The Biggest and the Baddest

Too many players in "The Big Show" need to go back to the farm team

In the back galleries, Jason Villegas presents quirky mutant animal sculptures. His Educational Restroom Attendant consists of two spiky, conjoined rabbitlike creatures with eerie plastic eyes; they're fashioned from papier-mâché twists of toilet paper. Fireplace Romance Bearskin Rug is a crudely stitched and headless stuffed bear/Tasmanian devil in worn rust-colored fabric with odd protuberances.

The marks that overlay the subtly toned background of Sharon Willcutts's Transmutation #3 have a nice lyrically linear quality to them. Marty Arredondo's own line obsession has something of Kenny Scharf's comics-derived style; networks of black lines and figures grow over the matte yellow urethane surface of Peace After Life. Laura Lark's witty ink drawings of vintage fashion photos -- high heels, anklets and blankly staring models -- convey the sketchy style of a fashion-obsessed high school girl.

For Robert Pruitt's The Devil Planted Fear Inside the Black Babies 50¢ sodas/In the hood they just gone crazy, an endless spiral of tiny black figures is drawn on the interior of a banged-up white enamel sink. The antlike line of anonymous people disappears down the drain.

Tod Hebert's packing-foam Santa took first place in the juried competition.
Tod Hebert's packing-foam Santa took first place in the juried competition.


Through August 3, 713-528-5858.
Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street

The mother lode of bad art is located upstairs, and if you need more warning than that, just check out Stop Crying near the steps. The image of a sad, longhaired woman has been created by cleverly hammering roofing nails into a slab of chipped black plywood. Glue or varnish was dripped on the eyes to simulate tears. Rumor has it that this was a high school art project, and if I were on Antiques Roadshow, I too would guess a '70s vintage. Of course, if this is true, the artist had to lie on the entry form; "Big Show" works are supposed to be no more than two years old.

If you must go upstairs, at least look for the standouts: Daniela Epstein's Crash #1, an airline pillow with a photographic image of floating wreckage, and John Earles's tiny rectangular paintings with bright comiclike fragments. Much of the rest runs along the lines of Self Portrait as Nefertari, an image of a blond woman in a quasi-royal headdress with an Egyptoid background and a scarab in her mouth. It could be the cover illustration for a tome on past-life regression.

I hate to rain on egalitarian art parades like "The Big Show" (each of the four separate times I viewed the exhibition, there was someone enthusiastically leading relatives through the show), but there is more than the usual dose of crap in this one, and it's a shame. Houston has a great art scene, but this show makes us look like a bunch of earnest but untalented hobbyists.

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