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"Rebecca Ward / Jason Rogenes / Dan Steinhilber"

Finesilver hosts three gallery-specific installations

With piles of Styrofoam, rolls and rolls of electrical tape, hundreds of sheets of cardboard and yards and yards of black plastic, Finesilver Gallery is hosting three separate, site-specific installations in "Rebecca Ward / Jason Rogenes / Dan Steinhilber." It's a fairly epic endeavor for a commercial gallery to have three artists creating involved pieces on-site. The works were installed off and on over a four-week period — Rebecca Ward's electrical tape extravaganza took the longest — with all three artists furiously working in the gallery the week before the show opened.

As a former director of the nonprofit Lawndale Art Center, Finesilver Gallery director Eleanor Williams has been there and done that. She is more than familiar with managing multiple-exhibition spaces as well as the process of installation art, matter-of-factly remarking, "Artists tend to work through the night and become sleep-deprived." But working alongside other artists can be a bonding experience. Of the current show, Williams says, "None of the artists knew each other. Dan is from D.C., Jason is from the New York area and Rebecca is from Austin, but there was a lot of camaraderie and they all hung out together."

Jason Rogenes makes amazing, otherworldly assemblages out of Styrofoam.
Courtesy of Finesilver Gallery
Jason Rogenes makes amazing, otherworldly assemblages out of Styrofoam.
Rebecca Ward transforms red electrical tape into something extraordinary.
Courtesy of Finesilver Gallery
Rebecca Ward transforms red electrical tape into something extraordinary.

Details

"Rebecca Ward / Jason Rogenes / Dan Steinhilber"

Through October 6

"Suzanne Bloom, Ed Hill and Manual: WAR and PEACE and QUIET"

Through October 13

"Rebecca Ward / Jason Rogenes / Dan Steinhilber"

Finesilver Gallery, 3913 Main, 713-524-3733

"Suzanne Bloom, Ed Hill and Manual: WAR and PEACE and QUIET"

Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt, 713-526-9911.

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Jason Rogenes's work is the most dramatic of the show. Rogenes uses cast-off pieces of EPS — Expanded PolyStyrene, or what those of us not in the know would just call Styrofoam. It's the custom-formed stuff used to securely pack everything from fragile electronics to bottles of wine. But in Rogenes's hands the white Styro­foam shapes become the components of amazing, otherworldly assemblages. Aside from the Styrofoam used to pack wine bottles, the various white geometric forms offer little hint as to what specific products they were originally designed to secure. Rogenes scavenges the stuff from myriad sources. For the Finesilver show, most of the material was obtained from the dumpster of a Tweeters electronics store. Best Buy and Circuit City were not forthcoming.

Rogenes transformed one of Finesilver's three exhibition spaces by covering the walls and floor with a patchwork of angular sheets of cardboard and cutting off two corners of the room. Cohesively addressing and altering the shape of space, the cardboard gives the room an intimate feeling. The gallery's window has been tiled over with oddly shaped pieces of Styrofoam, creating something that looks like a futuristic version of a Louise Nevelson. In the center of the gallery, a giant construction hangs from the ceiling. Lit with fluorescent light from within, it kind of looks like a space station or a satellite. But then you notice it's pointed at the front window, out towards Main Street, like the space-age weapon of some diabolically clever James Bond villain. Is it part of some evil plan to destroy Houston's MetroRail system?

In the center space of Finesilver, Rebecca Ward's work is subtler but equally successful. She has transformed another banal material: rolls of red electrical tape. Ward wove stretched strips of tape back and forth to create a layered grid between four walls, just over viewers' heads. Standing under it and gazing up into the dense network of red tape is like peering into a three-dimensional drawing as Ward moves lines through space. With her amazingly precise execution, the artist does a great job of morphing a simple material into something extraordinary.

Last April, Ward did another strong installation, tape10, at Lawndale Art Center, featuring duct tape in strips and loops. While the idea of moving bands of color through space is the same, Ward is no one-trick pony. Her approach to each of the two spaces is unique. As people said at the time of her Lawndale show, it's hard to believe she just got her studio art bachelor's in 2006.

The least successful work belongs to Dan Steinhilber. Steinhilber has created what looks like a giant garbage bag in a room of the gallery. You have to gather up a curtain of black plastic and crawl in — not in itself a bad idea. Inside the darkened space, a video is projected on the opposite wall. In the video, Styrofoam (is there something in the air?) packing peanuts are blown over and around the furnishings and fixtures of a home with a leaf blower.

Steinhilber had a show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2006. The best work in the exhibition was a pile of Styrofoam peanuts in the corner of the gallery corralled by air from a commercial blower. In his video, Steinhilber explores a similar phenomenon, as we see the Styro­foam pellets being blown over a kid's train set, into the toilet and over kitchen counters, as well as over the pancakes on the table. It's a mildly interesting video that gets better when you hear the unpublicized back story. According to Williams, Steinhilber made the video with his young son when his wife was out of town. The mental image of a dad and his kid gleefully turning their home into a disaster area while mom is out of town is pretty amusing. Really, that should just be the premise for the video; having to crawl into a giant plastic bag to watch it seems pretty ­unnecessary.

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