After a couple of years of competing summer events, Houston's art dealers (28 of 'em, anyway) are back under one banner. The reunification apparently took so much effort that they didn't have any energy left to think of a real title, so "ArtHouston" it is. When the event, which is now a 20-year tradition, first started under the title "Introductions," the idea was to bring in new or unrepresented artists as an anodyne to the summer doldrums. This year pretty much anything goes, but gallerygoers haven't noticed the lack of a concept; they still stampede through the galleries on what must be the biggest opening night of the entire season.
But you, discerning viewer, probably hung back in alarm. So here's our guide to the highlights of ArtHouston.
Maggie Hills and Paul Whiting have taken a good thing and run with it in "A long drawing and some paintings about longing" at Robert McClain & Co., 2818 Kirby, improving on their recent showing in the Core 1999 exhibit. Hills's watery (tear-streaked?) paintings of scenes from slightly outdated middle-class resorts look like the scene of the crime, five years later, as recollected by someone who has not quite recovered. Whiting's giant scale-obsessed drawing of some Brutalist construction that's half computer monitor, half building, looks like the result of institutionalized, rather than individual, crime. The crime of indifference? Or is it surveillance?
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There's something so charming about Michigan artist Conrad Bakker's eye-fooling wood carvings of grocery bags and Hardy Boys books that you forget how virtuosic they are. At Rudolph Poissant Gallery, 5102 Center, Bakker (in a two-man show with Robert Yoder) offers scenes from the diary of a mad teenage whittler. One is a sort of church-social coffee urn with a stack of Styrofoam cups (all carved and painted, and sitting on a carved and paainted version of those rectangular brown tables that every school and church has tons of). In the other, "Catalog (Diary of The Seducer)," a J. Crew catalog (yes, carved and painted) sits on a table with a sign of the alleged seduction or maybe just a laundry-day oversight lying crumpled on the floor.
At James Gallery, 307 Sul Ross, San Antonio artist and curator Hills Snyder has sherpa'd six young San Antonio artists to Houston for "Temporary Things." Some of it deserves the show's title; the rest is lickable, flickable, kickable art with a high play quotient. Chuck Ramirez's Oven Recliner, a chair with a matching upholstered oven, is witty with an edge of silly, and Nate Cassie's giant photos of bruises achieve a sort of hideous beauty.
At Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt, Leandro Erlich tries to top his amazing swimming pool (at Core 1999) by making rain. He built two little "outsides," accessible through aluminum-frame windows, and inside these "outsides" a thunderstorm is raging. High expectations and technical difficulties meant disappointment for some folks at the opening, but Erlich has done some tweaking, and now you can practically smell the ozone in the air. Open a window and get your fingers wet.
Other things worth mentioning: Yigal Ozeri's oil paintings are half horrible, half luminous. Fortunately, the luminous ones, odd table still lifes, are bigger and take up the lion's share of New Gallery's wall space, 2639 Colquitt For those who've been jonesing for the rarely seen of late Houston photomeister George Krause, Hooks-Epstein and John Cleary Gallery, 2631 and 2635 Colquitt, share "ieri, oggi, domani," a retrospective whose title means "yesterday, today and tomorrow." Yesterday's looking good as ever, but today Krause's photos molded into cutesy sculptures is pretty scary Perhaps the one true introduction of ArtHouston is not even officially part of the deal. No tsu oH, 314 Main, is parading the "Pimp Daddy Show," drawings by Ronald Thomas. I don't know if the title needs more explanation, but just in case: sexy women, sweet candy and shrink-wrap make this show, um, really weird