Anyone who has strolled through downtown's Market Square is familiar with the art of James Surls. His 1991 sculpture Points of View, a 25-foot alien pinecone made with treated pine and steel, might be Houston's best example of public art. Surls has had a greater impact on Houston art than any other artist of his generation. The University of Houston's Blaffer Gallery is presenting "James Surls: The Splendora Years, 1977-1997," a survey of Surls's work over the 20-year period he spent in the hyperbolically named town just north of Kingwood. The exhibit includes sculpture, wall works, drawings and prints from what many consider Surls's breakthrough period.
Throughout his career, local artists have benefited from Surls's wisdom and encouragement, qualities that helped catalyze free-for-all student movements like the Lawndale Annex in 1979. Though the Blaffer exhibit marks his first show in 20 years, he's never stopped creating quirky, head-scratching works, like his sculpture Heaven and Earth, which looks like a wooden box that's about to engage in onanism. Opening reception: 7 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. Friday, September 16. Exhibit runs through November 12. University of Houston main campus, exit No. 16 (off Cullen Boulevard). For information, call 713-743-9530. Free. -- Troy Schulze
There Is No God
At least that's what doc director Brian Flemming thinks
Recent events have spurred age-old questions: What kind of God lets innocent people die? Is there a God? Here's something else to ponder while you're heading to church: What if Jesus Christ wasn't a radical, history-shaping thirtysomething from Jerusalem? What if he's simply the product of a tyrannical theocracy bent on controlling millions of believers? Such are the queries posed in The God Who Wasn't There, a feature-length documentary exploring the theory that J.C. never existed. Brian Flemming, a self-professed former Christian fundamentalist, interviewed some of the world's foremost religious experts for his irreverent, humorous film, which, boasts his Web site, will do for religion what Super Size Me did for fast food and Bowling for Columbine did for guns. 8 p.m. Friday, September 16. The Axiom, 2524 McKinney. For tickets and information, call 713-412-5120 or visit www.microcinema.com. $5. -- Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
"Sit on my face, and get off my back!" bellows Twisted Freak, the stringy-haired lead singer of Hellfire Revival. Now that's a rock lyric. Several girls in the front squeal and bounce up and down.
It's Sunday night, and these local rockers are strutting on stage for Houston Rocks for Hurricane Katrina Relief, a weekend benefit concert at Numbers. It's the brainchild of Cliff Kurtzman of MyCityRocks.com and Numbers' Wes Wallace, who threw together the show -- which features more than a dozen bands and DJs -- in just a few days. "Before I knew it, I was turning people away," says Kurtzman. "I mean, the response from bands has been amazing."
Thanks to some crazy word of mouth, hundreds of people have turned out. Saturday's event brought a poignant opening act, the Last Saints, a trio from New Orleans who lost just about everything in the disaster -- except their ability to jam. Then there were raucous performances by acts like Sharks and Sailors, Heist at Hand, Spain Colored Orange (who boasted the largest crowd of the weekend), Arthur Yoria and Michael Haaga. (Word has it that Yoria was fighting a fever of 104 but still managed his trademark crooning.)
Today's show is a little more subdued, but bands like Panic Prone, Dune*TX, Melovine and Pale still manage to kick it. Now, as the Hellfire guys kick it Mötley Crüe-style, folks mill around the Cactus table, where one-of-a-kind stuff is being sold to raise even more relief funds. All around, there are piles of donated toys and diapers next to music gear. It's about as feel-good of an event as you can get at Numbers, and it's raised around six grand.
"I'll be here all night -- if you are," Mr. Freak growls at the ladies, who beam back at him with a "see you backstage" look. And heck, for this kind of goodwill, I guess I will, too. -- Steven Devadanam
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His campaign slogan is "Why the Hell Not?" and he's promising to appoint Willie Nelson as state secretary of energy (and perhaps herbal healing?). So it's little wonder that author-musician-cigar aficionado Kinky Friedman is starting to get some serious buzz on his Texas gubernatorial bid. Meet the candidate, hear music from Asleep at the Wheel and the John Evans Band, enjoy a barbecue dinner and shout out a request for Friedman's feminist anthem "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" at this unorthodox political fund-raiser. 6 p.m. Thursday, September 15. Sons of Hermann Lodge, 102 Yale. For information, call 281-847-8908 or visit www.htexas.com. $15 in advance; $20 at the door. -- Bob Ruggiero
All Hot 'n' Bothered
At the Houston Hot Sauce Festival, more than 100 vendors from as far away as Australia (some Tabasco on that koala burger, mate?) will be offering up hot sauces, fiery foods and other muy caliente memorabilia. There's also music from the Zydeco Dots, the El Vibes and even fast steppin' from Cloggers Unlimited, though we're guessing you'll have no problem getting unclogged at this spicy party. Feel the burn from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, September 17, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, September 18. Houston Farm and Ranch Club (1.5 miles north of I-10 off Highway 6). For information, call 281-558-3518 or visit www.houstonhotsauce.com. $5. -- Bob Ruggiero