Capsule Art Reviews: "CTRL + P" "Dining In: An Artful Experience" "Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection" "In Residence: Work by 2012 Resident Artists" "Late Surrealism" "Unwoven Light"
"CTRL + P" Authorship. Originality. These are some, but of course not nearly all, of the things that usually come to mind when considering art — the conceit of the artist and that his or her unique vision gives meaning and value to the work. Now, get ready to turn all that on its head. In the exhibition "CTRL + P" at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, words like open source and creative commons are more pressing than authorship and originality. The show, curated by Anna Walker, brings together artists who make work based on ideas and designs that are free for the taking, as long as you have the right technology. In this case, it's cutting-edge concepts like computer-aided design (CAD) programs and 3D printers, which, instead of adding ink to paper, build objects line by line out of metal or plastic. Using this 21st-century technology and designs from open-source websites, the artists here have been able to make sculptural and functional objects, often in bulk. There are silver and gold-plated stainless steel rings made by Erin Gardner and Margaret Drinkwater of The Opulent Project, based on existing ring designs from a Google 3D warehouse and made using a 3D printer. There are dozens of porcelain objects piled behind a glass case — some made by hands, others with the help of a CAD software program and then printed by 3D printing marketplace Shapeways — from ceramic artists Bryan Czibesz and Shawn Spangler. There's even a 3D printer on loan from Houston hackerspace TX/RX Labs for demonstration, spitting out orange teapots. The results are rather crude and unremarkable — there are a lot of plain ceramic pieces in odd shapes — if not for their origins. This is a forward-looking show that's more about the idea than the object and treading new ground in what's possible. For all it says about creation, one thing is of note — the works are still carefully attributed. It just goes to show that authorship — and giving attribution to the person behind the piece — still holds value. Through September 8. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. —MD
"Dining In: An Artful Experience" This juried exhibition, on view at 18 Hands Gallery, features art that you eat with. Gallery co-owner Betsy Evans explains that these pieces are multifunctional, for use as decoration or on a dining-room table. However, a close inspection agrees more with the first option. While there are a few functional pieces, most of the exhibit's works are better suited for hanging on a wall. Take, for instance, Angela Stickels's Self Portrait platter, a Picasso-inspired creation of lips, lids and leaves. Stickels slices her face in two and places each side on opposite ends of the platter. Heavy makeup accents her eyes and lips. Just imagining a two-year-old splattering his spaghetti and meatballs all over this work of art is enough to induce hot flashes. And though her Celebrate Everything cake stand proudly bears the image of a cupcake with pink frosting, it's too pretty to be covered, even by Aunt Gertrude's blue-ribbon angel food cake. Daryl McCracken's The Blue Hole is a plate that also doesn't deserve to be covered and demands respect. It starts out light blue at the edges, swirling into a vortex of darker and darker hues of blue, until in the middle, a pool of Bermuda blue waits to suck you in. The effect is both pretty and otherwordly; the varying blues recall the Earth's horizon. Jan Dreskin-Hais's Plate of white, coral and black repeating triangles is just as hypnotizing, the shapes repeating themselves all over the plate. Who in his right mind would cover these with Hamburger Helper? If you must make function of fine art, the exhibition's drinkware might stand a chance. Though pretty like their plate partners, these cups, teakettles and mugs are more convenient, since what's ingested hides inside and it's the outside that counts. Caleb Zouhary's Black & White Soy Sauce set is architecturally stunning. The tiny teacup and pot set settle into a seashell holder, the whole of which is polished with a bright cherrywood glaze. Naoko Teruya's Condiment Set, which won Best of Show, features four pieces — two ceramic pots, a salt shaker and a pepper shaker — in shades of ashen coal and burnt coral. The pots stand side by side, spouts extended upward, like two soldiers at attention. Mary Linda Lewis's Florida Memories pitchers are embellished with leaves and lemons, primed and ready to pour cold lemonade. This is 18 Hands's sixth annual "Dining In" experience, according to Evans. She operates the gallery with Karen Cruce and Katy McKinin. All three women are ceramic artists, and the majority of artists featured in the gallery practice ceramics, as well. There are a few fiber and jewelry artists thrown into the mix, but the purpose of 18 Hands is "to expose Houston to a larger range of ceramic artists," says Evans. To wit, there are 40 of them featured in this exhibition. Through September 1. 249-B West 19th, 713-869-3099. — AO
"Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection" There sits in the Audrey Jones Beck Building at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston an exhibition that is equal parts art history and memoriam: "Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection," donated to the museum by Wilson after her death, is a connection between Wilson's love of art, her love of the history that created it and, ultimately, her love of MFAH. The exhibit reveals an interesting intersection between ancient Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian and Egyptian art and customs. The clearest connection that stands out among these ancient civilizations is status and wealth. For example, Mummy Portrait of a Young Girl, a wax piece from 30 B.C. to 100 A.D., fuses two cultures: the Egyptian practice of mummification and the Roman custom of creating portraits of the mummified. The young girl's pretty gold locket and fanciful purple robes are more than mere decoration; they tell of the upper-class stock she must have come from, since the hot wax used to make the work of art was fickle, drying quickly and requiring the artist to work swiftly, and families would pay a pretty penny for this service. There are also connections within each culture. Much of ancient Egypt's art could be used for practical purposes and then recycled into other pieces, either useful or artistic. A faience is finely ground crystal. Egyptians manipulated faience into jewelry, game pieces, furniture, bowls and cups, and later converted the crystal into small figurines that would lie with the mummified dead in the afterlife. The shabti of Tjai-en-hebu is one of three such figures on display just outside the gallery's front doors, ranging from tiny to small to medium in size. Through October 27. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300 — AO
"In Residence: Work by 2012 Resident Artists" Unlike a university's commencement festivities, "In Residence: Work by 2012 Resident Artists." is no corps of hundreds crossing the stage; instead, it's an intimate celebration of the creative efforts of six well-deserving and highly talented artists. Each year, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft selects a small number of artists to participate in its residency program. These residents work in the gallery for three to 12 months with the medium of their choice, creating a collection to be shown the following year. Clay, metal, jewelry-making and fiber were the favorites of this year's inductees, three of whom hail from Houston. Tarina Frank is a Houston artist and high school teacher who morphs metals and plastics into jewelry. Drawing on inspiration from the instant-gratification culture created by the proliferation of social media, her pieces display the best in social-media communication quips, e.g., "In a Relationship" or "It's Complicated." Her Paper Fan Rings series brings together elements of silver, nickel, brass, copper and paper (wood) to create movable rings. Each ring starts out as a piece of paper folded into the shape of a miniature Chinese lantern. Curved nickel, brass or copper is then affixed to each side of the little "lanterns." One flick of the finger and these lanterns spin, becoming baubles "full of kinetic potential." Rachelle Vasquez and Susan Fletcher King are also Houstonians. Additionally, the two are graduates of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts who both work with fiber. The similarities don't stop there: Both artists create works from this fiber that revolve around animal life. Go over each piece with a fine-tooth comb, however, and the differences appear: Vasquez stitches together colorful tapestries, while King creates quilts. Vasquez's When Winkie Comes Marching Home, despite its quirky name, is a traditional quilt with bright colors and the character of "Winkie" in the middle. In contrast, Schooling from the Jellies, made with commercial and hand-painted cotton fabric, silk and cotton threads; transparent acrylic paints; foil; and yarn, is a dark tapestry of jellyfish with a school of regular fish swimming through their ranks. It's sweet in its play on words, but scary in that the fish don't know their fatal fate. Jaydan Moore is similar to Frank in that he creates jewelry with metal; however, instead of shiny tributes to digitalia, he romanticizes found objects. Sediment/Sentiment is a rustic cylindrical piece made from "found materials." Intricate swirls are engraved in the piece. Because of this detail, Sediment/Sentiment is miraculous in its ability to look like two things: From one angle, it's a lovely bracelet; from the other, it resembles a crown. Robert Thomas Mullen is another jewelry maker. His accessories use wood, resulting in nature-inspired pieces that reflect his surroundings. As the Illinois native is currently in Houston, How I See/Saw Houston is a replication of the downtown skyline made with — what else? — Texas ebony, brass and cubic zirconia. The last is puzzling, though; why not a diamond? Better yet — since the city is part of a booming oil industry — an image of a well? Oil well, that is. Black gold. Texas tea. Through September 29. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — AO
"Late Surrealism" Mark Rothko. Jackson Pollock. They're not the usual suspects you'd associate with Surrealism, but they're some of the biggest names in The Menil Collection's current show "Late Surrealism." Though they're known for their groundbreaking abstract work, as the Menil exhibition shows, pigeonholing artists can be tricky business. And during the 1930s and '40s, artists working in America were influenced by surrealists as the art capital shifted from Paris to New York. Curator Michelle White has pulled together 14 artists and 26 pieces from the museum's holdings for the compact show. There are paintings as well as collages, assemblages, works on paper and sculptures created during for the most part the '30s and '40s on display. All together, the works demonstrate what White describes as a "push-pull" between Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism. It's in the mysterious figures in one of Pollock's paintings — not one of his trademark splatter jobs, but one depicting animal-like monsters that are slightly nightmarish. Unnamed, this lack of any clue further adds to its mystery. This push-pull is also evident in Rothko's Red Abstract, a blood-red dreamscape composed of figures that resemble birds and a spade. Other works are strange and slightly goofy. Two Max Ernst sculptures — standing bronze pieces — both feature faces. In one, La plus belle (The Most Beautiful One), the eyes are slightly lopsided above a wide grin. In the other, Asperges de la lune (Lunar Asparagus), the face seems to be splintered — the eyes on one pole, the mouth on the other. Joan Miró's Oeuf (galant ovale) also depicts a face — this one curiously, humorously unhappy — on a ceramic piece made convincingly to look like a rock. There's more to admire — pieces that primarily explore the human body in ink and charcoal that are all experimental in form — in what's an eye-opening, fascinating show on a fascinating period. Through August 25. 1533 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — MD
"Unwoven Light" Soo Sunny Park's installation at Rice Gallery is unapologetically pretty. It's a glistening, iridescent canopy of shimmering pinks, purples, blues, greens and yellows that resemble anything from a fish's scales to a spider's web wet with raindrops. Despite the apt comparisons, this creation is anything but organic. "Unwoven Light" is composed entirely of chain-link fence and coated Plexiglas that Park has exhaustingly shaped and welded together to create a network of abstract, bulbous shapes suspended from the ceiling. In fact, it took the artist and her assistants two weeks to make just one distinct unit — specifically, seven hours of welding to brace the fencing, 100 hours of tying the wire that holds each Plexiglas piece in place, and still more time cutting the Plexiglas shapes to fit into the chain-link cells. In all, there are 37 such units — 17 newly created for the installation and 20 recycled from a past work — that create patches of light throughout the gallery from floor to ceiling. However laborious its creation, "Unwoven Light" seems effortless, with light doing most of the work. Every step brings you a new combination of colors that reflect off the Plexiglas and bleed onto the walls and even the floor. There's no set path to follow, either, giving you the freedom to wander underneath and around the units in your own trance. There can be much to consider as you explore the work — about the properties of light and color, imposed boundaries and our perception of space — but it's also a pleasant experience that is, simply, joyful. Through August 30. 6100 Main, 713-348-6169. — MD
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