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Lawndale's Stellar Studio Show

Three resident artists put on a strong group show.

The theme continues in his video Restless (2012), which was shot through the open flap of a pop-up tent. The world beyond the tent changes from desert to beach to mountain to forest. Human interventions crop up; chain-link fencing appears in one scene, a row of Porta-Potties in another. The whole while, the view is cropped, with the viewer trapped in the confines of the tent and its rounded opening consistently framing the varied landscapes. It's like the boy in the bubble goes camping.

This group-show format isn't helping Politzer's HDL: Hyper Democratic Landscapes (2012), a tripartite projection of landscape images fading into each other. The effect is kind of underwhelming. Three screens are hung high in the gallery, their tops curved for an ecclesiastical-window vibe. Each screen projects a different type of landscape, titled by the artist as Harsh, Rugged, Barren; Biggest, Tallest, Highest; and Sublime, Heavenly, Inspiring. They don't seem that different, and are a little hard to make out. The piece might work much better if it were given its own darkened space and projected on a larger scale.

Anne Regan is working in the conceptual-alchemy realm most Houstonians will associate with Dario Robleto. Robleto's got a particularly deft hand with that kind of work, which is hard to pull off. It's easy to overdo. Regan's work fares pretty well; her simpler pieces are the strongest. Her Mourning Sleeves (2011) are paper record sleeves printed with a black lace pattern. They come in sizes for seven-, ten- and 12-inch records and were designed "to sleeve titles in your record collection when a beloved musician passes." When you think about it, there is something kind of haunting about owning the voice of a now-dead person. It's a black armband for your albums.

In Seth Mittag's We're Still Here..., pink insulation spews out of the walls.
Courtesy of Lawndale Art Center and the artist
In Seth Mittag's We're Still Here..., pink insulation spews out of the walls.

Location Info

Map

Lawndale Art Center

4912 Main St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Details

"Prospectors: Seth Mittag, David Politzer & Anne J. Regan"

Through June 16. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.

Wall of Sound (Silent Painting Series) (2010-2012) is a minimalist-looking grid of wax-coated medium-density fiberboard rectangles with a Phil Spector-inspired title. The wax mottles and patinas the surface of the cheap MDF, and the piece works relatively well on a purely visual level. But as with all this work, the kicker is in the materials list. "Beeswax encaustic on fiberboard exposed at concerts to soak up energy from the performance." The panels are identified left to right, top to bottom by the performers, who include the likes of Chuck Berry, Peaches, Daniel Johnston, the Raveonettes, Leonard Cohen, Jack White, The Magnetic Fields and Iggy Pop.

Lightnin' Wand (2011) is an oak-and-mahogany conductors' baton buried in the earth at Lightnin' Hopkins's grave for seven days and nights. The patina on the baton is interesting, as is the idea that the object is somehow permeated with the musical power of Hopkins. But then I started to think about the orchestral connotations of the conductor's baton and how that related to a blues guitarist, and the magic dimmed.

I'll meet you on that other shore (2012), Regan's series of letters addressed to dead musicians, works pretty well. She either shows a photo of the letter being mailed or displays the marked-up returned envelopes. Her attempt to communicate with the dead through the U.S. Postal Service, which is fairly mysterious in itself, met with mixed results. The letter to Patsy Cline was never returned, Johnny Cash's was.

But other works are too gimmicky. Regan collected rocks and grass from Johnny and June Carter Cash's grave, carefully arranging the material and embedding it in beeswax, for one piece; she did the same thing with cotton bolls from the Mississippi Delta. The works feel contrived and look too craftsy.

Regan's piece Billie's Fridge (2012) purports to contain "everything from Billie Holiday's grocery list at the Alexander Hamilton Hotel, San Francisco, 1946." When associated with iconic figures, even stuff as mundane as a grocery list becomes a point of connection, an insight into the real person. I like the idea of purchasing everything on her list and displaying it, but the Organic Valley eggs and the no-added-nitrate, chemical-free Applegate bacon are symbols of privileged 21st-century eating. I buy that stuff, too, but applying it to Holiday's 1946 grocery list seems odd. Is Regan trying to buy only the best for Billie, or is this a sign of a huge disconnect? Holiday had an epically tragic life. She was neglected as a child, raped and worked as a prostitute as a young teen, living her adult life in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction. I don't think Holiday had the luxury of obsessing about nitrates in her bacon and antibiotics in the hens that laid her breakfast eggs.

Despite the real or perceived flaws in "Prospectors," there's no question Lawndale has chosen a strong group of artists for its Studio Program.

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