Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Argument for the Elimination of Art Fairs in Houston: HFAF 2014, part 2

Robert Boyd

(Continued from Part 1)


Federico Uribe at Art Nouveau Gallery

To paraphrase Hennessy Youngman, that's too many pencils, therefore "art!"

Wang Ziwon, Mechanical Buddhahood, 2014, urethane, metallic material, machinery, electronic device (CPU, motor), 37 x 9 x 25 inches at Keumsan Gallery

Why not have a slowly moving slightly creepy doll man in your collection?

Wang Ziwon at Keumsan Gallery

Geraldo Feldstein, Fernandito, iron and resin


Nathan Vincent at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery

Hey, just because it's stunt art doesn't mean I hate it. I liked Nathan Vincent's massively blown up crocheted army man sculpture. It may be nothing more than nostalgia for me, but it looks really cool. Maybe that's enough.

Nathan Vincent, Gold/Silver/Porcelain Glock, 2 x 6 x 6.5 inches each

Another set of Nathan Vincent sculptures. If they didn't sell at the art fair, maybe they could bring them back and sell them at the gun show. At $500 apiece, they are quite competitive with real Glocks.

Chris Hedrick, two thumbs up, carved linden, 24 x 15 x 4 inches at Koelsch Gallery

The biggest show of stunt art was a booth full of Chris Hedrick's wood carvings at Koelsch Gallery. But his "stunt" is his supernatural woodcarving ability and his sense of humor. In a world of deskilled conceptual art, I still doff my hat to anyone who can do what Hedrick does, and the fact he does it with such wit only makes it better.



Bram Reijnders, Saving All My Love For You, mixed media on canvas, 28 x 50 inches

You know me. I love comics. But is there any lazier subject matter in contemporary art than cartoon characters? It's almost always infantile instant gratification. Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami know this, and so do many less famous artists at HFAF.

Bram Reijnders, Famous Mouse Escapes, mixed media on canvas, 33 x 72 inches

Nelson De la Nuez, Be Happy, hand painted mixed media on canvas

Sure, these kinds of figures can be ironic, or can have powerful resonance by using common childhood tropes. There are ways to use them meaningfully in art. But that wasn't on the menu at HFAF.

Nick Veasey, Superman Takes a Break, c-type x-ray phootcgraphic print, 60 x 47 inches at Evan Lurie Gallery

Terry Thompson, Cap'n Crunch Pop, 2012, oil on canvas, 40 x 60 inches

Fifty-odd years ago, this kind of thing was transgressive and bracing. Now it is pure shit.

Gary John, Comic, acrylic on Korean Newspaper, 30 x 30 inches

Sometimes an artist brings a particular personal style to cartoons, and sometimes that works. But not Gary John's pieces, alas.



Dina Gustin Baker, Crescendo, 2008, oil on canvas, 50 x 64 inches

Some pieces seem to be marketed less at collectors than at decorators. This must infuriate serious abstractionists, but let's face it--people like art that looks good in their house. In a way, the sign of a true collector is that her collection makes no sense as decoration. In other words, it doesn't look good with the couch.

Haessle (sic) at Kips Gallery

Kim Keunjoong at KP Projects

This isn't to say that these works are necessarily bad. I was really impressed by this intensely colored painting by Kim Keunjoong--the flowers were like decorative embroidery, and the line of gnomic text provides an unexpectedly straight contrast to the swirling curves of the flowers. So maybe this would have appealed to a collector. But just as likely it appealed to a decorator.



I could post photos of bad art from this fair all day long, but this post is getting too damn long. But I did want to spotlight these two exceptional pieces.

Jacques Lebscond at Frederic Got Gallery

Yuroz at Murloge Gallery/Off the Wall Gallery

I love how Yuroz churns out kitsch paintings in a watered down version of a style that ran out of steam almost a hundred years ago. (There's a great picture of him meeting the Pope on his website.)



Max-Steven Grossman, (top) Art SP, 2013, photo composition on lucite, 48 x 100 and (bottom) Musica, 2014, photo composition on lucite, 48 x 100 inches at Axiom Contemporary

Max-Steven Grossman's lifesize photos  of libraries offended me more than any other piece of art at HFAF. This was a very personal offense. Lot's of things that offend other people don't offend me at all, but the fundamentally anti-intellectual conception of these photos sickened me. I love books. I love reading. These images take the place of books, almost literally. The space they occupy on your wall is the space you could have for actual books. Indeed, if you wanted to, for the price of one of these photos, you could very likely buy copies of every single book pictured--with money to spare for some Ikea bookshelves. You could carefully arrange the books you just bought to look like these photos. And as an added bonus, you could read the books if you so chose.

Grossman's photos in effect say, "Books are fine decorations, but what kind of brainiac loser actually reads them?"

OK, I will admit--these last two posts have been cruel. But HFAF deserves it. This art fair was a slap in the face, a statement that Houston deserves all the kitsch they can shovel down our throats. We've seen the two art fairs, TCAF and HFAF, dramatically shrink this year. I question in the long run if Houston can even support one art fair. But I know in my gut that we can't support two. As lame as TCAF was this year, if one of these fairs has to go under, I hope it is HFAF. Perhaps in such a circumstance, TCAF could absorb all that's good in HFAF and become a better art fair.

Because there was good stuff in HFAF. In the last two posts I've focused almost exclusively on the negative. But my next post will be a catalog of things I liked at HFAF.


  1. LOL! Yuroz visited the demon pope!

  2. So is it your opinion that an art fair should be eliminated, or do you just want to see better art there?

    1. I don't think two art fairs in Houston (the status quo) is sustainable. So I would like to see one of them voluntarily shut down, and my preference would be HFAF. However, if HFAF had better art than TCAF, I'd rather see TCAF shut down.

      But as I have explained elsewhere, I question whether any art fair in Houston (run on this model) is viable for the following reasons:
      1) Few collectors will come to Houston from out of town. Why should they? Houston is hardly a destination for visitors, and the only thing the Houston art fairs offer that art fairs in Miami and New York don't is access to a lot of Houston galleries, which is not exactly a big draw.
      2) Collectors from Houston who want to buy Houston art can visit Houston galleries year round--they don't need an art fair for that.
      3) Collectors from Houston who want to collect from out-of-town galleries can go to the much bigger and better art fairs in New York and Miami (and London and Hong Kong) to buy art. When you are willing to spend $10,000+ for a piece of artwork, the travel expenses are relatively trivial in exchange for the better-quality art fairs.
      Given these three facts, it makes me wonder if any art fair in Houston is viable in the long run.

      That said, for purely selfish reasons, I would like both art fairs, TCAF and HFAF, to show better, more exciting art from all over the world as well as from Houston. Because I like seeing good art.