A Piedmont Park art gallery has been covered with graffiti, but this time it’s fine art instead of street art or tagging. Curated by photographer Joseph TranVan, the “Connect Five” exhibit at The Mariago Collective pays “homage to Houston’s urban dictionary” through photography, pop art, illustration and graffiti.
For clean, comic-styled art with an edge, look no further than the pop illustrations by Wes Texas with his ubiquitous skull-and-crossbones motif. His female characters are all bombshells: red-headed, bubble-gum chewing Punk Rock Girl With Skull Bubbles; gap-toothed Roller Derby Girl, coyly posing on her skates while she hides a lit-fuse bomb behind her back; and the clichéd Mexican Girl in Montrose, complete with sombrero, oversized hoop earrings, eye patch, cigarillo, red lipstick and tattoo. In another work, the ‘60s era Astro Boy, a Japanese import, has been butched up by Texas with leather jacket, Jolly Roger shirt, spike necklace and the menacing intent to “DESTROY.”
Catfish Perez defaces enlargements of Asian currency with surprinted calligraphic totem animals, such as a panda bear or dragonfish. The monetary background provides a busy backdrop, making the animal markings difficult to interpret, but not impossible. The main character in SAKEDRAGON! drinks from a cup while an XXX bottle stands ready to refill, while CRANE CHASING DRAGON! shows a pipe in this not-so-veiled allusion to trying to recapture that first high. The water creature wearing a James Coney Island cap and clutching an oversized hot dog under its fin is a fun composition in Hotdog Fish (Ode to J.C.I.).
Perez’s Guardian is more traditional, jettisoning the currency background and infusing his fanged, scaly creature with fiery reds and yellows. The legendary two-mouthed woman, a Japanese mythological monster that spouts lips, teeth and tongue from a second mouth at the back of her skull, is the main character in Perez’s FUTAKUCHI-ONNA! The tendrils of her raven hair grasp for everything in sight, including bottle, bowl and chopsticks.
Joseph TranVan’s photography, with its ramped up colors, offers a fresh look at familiar urban landscapes around Houston. In a collaborative effort, his photograph of the second floor circular skywalk at the intersection of Ruthven, Smith and Bell features an oversized illustration of the Grim Reaper, courtesy of Perez, in Death Visits the Skyline District. The same photograph is reimagined, this time by Sebastien “Mr. D.” Boileau, who painted oversized blue and red letters spelling out “Houston” in Skyline District with Houston.
Boileau’s solo works show his love for street art, with two untitled multimedia pieces incorporating reclaimed aerosol cans and fashioned into the American flag. In Do Graffiti he changes the stenciled “no graffiti” warning message over the Statue of Liberty’s head by spraying his trademark “D” logo over the “NO.”
A different photograph by TranVan, a pensive far-gazing woman in Indian headgear, is enhanced by tribal tattoos painted on her face and arms in a creative partnership with David “Skeez181” Flores, in Bang Feather Bang vs. Skeez181. Flores also has constructed a robot using a display stand as the framework body; the stand is a byproduct from previous mask sculpture projects. The piece, called Eskeleto, features a monitor for a face, displaying a looped film of his facial expressions.
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Other photographs by TranVan, unmarred by collaborators, include the astigmatic balls of light in Downtown Night Life, the glowing golden hero on horseback in Go West (Sam Houston Arch) and the cobalt-infused panoramic of the Memorial City district. City Hall never looked better, with his fish-eye look at the clock-topped building infused with colorful uplighting in 6 Til 9.
“Connect Five” continues through October 24, at The Mariago Collective, 1707 Waugh, open Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 832-997-6102, themariagocollective.com.