Friday night, Houston said good-bye to Art Lies ... for now.
The final issue hit the stands at Domy Books, where the magazine's staff and board invited well wishers to take a free copy and bid a fond farewell to Houston's premiere arts publication.
As interim director Elizabeth Murray put it, "As a non-profit organization, with a commitment to editorial excellence, producing a fine print publication, publishing fine writing by Texas writers, and covering the arts in a regions like Texas and Chicago that don't already get a ton of press, we just figured that we couldn't continue without sacrificing the quality that we're demanded of ourselves."
Folks there were whispering about the possibility for Art Lies to re-emerge "like a phoenix!" as contributor Morteza Baharloo put it, though no one could say what it might look like. As a publication that started as a photocopied zine, Art Lies has taken more than one shape in its history.
Guest editor Mary Ellen Carroll said it was difficult to think of releasing Art Lies 68 as a sort of memorial service, since she'd already attended an launch for Art Lies 69, a would-be issue that now we can only dream about. It seems the news of the shuttering of Art Lies came swiftly and suddenly to everyone involved.
We met Art Lies people at Isabella Court where a series of artists receptions were held, including for Shaun O'Dell's "Feeling Easy Feelings" at Inman Gallery, at their grand re-opening after having suffered from water damage a few months ago.
While the artist's statement made some very smart-sounding claims about history, America, and nature, we couldn't see anything like that reflected in the drawings, sculpture, and installations on view. The drawings were precisely rendered patterns of lines and brushed tally marks which were then cut apart and reassembled improvisationally. Some revealed a sort of Spirographic intensity in their tight Moire patterns. Others more expansively suggested shapes and objects in space, and their cut and paste re-arrangements seemed modestly good-humored.
In Art Palace, Nathan Green's Fill the Sky made use of unorthodox materials and arrangements. "Nerd Sculptures" greeted visitors with candy-covered pieces of lumber propped in the corner. Other assemblages included materials like electrical tape (sometimes still on its cardboard tube, sometimes parsed out in 1-inch increments), unadorned cardboard, small hinges and hooks, sandpaper, string, wood paneling, peanuts and pretzels, and an inch-thick slice of a tree limb. The works were hung high and low, and he'd painted one wall in bright alternating patches of purple and green as a fitting background for his two large black-and-white pieces. Taken together, the presentation made the gallery feel much like a funhouse.
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We got to the Blaffer Museum too late to take in the full glory of the Museum of Broken Relationships, but had just enough time to determine we'd need to give ourselves a good hour or two to appreciate the video installations as well as the collected detritus from broken relationships the world over, including a heroin test, edible panties (still in the box), stuffed plush toys, a camera, a mysterious wig, and plenty of underwear. Their deadpan presentation of each object only enriched the emotional impact of the whole collection. Each object was accompanied by a written explanation from its source, a narrative or a flip observation, usually from within the comfort and safety of years-gone-by retrospection.
Finally, we rushed over to Spacetaker to see some of the concert posters just released for the Free Press Summerfest, some of which were for sale. A DJ spun tracks and most of the kids were smoking outside, but we found the showroom and enjoyed the various takes on the Summerfest performers we were looking forward to. With concert posters, a given artist usually applies his or her own style or brand again and again, making each work recognizably part of a larger oeuvre. Here were dozens of styles for dozens of performers, and a nice reminder of the many, many artists and designers and organizers and performers coming together to make Summerfest the messy collaboration that it always is.