Thursday, July 23, 2015

Betsy Huete’s Big Show Top Ten

Betsy Huete

Part of the fun of Lawndale’s Big Show is simply navigating through all the work. Like a flea market, it’s enticing to think that something with a resonating weirdness or striking complexity lingers right around the corner. But compared to previous years, this year’s group came off as much safer and sedate, like a Big Show on quaaludes. There was too little risk-taking, too much easy symbolism, too many heavy-handed one-liners. Some of that is to be expected of an open-call, juried exhibition of this magnitude, but the over all lack of personality had me pining for the Duncan MacKenzie/Avril Falgout papier mache rocker days. The slump can be attributed to any one of three things: 1) This is the best of what curator George Scheer had to choose from. 2) George Scheer has a yawn-worthy curatorial eye. Or 3) The new digital selection process is having damaging effects on the over all curation. Knowing that many of the same artists apply year after year and Scheer had nearly 1,000 works to choose from, I suspect #1 isn’t the case. Sure, it’s possible that Scheer is just a boring curator, but after all, Lawndale hand-picks each year’s judge; it’s not like they pull any unqualified person off the street—which makes me suspicious of #2. This is Lawndale’s first year to switch to digital, and I always thought having everyone haul in their work was silly and unnecessary, but there’s something to be said about having a tangible, first-hand view of how the work behaves in the space and in tandem with the other work. This year’s show heavily privileges 2D over 3D work—work that probably photographs better. And, of course with any digital selection process, there’s always the possibility of losing out on quality work from artists who are just bad documenters. It’s a little early to blame it on digital, but it will be interesting to see how the coming years will play out if they stick to it.

Installation view, Grace R. Canvar Gallery, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

Regardless, there are always standouts, and here are my top ten:

10. Washington’$ Paradi$e (from the ORM-D “Con$umer Commodity” series), Cynical Con$umeri$m by JP Hartman

JP Hartman, Cynical Con$umeri$m, Washington’$ Paradi$e (from the ORM-D “Consumer Commodity” series), 2015, Mixed media assemblage, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

Money, Coca-cola, and McDonald’s seem to be the go-to icons for anyone critiquing corporate commodity culture, and here Hartman employs just about every predictable motif imaginable. But as hand-cuffed, naked Ken and Barbie blissfully stare off into the distance, bearing the weight of an errant yet well-structured cornucopia of crap, Hartman’s modestly scaled trophy monument conveys as much of a sense of fun and care as it does cynicism. It’s the light-hearted ambivalence Hartman conveys that makes the work compelling, that saves it from becoming the same capitalist agitprop we’ve seen a thousand times before.

9. Silent Like Nature, Mary Carol Kenney

Mary Carol Kenney, Silent Like Nature, 2014, Oil on canvas, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

In Mary Carol Kenney’s Silent Like Nature, an elderly woman, perhaps a Mother Teresa figure, stands center, leaning with head cocked to the side, hands outstretched, releasing a kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies. However, the sharp lines and vivid colors of the butterflies stand in sharp contrast to the soft, graying woman, especially in relation to the muted, Impressionistic background. It’s as though Kenney shone a spotlight directly on the butterflies; they seem Photoshopped into the picture. It is unclear if this discontinuity was intentional, but it’s precisely this disjuncture that makes the painting so interesting. The butterflies are as much intruders as they are the focal point: with the woman’s upward-glancing gaze away from the butterflies, it seems equally likely they are suffocating her as she is releasing them.

8. After Dinner, Allyson Huntsman 

Allyson Huntsman, After Dinner, 2014, Digital inkjet print, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

Huntsman directs our eye to a corner, a corner adored with wood paneling, a quaint bookcase filled with trophies and family pictures, a glowing lamp, and an outmoded stereo. What at first appears as a documentary photograph of an elderly man—perhaps her father or grandfather—quickly reads as a self-portrait. Panning as much of the room as she can from one corner to the other, we get the sense that Huntsman is grasping at the memories and familial comforts she sees across the room bathed in warm, yellow light. Yet she stands removed, facing the back of a man solitarily engaged in the rituals and comforts of old age.

7. Untitled, Family Photos, Justin Zachary

Justin Zachary, Untitled, Family Photos, 2015, Archival pigment print, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

It is clear that not only in these pictures but also in the accompanying video in the O’Quinn Gallery that Justin Zachary is trying to meld the glitches and mishaps of digital processing with the failings of memory, notions of loss, and mortality. He achieves this juxtaposition with varying degrees of success, as the central photograph of his Untitled, Family Photos triptych is far more effective than the two on each side. While the central photograph is oriented horizontally, the flanking pictures Zachary chose look as though they were originally oriented vertically, making the lengthening he’s applied far less dramatic than the one in the middle. The middle photograph eerily conveys the wonder one feels when he is small, when everything in the world feels so much larger than it actually is. Majestic skyscraper windows, glowing in mid-day light, loom large over an oblivious young boy (presumably Zachary) watching TV.

6. Green Thumb, Elise Weber

Elise Weber, Green Thumb, 2015, Archival pigment print, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

There isn’t a whole lot of new conceptual territory being covered here as Weber seems to be channeling Cindy Sherman in Green Thumb. A beautiful Jessica Lange-esque 1950s starlet gazes longingly afar as she performs her afternoon gardening. But what sets it apart and makes it so seductive is its painterliness: the soft maroon shading of her cheek, the curvaceous shadows of her hat, the almost velvety texture of the leaves behind her, the incisive puncture of her lips. Soft yet sharp, every object big and small commands its own presence and demands tactility.

5. Sunset on Annecy Lake, France, Nataliya Scheib

Nataliya Scheib, Sunset on Annecy Lake, France, 2015, Magazine collage on canvas, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

If someone were to describe Sunset on Annecy Lake to me on paper, I would want to rip my eyes out. After all, using fashion magazine cutouts to make a pretty sunset landscape sounds like something a wistful teenager would do. Indeed, there are a few missteps where Scheib is being heavy-handedly critical, pasting phrases like “there’s nothing like rubbing shoulders with a local celebrity.” But on the other hand, Scheib has seamlessly and so carefully blended her color scheme and handled the mountain scape, tree, and bridge with such care, we can look past some of the more obvious bits and pieces that comprise the collage. Tiny people scale the hillside; the entire scene is calming and strangely baroque. We know on some level Scheib is trying to be critical, but in the end we don’t care, preferring instead to be sucked into some dreamy L’Oreal undertow.

4. DIY! Step 3, 4, and 8, Ross Irwin

Ross Irwin, DIY! Step 3, 4, and 8, 2014, Ballpoint pen on printed newsprint, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

Like some Rube Goldberg cacophonous mess, Ross Irwin draws on top of original instruction manuals, executing his lines convincingly enough to make it difficult to discern where the original manual ends and his inventions begin. There’s no explanation of what these contraptions are—as there shouldn’t be—and we’re left to figure out what they’re doing and why. It would be interesting to see this series carried out in a solo exhibition, to see what one of his machines would look like on a large scale.

3. Detritus 8, Tivakorn Sirinopawongsakorn

Tivakorn Sirinopawongsakorn, Detritus 8, 2015, Plastic bottles, plastic bags, fishing line, and LED lights on egg carton

The title is a little literal, but with Detritus 8, Sirinopowongsakorn does a lot with a little. Covered with a shiny, slimy brown hue, the sculpture cranes forward as an emergent head from a pedestal. It’s quietly animated, anthropomorphic and repulsive. It looks like a sewage accordion, or a neutral-faced robot.

2. Geometry #135-138, Fariba Abedin

Fariba Abedin, Geometry #135-138, 2015, Acrylic on wood panels, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

Upon stepping into the John M. O’Quinn Gallery, the viewer’s eye immediately gravitates to Geometry #135-138. The Stella-esque colors, lines, and patterning pop out immediately thanks to a flat, mid-gray background. Abedin forces our eyes continuously in circles through the perimeter of the painting, but also in each of the quadrants she’s delineated, with patterning similar enough to keep it cohesive but dissimilar enough to keep it dynamic. The center of each quadrant looks like pupils in reverse: lavenders and baby blues in the dead center with dark, near-blacks encapsulating them like irises. As the pattering has our eyes swirling circularly, the lighter points have us darting from corner to corner, in an alternating dance of quick steps and slow turns of movement.

1. 61st Street Pier, Steve Ross Fisher

Steve Ross Fisher, 61st Street Pier, 2013, Photograph, courtesy Lawndale Art Center

We’ve all seen them: Galveston pics. Galveston at sunset, Pleasure Pier, Pleasure Pier at sunset, the sea wall, the sea wall at sunset. But unlike most of these images attempting to advertise for or glorify Galveston, Fisher’s photograph feels more reserved and tentative. The water is murky and weirdly mystical; there’s barely a horizon line. The white and dark wooden slats of the pier stand in sharp contrast to the water and sky, like a spindly skeleton anchored and levitating in a cloud.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Introducing Exu

Robert Boyd

A few months back, I wrote about my own personal writing crisis. Writing reviews of art shows just wasn't satisfying to me anymore. Obviously I haven't quit writing--I have written nine posts since then, but none have been reviews of art exhibits.

The problem is that I still see art in the galleries and artists spaces and museums that I love. I would like to share this love. I have an impulse to grab people by the lapels (even if they don't have lapels and even though I am opposed in principal to unsolicited lapel grabbing) and say, "Look at this!" People who follow me on Instagram know this. I frequently post photos of art I just seen and liked. (I'm ROBERTWBOYD2020 if you want to follow me there.)

Anyway, I think it was this impulse to share art I like that made me want to do my new project--a tabloid-sized newsprint art magazine called Exu. There are other things I could have done. I could have curated an exhibit, for example. But an exhibit lasts maybe a month, then it comes down, and not that many people see it--particularly if they live someplace else. I could have started a Tumblr. But while I look at images online constantly, there is something not quite satisfying for me about seeing them there. That was always a problem I had with this blog--I tried hard to show as many images as possible, but I wasn't particularly happy with the small, relatively lo-res images I reproduced.

My background is in print publishing. Before I started the job I have now, that was my profession. I still buy lots of physical books, especially books that have a visual component--art books and comics. I could get them on Kindle or another electronic delivery systems, but for the reasons above, I don't find that particularly satisfying. (I read plenty of all-prose books electronically, though. I'm not a luddite.)

So what I wanted to do was to publish something (IRL as they say) that would show the artwork I liked in a large format. I didn't want to do it the way art magazines like Artforum or, locally, Arts+Culture do--a small picture surrounded by type. I wanted the image to be everything. I wanted it to take up the whole page, or as much as it could. If there is a magazine that embodies this concept, I'd say it's Toilet Paper, the art magazine published by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari--page after page of images with nary a word among them.

I picked the newspaper tabloid format because it's large and because tabloids have a tradition of eye-catching graphics and, well, lapel-grabbing stories. That made me think I wanted there to be narrative content in my magazine. The pictures should tell stories, or at least imply them. So that ruled out abstract images (although in the end, I have one pure abstraction and one word-based image). Then I decided that the narrative could also be prose. I was specifically thinking about literary nonfiction and great magazine writing. So I contacted some writers I know and commissioned some prose. And since we're talking about narrative, the visual printed artistic medium that best exemplifies narrative is comics. I don't know that many Houston cartoonists--it's not a hotbed like of great cartoonists like Seattle or New York. But I contacted the ones I know for a few pages of comics.

The name Exu was inspired by a work of art I saw in Chasity Porter's Dormalou Project (a mobile art gallery). She had a show up of work by Anthony Suber called Archaic Habit. It was a cool show that mixed contemporary African-American pop culture and rootsy African culture seamlessly (and humorously in some cases). One of the works had the word "Eshu" in the title. Eshu is a Yoruban orisha, or deity. I was more familiar with the Portuguese spelling, Exu. In Brazil, Exu is in the pantheon of the syncretic religion of Candomble. He is the god of the crossroads--you invoke him to help you make decisions. I lived in Brazil for a while and I had a statuette of Exu. In Brazil, Exu is identified visually with the Devil. (All the other Orishas are identified with Catholic Saints.) My cheap ceramic statue was a rather old-fashioned representation of the devil--pointy beard, horns, all red.

I realized that Exu looked a lot like Pan. It's said that the modern image of the devil was a result of medieval Italian farmers plowing up old statuettes of Pan, becoming frightened, calling the parish priest who would then associate this horned, goat-footed idol with the devil. I don't know if this story is true, but the resemblance of Pan to images of the devil are undeniable. It pleased me to think that the visual image of Pan migrated to the visual image of the devil who then migrated to Exu, a god that was exported from Nigeria in the holds of Portuguese slave ships. It seemed to me that although Pan and Exu were too very different deities, they had a certain mysterious connection over space and time. (I also liked that they both have three letters in their names.)

A cover idea featuring art by Ike Morgan

So Exu it was. (Exu is pronounced "EY-shoo", by the way). My next task was to pick artists. I knew I wanted the art to be native 2-D art. No three-dimensional art (so no sculpture or installation) and no time-based art (so no film or video or performance). I wanted the transition from artwork to printed page to be as seamless and uncompromised as possible. But the world of 2-D art contains multitudes. The artists I chose had to be familiar to me. It would have been easy for me to simply pick my friends, but I wanted there to be an identifiable editorial vision here. Also, I wanted to pick artists from a variety of genres, styles, schools, media, etc. Many of these artists are unlikely to have ever met one-another, but here in Exu, they can share a space. I want Exu to be a kind of secular artistic sacra conversazione.

So we have street art next to "outsider" art next to MFA art. There's painting, drawing, printmaking and photography. I worked hard at being aware of various artistic traditions and looking at all of them. I'm haunted by the notion that there are great artists out there who I just don't know about. And there were people I wanted to include but for various reasons could not--I couldn't find a way to communicate with them, we couldn't agree on of piece to publish, or most often I just lost the thread as I got busy with other artists.

In the end, here's who is in Exu: Trenton Doyle Hancock, Kelly Alison, Seth Alverson, Debra Barrera, JooYoung Choi, Jamal Cyrus, Bill Daniel, Nicky Davis, Nathaniel Donnett, Matthew Guest, the Amazing Hancock Brothers, Hillerbrand+Magsamen, Perry House, John Hovig, Galina Kurlat, Emily Peacock, Fernando Ramirez, Sophie Roach, Christopher Sperandio, Jason Villegas and Inés Estrada. These are the writers I've included: Great God Pan Is Dead veteran Dean Liscum, Pete Gershon, John Nova Lomax, Jim Pirtle and a piece by the late, great Sig Byrd. And Exu includes the following cartoonists: Mack White, Scott Gilbert, Sarah Welch and Brett Hollis. And the cover is by Ike Morgan. Most of these artists are located in Houston and vicinity, with some from San Antonio, Austin, Waco and DFW (and two expatriate Houstonians in New York).

I'm running an Indiegogo campaign for Exu right now. The purpose is not so much to raise money (even though money is nice!) but to pre-sell copies. Please take a look. And scroll down to see some of the art that will be featured, much larger and in higher resolution, in Exu.

Seth Alverson

Nathaniel Donnett

Fernando Ramirez

Scott Gilbert

the Amazing Hancock Brothers


Galina Kurlat

Ike Morgan

Emily Peacock

Monday, July 20, 2015

Been Doing This Kind of Thing Since Before Christ: A Talk with Gus Kopriva

Virginia Billeaud Anderson

As juror of Archway Gallery’s Seventh Annual Juried Art Exhibition, Gus Kopriva discussed the process by which he selected 39 out of the 194 artworks submitted, and while he addressed the gallery crowd I wondered how long it would take him to realize he wouldn’t be able to hold his bottle of Shiner and the microphone at the same time that he handed out the awards. Not long—beer on floor. “Ah been doing this kind of thing since before Christ,” Kopriva said, “and if space had allowed, I would have chosen all of them.” But it was his job to choose, so he chose what “connected with him in that time and place.”

From years of paying attention, I can say unequivocally that Kopriva is the only Houston gallery guru who doesn’t look tense. So when I learned he would serve as Archway’s juror, I suggested we do an interview that would touch on his role as judge, and also inform readers about his other art-related “interests” - his collection, gallery, curatorial projects and lectures. “Let’s do it,” Gus said, which led to several visits during which we discussed the juries, art prizes, curating, dealing, collecting and more.

Gus Kopriva, Juror - Archway Gallery’s Seventh Annual Juried Art Exhibition (through July 29)

Virginia Billeaud Anderson: You awarded the jury prizes at Archway Gallery exactly one day after Lawndale Art Center’s guest juror broke tradition and divided their annual juried Big Show’s $3000 prize evenly among all of the participating artists, so that none of the kiddies would feel rejection and all would know how precious they are. But I’m not the only one to feel skeptical about the Lawndale juror’s decision, I saw an artist to whom you’ve given multiple exhibitions roll her eyes and say, “How democratic.”

Gus Kopriva: I agree with what that juror was doing, with his social concept. The jurying process is soooo subjective, it’s impossible for one’s choices not to be affected by what’s in one’s mind at that time and place, so if I could choose I would accept all, give everyone honorable mentions, and no prizes. But since Archway honored me with the invitation to judge, I followed the rules. There are millions of different criteria for selecting and hanging a show.

VBA: Patrick Palmer who preceded you as an Archway juror told me he selected works that appealed to him aesthetically, but also worked well collectively to make a strong show. Remember Patrick is a teacher. Should skill count for something?

GK: I believe skill is very important, but consider Outsider art where untrained artists assemble found objects into sculptural pieces that are pleasing to viewers. As you know, Lawndale’s guest curator did no different from the late Walter Hopps, who when he was invited to judge a San Francisco exhibition, insisted all the artists be included, and because Walter was a highly respected curator, the organizers reluctantly went along with his decision and were forced to show thousands of pieces of art. Of course Walter was never again asked to judge a show. In principal I agree with Walter, but there are practical considerations - space limitations, organization rules, and importantly the artists’ expectations. Artists entered the Lawndale show expecting certain protocol related to first, second and third place prizes, and I imagine some were annoyed by the outcome.

VBA: There’s irony in the fact that it was Walter Hopps’ directorial and curatorial decisiveness that was responsible for your wife Sharon’s solo exhibition at the Menil, which was a pivotal moment in her career. Did Sharon buy you that dancing Shiva t-shirt on one of her trips to India?

GK: Yea, when she had her Mumbai show. I have a large collection of t-shirts.

VBA: I’ve often wondered how actively you participate in helping Sharon manage her career.

GK: It would be a conflict of interest for me to represent Sharon, other dealers do that.

VBA: Sugar, that’s a half-baked answer, because I know you understand my question. You’re hardly ignorant of the benefits of expert strategy on commercial success, and my question takes nothing away from Sharon’s astounding skill and creativity. Do you guide Sharon in her decisions, give advice, unofficially, on such things as gallery negotiations, or pricing, or media interaction, or which essay to include in a catalog?

GP: I’m an unofficial advisor.

VBA: I saw a full page ad in Vogue that announced Sharon’s Monterrey museum exhibition. Did you do that?

GK: Uh, I did the logistics. Lynet and I went to Mexico to try to arrange a traveling show, and we visited three museums where I showed them what I had done with other shows, like Shanghai, and I also showed them some of Sharon’s work which resulted in the Museo Metropolitana de Monterrey wanting to do Sharon’s Gothic Exposure exhibition, but it was their idea. So yes I advise. But I didn’t have anything to do with the New Orleans Ogden Museum show, it was all Sharon.

VBA: Pop didn’t raise a fool, did he Gus? You have been having a blast playing the role of curator, and by now must have organized several hundred exhibitions, many of which put you in collaboration with leading curators and scholars. Your shows have been critically noted, and in fact President George Bush wrote a complimentary letter in praise of the show you brought to the Shanghai Art Museum. I’ll never forget Still Crazy after All These Years, the 2005 exhibition you did for Lawndale Art Center’s 25th anniversary. That crowd was nostalgic and drunk.

GP: Lawndale gave me full curatorial freedom.

VBA: Still Crazy at Lawndale must have been logistically simple compared to exhibits in other countries where there have been complications, such as the people in Athens disobligingly deciding to riot in the streets at the time you were trying to show them some art.

GK: That 2012 Athens show Western Sequels: Art from the Lone Star State was scheduled to open at the National Painting School, but the opening was delayed a couple of days by a transportation strike. Then riots broke out on the plaza by the capital building, near our hotel, with tear gas and flying pieces of marble, surprisingly when we finally opened there were a few hundred people who attended. You know we finance these shows ourselves with little sponsorship from the government. When we showed in Havana, we were not only unsponsored, but fairly illegal, because of the embargo. Unable to get passports stamped, we had to travel to Cuba by way of Mexico, and I shipped the art via Frankfurt, and when we arrived at the Museo de Humboldt in Havana we found the city had no nails and wires so we had to use fishing line to hang the art. Things got worse when Wayne Gilbert got himself interviewed by CNN because that made us conspicuous, so we made Wayne fly home on a separate flight. Then our non-sponsored, illegal group encountered a prestigious MFA Museum-sponsored group in the plaza, and that made things more uncomfortable. I have so many stories. Keep in mind I did the Leipzig show in the former German Democratic Republic, what used to be East Germany. For one of the shows in Peru the container arrived only one day before the show opened. Talk about stress! When we brought Western Sequels to Istanbul there were riots there too.

VBA: It seems Cuba wasn’t the only western-embargoed location you decided couldn’t do without seeing Texas art. Last year I met an Iranian-born artist who told me you asked her to help you arrange an exhibition in Tehran. I can just imagine those mullahs hissing that your art is Satanic.

GK: I wanted a show in Tehran. I like Persian, and Iranian contemporary art. The theme could be “Art by Republican Artists,” with horses, cowboys and Indians. What a show. The choice of art would not matter, what would be significant is that we would be the first to do such a thing since the time of the Shah. But the permits and government hassles would be unbearable. It needs to be done though. Maybe Israel could sponsor us. We actually had an exhibition planned for Cairo, but the new government installed by the Muslim brotherhood fired our museum director and curators, and then there were the Egyptian riots, and no one wanted to travel so we cancelled.

VBA: Gustav, you have a charming way of using the imperial “We” like the papacy and the queen of England when describing your projects.

GK: This is so fun. I still want to do the show in Egypt.

VBA: You opened Redbud Gallery in 1999, which is known for giving upstarts a chance, and taking less than the standard commission.

GK: We opened in 1999 and we’ve survived vice squad raids, censorship, and condescending critics. We show dead, live and just starting artists, all mediums, whatever I like and want to show. In the early years I only took 10% of the sale, but after about eight years I was losing too much money, so now it’s a 50-50 split. We don’t concentrate on sales, my goal is to show art, but the art sells itself. I keep the prices low, and there have been many times the shows sold out.

VBA: When you were working on the recent John Biggers exhibition you told me you thought it was one of Redbud Gallery’s most significant.

GK: Because it was a survey show with works that spanned from the beginning of his career in the 1940s to his death, and as far as I could tell, no Houston commercial gallery had done a solo Biggers show in twenty five years. I worked with curators and local collectors and researched him thoroughly, actually read six illustrated books to pull it together. I’m equally proud of some of my early shows like the inaugural exhibition that showed the 84 year old unknown sculptor Gladys Gostick. Gladys showed a collection of three dimensional birds in stone, wood and copper, and we sold out. That was one of my most satisfying shows. Know what that woman did? Sat on her welding torch and burned her ass. Another really satisfying show was the West Coast assemblage artist George Herms. He had showed at MOMA and done things in the early sixties, but had not had a show in years. We sold out, and a Philadelphia gallery picked him up. He’s big again.

VBA: Do you think your out-going personality helps with commercial gallery success? You are gracious to everyone, even non-art buying nobodies, unlike a few out there who won’t even bother to speak, not even to those of us who wrote newspaper or magazine articles about their stuff. I don’t understand how those people ever manage to sell a piece of art behaving like that.

GK: I’ve seen it. It’s possible they’re trying to act like art should be some elitist status, trying to emulate how things are in New York and Paris, playing that role. Being friendly is important. I’m nice to everyone. Look, I grew up in a trailer house. Virginia let me show you my beginning. You see these burned up buildings in this photograph. This is where I was born. It was destroyed by American bombs in the war, I played in that rubble. My grandmother was killed in this building, here near the church. She drowned trying to take sanctuary in the basement, the water pipes broke. My mother watched while they carried out the bodies, my grandmother was wearing a camel hair coat and opal jewelry. For years my mother hated camel coats and opals. My mother married my step father, Frank Kopriva, Pop, who she met after the Americans occupied Pirmasens in 1945. We left there in 1955.

VBA: There’s nothing elitist about your art collection. Nothing pretentious, you’ll purchase from artists nobody ever heard of if the art pleases you, and I’ve often admired the fact that you collect Durer, Rembrandt and other Old Master prints, even if some contemporary art-biased snobs sniff at that. Your prints are lovely and it shows you have taste.

GK: I’ve been collecting for 30 years, have over 1,850 pieces. The collection also includes German Expressionism, French Symbolism, American WPA, and of course contemporary. They are mostly works on paper. Basically I buy art that I believe is different, or extremely well crafted, and art history plays a large part in what I buy, but the collection is not heavy in abstraction, except for a few art historical abstract pieces. It includes Miro, de Kooning, and Guston. I purchase from individuals, auctions, galleries, estates, and also from the artists who show in my Redbud Gallery. Our German Expressionist works formed the exhibition Broken Brushes, and it has traveled to small museums and universities around the U.S. and to Berlin.

I want to talk about the museum in Germany. We are about to begin a ten year loan of eighty-seven of the German Expressionist pieces to a regional museum in Salzwedel. The collection will be housed in a renovated turn of the century school house, a magnificent building in a medieval town in the old East Germany, called Art House Salzwedel. I’m loaning works on paper by Otto Dix, George Grosz, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Paul Klee, Kokoschka, Kollwitz, Franz Marc, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, and many others, and the collection will form the core of the museum’s holdings. I partnered with Salzwedel’s mayor as a consultant, an idea guy, to help her promote tourism, and suggested she start the art museum. I helped her chose the building, it had been empty for 10 years, and she got it back from the city for back taxes. The site will include a restaurant, and archives and a tourist bureau. And it’s well funded. The German government gave us a million Euros and local banks contributed, so we began the nonprofit Foundation for Art House Salzwedel to handle renovation funding and operations funding. Kunsthaus Salzwedel opens this fall.

VBA: You lecture frequently about your collection.

GP: I lecture specifically on the business of collecting art, and I do it at universities. The business part is crucial, and it’s not being taught. Artists must deal in entirely different ways with collectors, curators, and galleries, and they need to know how, they need to know the business, public relations and marketing, the protocols and practices, and unwritten expectations. MFA should create courses on this.

VBA: Do you miss being an engineer?

GK: Well, not really. I’m still consulting some, very part time, for my Middle East clients.

VBA: A few years back I tried to pick your brain about energy stocks, wondered if you had held on to your Dow Chemical stock, and you told me you were only buying art.

GK: Art has a proven history. I’m buying art and real estate. It lets me control it. With real estate I’ve never gone wrong. If you can afford it, buy it.

VBA: The media reported you’re selling the 1923 Houston Heights Theater building for $1.9 million.

GK: After 30 years Sharon and I are hoping to sell the theater. If all goes well the new buyers will turn it into a top notch cultural center, with theater and music, and a bar. We’re passing the torch. When we bought it in the 80s it had been fire bombed, was a burned out hulk, sat vacant for 10 years. We renovated and saved it, and made it a historical landmark. We have a feasibility contract signed for it to be a regional art venue. Sharon and I went to school in the Heights. We started out with nothing. We had $500 between us when we got married, I thought she had money, but it turned out I was mistaken. We lived in run down areas in the Heights, and it all came back. We’ve made some wise decisions.

VBA: One of your tenants recently confirmed the rumor that he is exiting your 11th street building which holds Redbud Gallery and Sharon’s studio, which will leave you with a significant amount of additional space. When I asked you three weeks ago what you intended to do with that space you gave me a baloney answer that it would relate to art. Not talking! Are you ready to announce your plans for the space in your 11th street building?

GK: Can’t talk about, it will be related to the arts.

VBA: Last year when I wrote an article about Sharon she invited me to your home in Idaho.

GK: You should fly up with me on Thursday. Sharon told me to be there for my birthday.