Reaching Critical Mass

Suddenly fashionable Houston shows off its contemporary arts scene along Main Street in and around the Isabella Court building.

Art Palace moved to Houston from Austin a few years back and is next door to the mystery space. Charlie Morris's intriguingly strange little exhibit reads as some sort of meditation on death and the world beyond. It's a solo show that includes such a variety of work in a variety of media that it looks like a group show. It does, however, hang together for the most part.

In the main gallery (after the "Hell" photos) is a video of the artist against a background of hand-drawn stars. He's wearing a paper bag over his head with a hole cut for the mouth and is lip-synching Internet-found recordings of people speaking in tongues. It's like a cult video produced by the Unknown Comic. On the opposite wall are monochromatic and melancholic gouaches of tombstones, mainly with single French words like "sepulture" and "regrettée." They have the grainy quality of over-copied photographs and are strangely elegant and poignant. Other works include Spell, a photo of the detached head of a rattlesnake, fanged jaw open. It's like a picture of frozen death. In other pieces, Morris collages cut-out pictures of caves.  In two of them, swatches of stalactite and stalagmite are arranged into circles like schematics for hell. The disparate works loosely relate to each other. The only pieces that felt off for me were the acrylic paintings on camouflage fabric. At first I thought the three vertical paintings were some take on semaphores or signal flags, but Palacios told me they were military ribbon bars turned vertical. I don't know shit about the military and have no idea what they might be awarded for — even with Googling. The acrylic on fabric makes the paintings feel out of place in the context of the other work, and for me at least, they are more oblique than the other pieces. But ultimately the show has plenty to chew on.

Devin Borden Gallery is on the south corner of the Isabella Court building, just after Art Palace, and will be opening a show of paintings by Geoff Hippenstiel this Friday, March 8. Hippenstiel is a painterly painter who has been showing a lot lately. His gesturally abstract works have figurative origins, and word is that in the new show they will be more apparent. In the back gallery, paintings and photos by Nicholas Kersulis are on view through April 2. Kersulis's found photos with text are odd and interesting, but the reasoning behind their pairing with his paintings is lost on me. Don't, however, miss his massive accumulations of paint on rocks in the back room. They're obsessive and fantastically baroque.

An arresting image from the Charlie Morris "spinning under trees" show.
Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace
An arresting image from the Charlie Morris "spinning under trees" show.

Location Info


Inman Gallery

3901 Main St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Community Venues

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

David Shelton Gallery

3909 Main St.
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Third Ward

Art Palace

3913 Main St.
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Third Ward

Devin Borden Gallery

3917 Main St.
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Third Ward


Inman Gallery: "Farewell Ruins: Julia Haft-Candell and Julia Kunin" and "Beth Secor: Trees"

Through March 30. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800.

David Shelton Gallery: "CruzOrtiz: I Speak Lightning"

Through March 30. 3909 Main, 832-538-0924.

Art Palace: "Charlie Morris: spinning under trees"

Through March 30. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964.

Devin Borden Gallery: "Nicholas Kersulis"

Through April 2. "Geoff Hippenstiel" opening March 8 and running through April 30, 6-8 p.m. 3917 Main, 713-529-2700.

Isabella Court is by no means the only collection of commercial galleries in Houston, but it's the liveliest and always has interesting work. The Colquitt strip has been on the wane for years and the vacant spaces in the bottom of 4411 Montrose continue to put a damper on the building's potential — although a couple pop-up shows have helped things. Houston's gallery scene will likely continue to grow and reinvigorate old locations and cultivate new ones. In the meantime, make sure you hit the next round of Isabella Court openings. And be sure to loudly extol Houston's virtues if there happens to be a writer from a major publication within shouting distance.

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