Visual Arts

Sounds Like Nature

Approaching the last gallery space in the “Drawn from Nature” exhibit at Asia Society Texas Center, works by kinetic sculptor Mineko Grimmer are heard before they are seen. The Japanese artist, who references the passing of time and Zen Buddhist philosophy in her sculptures, has two pieces titled The Dialogue that offer up aleatoric music by way of inverted pyramids of ice and pebbles, suspended over guitar strings or bamboo.

In the first piece, constructed from a wood frame and set into a shallow square pool, the melting ice causes the coral pebbles to drop onto a finely tuned wire for a perfectly pitched note, sometimes bouncing onto others for a second or third note. Grimmer’s other piece, fashioned from a four-row by four-row grid, with seven bamboo poles in each row, produces lovely resonating tones as pebbles drop and bounce within the grid.

All of the artists featured in the “Drawn from Nature” exhibit either derive inspiration from nature or incorporate natural materials. Works by Sopheap Pich, who is generally considered Cambodia’s most prominent contemporary artist, greet visitors at the front desk with the double-basket Silence, Version 4.1, crafted from rattan and wire; and at the exhibit’s entrance with the much larger triple-fluted, triple-bulb organic form titled Morning Glory No. 5.

His mastery over rattan and bamboo is proven again in the interwoven Cycle 2, Version 3, with the Siamese twin forms dancing and reacting to each other in spite of their perpetual tethers; the oversized Large Seed with its burlap cap; the basket within a basket of Stalk 2, with its tendril reaching for the sky; and the animal head form of Jayavarman VII.

New York-based Tibetan-American artist Palden Weinreb’s encaustics are sublime, mathematical drawings that reference the structural subtext of our natural world. From the disappearing strata of the dimensional orbs in Emanations, to the motion-filled drain of Envelop (Current Sweeping) to the LED-enhanced Astral Invert, his subtly layered drawings demonstrate a controlled precision. But it’s his oversized Cascade of the Enshrined that steals the show: a triple-decker upside-down birthday cake of pointed birchwood sticks, seemingly dripping with an epoxy resin, and mounted upon a chrome-plated steel base. Also strong, though comparatively understated, Weinreb’s A Chamber Manifest Itself resembles a tomb-like apparition floating up from its murky amber grave.

Korean artist Seon Ghi Bahk’s two pieces, each hung from the ceiling with an elliptical white disk, are comprised of multi-sized bits of misshapen charcoal suspended by nylon threads to form an airy sculpture. The larger An aggregation 201301 narrows in density and width as it reaches its lowest point, suspended over a small bowl of water. Smaller in scale though equally poetic, An aggregation 20131201 forms the shape of a circle, with its floating open edges and densely compact center.

The exhibit as a whole is beautiful, meditative and calming, and ends with activities that invite viewers to gaze out the window with a kaleidoscope or picture frame and draw their own work on screen or paper.

“Drawn from Nature” continues through February 21, 2016 at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore, open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 713-496-9901,
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney