There are two reasons you should attend art openings in this city, and one of them is definitely the art. The other is the booze. So attending the grand opening of FotoFest 2006 is a no-brainer. Okay, full disclosure here, the Press is a co-sponsor. But I don't need the threat of a pink slip to get me out to the kickoff of this citywide, biennial photography and art festival celebrating all things photo. This event, which toasts 20 years of FotoFest, boasts three free public parties downtown. Officially, the themes for this year's fest which runs through April 23 are The Earth and Artists Responding to Violence (visit www.fotofest.org for a full list of participating galleries and venues). Unofficially, my theme for tonight is getting my drink on. (And, duh, enjoying some art.) It's 8:30 p.m., and the opening reception at DiverseWorks, the first stop, is supposed to have ended a half-hour ago. Fortunately, this is DiverseWorks, so plenty of revelers are hanging around. Hip artistic director Sixto Wagan greets me at the door and warns me about the FotoFest installation, Alfredo Jaar's The Sound of Silence. I keep hearing how 'heavy' this thing is. 'Sobering' is more like it. I don't want to be a spoiler, but you must check it out. It confronts our perception of the media's handling of a specific example of human tragedy. It asks more existential questions than it answers. And man, it leaves me needing some liquid pep.
So it's off to the neighboring Vine Street Studios and the FotoFest 2006 headquarters for the second party, sponsored by Grey Goose. It's packed with Houston's art elite and scenesters, with a good chunk of the crowd hanging outside the warehouse. As members of Two Star Symphony serenade us, my friends and I check out fascinating works from artists such as Sergey Bratkov (and his strangely sexy army girls), Joakim Eneroth (and his crazy cats) and Yves Gellie (and his pretty imagery ; from Iraq). It's quite the sweaty experience, but icy glasses of Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire do well to soothe me. So does a sighting of Greenhouse Man, the odd guy in a spacesuit who shows up to these things, hands out flowers and leaves.
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Party No. 3 is at the new east downtown venue Warehouse Live, where indie rockers Nic Armstrong & the Thieves are holding it down. In an egalitarian move, the VIP section is open to the public. Soon, the elite and the mere mortals are mingling at tables doused with glitter and partaking of leftover grub. The drinks are stiff, so my memory's a bit blurred. Thanks, FotoFesters. This party is a work of art.