecto fachada para ciudad, 1954, watercolor on paper, 25.5 x 36.6 cm

Xul Solar, Sin título (Platas y letras), 1955, ink on paper, 16.5 x 22cm

Xul Solar, Dulo Mi More, 1961, tempera on paper, 17 x 21 cm

Xul Solar, Plaza II, 1955, watercolor on paper, 17 x 22 cm

I'm fascinated by Solar's paintings of imaginary buildings. If I were more handy, I'd like to build scale models of them. Solar's city is one I'd like to inhabit.

Antonio Seguí at Rubbers Internacional

Rubbers Internacional also had several works by Antonio Seguí that I found charming.

Antonio Seguí, Gran Ecart, 1998, acrylic, 60 x 73 cm

Antonio Berni, Marino amigo de Ramona, 1964, goffering, 35 x 23 inches at Aldo de Sousa Gallery

Another classic (but little known in the U.S.) Latin American artist who has work at this fair is the Argentinian artist Antonio Berni. He will be the subject of a solo exhibit at the MFAH--his fist solo exhibit in the US in 50 years. (Goffering is apparently the use of an iron to create frills in lace. Berni apparently had an alternate use for a goffering iron.)

Kcho, Tiburon, 2012, fiberglass and clothing, 100 x 48 x 23 inches at PanAmerican Art Projects

This homely but dangerous looking shark is by a Cuban artist with the unpronounceable name Kcho. I like it and like how it is displayed on a packing crate.

Kim Myung Jin Edgewalker at Gallerie Gaia

Kim Myung Jin, Edgewalker at Gallerie Gaia

These two paintings by Kim Myung Jin--both of which were labelled Edgewalker--have a bit of a Basquiat vibe without being slavishly imitative. I found them vigorous and liked the little cartoonish figures that inhabited them.

HFAF is a schizophrenic show. It seems to have a lot of art that really appeals to the basest instincts of collectors (as seen here), but then it has great local art, spectacular historical Latin American art, and provocative contemporary Latin American art. If you like to love art, there is art here to love. If you love to hate bad art, HFAF is well-equipped. If you like both--this could be heaven for you.