A Trio of Equally Fantastic Exhibitions at Art League Houston Right Now

Art League Houston's Project Gallery currently holds the honor of housing Jeff Schmuki's GenAIRator exhibition, a combustion of wall-hanging art and horticultural installations.

In the center of the space sit the installations, more garden projects than artworks. The first, "Air-Filtering Hydro Unit #1," is an awkwardly slanted compartment of air-purifying plants -- Art League's very own plant-made filter.

"Edible Sound Producing Hydro Unit #2" is a complicated science project made up of distinct "whooshing" sounds emanating from overhead aluminum ventilators delivering light, water and air, and compartments of growing herbs: Greek oregano, Italian parsley, silver lemon thyme, lemon verbena, sweet basil, English mint, garlic chives, variegated basil, lemon balm, curry plant, purple sage and mixed vegetables that provide a source of sustainable ingredients for the H-town strEATs food truck currently parked outside.

Everything from both installations will be harvested by Schmuki near the end of the exhibit. On the walls surrounding the plant life are "Hydro-Drawing #1-6," a collection of inkjet-on-paper pieces that look as if they could be "greenprints" for the installations sitting in the middle.

Schmuki's work focuses on highlighting environmental crises. He uses exhibits such as GenAIRator and others -- his Agritecture exhibit in Auburn, Alabama; his PlantBot Genetics exhibit showing right down the road in Huntsville -- to prove that partnering ecological awareness within urban landscapes is indeed possible.

Hanging in the Main Gallery is Larry Bob Phillips's Salon Style, GenAIRator's oversized brother. More on that collection later.

Connecting the two larger exhibitions in the Hallway Gallery is Camouflage by Lisa Marie Hunter, a small showing, but the perfect transition from Schmuki's lush greens to Phillips's pencil-thin black-and-white portraits. Camouflage's monochromatic color scheme links it to the latter in shade, while themes of nature link it to the former.

On its own, Camouflage represents the artist's all-consuming infatuation with nature. She casts the same psychological spell on the viewer, who must walk through a complex field of wall paintings, inkjet prints hand painted ink drawings, and shelf knickknacks, all camouflaged in black and white.

Even after making it through Hunter's foliage, you're not out of the woods yet. Salon Style's purpose is to draw you into the pictures' multiple dimensions. Phillips experiments with perception and irregular shapes in his work, creating pictures with detailed foregrounds and suck-you-in backgrounds. Phillips's work deals with reinventing conventional ideas of what Western art should look like and be.

"Linear representation is the de facto language of our culture," he says. "Although it does not exist anywhere in nature, it has become fully ingrained within the Western mind."

"I am trying to expand and dimensionalize the painting, so the viewer can look beyond its two-dimensional frame and into a deeper, more meaningful space."

The exhibit's promotional piece, "Mash Up," does a great job of paraphrasing what the rest of the pieces show: distorted versions of the high life. And all of the pictures are drawn at an angle, skewing the already skewed, thus completing his mission to challenge images of the bourgeoisie.

All three exhibitions will show until August 31 at Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose. Visit artleaguehouston.org for more information.

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