Visual Arts

Can You Solve the Puzzle?

I wasn’t able to solve the puzzle, though I tried several numerical combinations in the coded door lock of Candace Hicks’s Edward Hopper’s Doorway or The Way Out, part of her “Read Me” exhibit at Lawndale Art Center. There are plenty of clues throughout her pieces and, while the payoff to solving the riddle isn’t an opened door, she does promise something more than the blue light visible through the peephole.

Likening her work to an escape game, Hicks has sprinkled clues throughout the John M. O’Quinn Gallery, from her wall text which circles the room to secret messages printed on inkjet prints to the titles of her pieces. There are two oversized glass decoders on wheels, and viewers are encouraged to push the red or blue decoders over to the inkjet prints to view the hidden text, much like the childhood novelty where yellow print becomes green when viewed through blue film.

Hicks, who has been fascinated with coincidences since reading the same phrase in two books 10 years ago, uses repetition in her exhibit to emphasize design. Of her 10 framed inkjet prints, four show clouds in the sky, while others are hinged landscapes or still life floral or fruit vignettes, though close inspection reveals bugs on the fruit and flowers. Open the hinged panel to decode secret messages behind the printed ants.

The remainder of her works are encased by minimalist white cubed towers and enhanced by David Lebailllif’s electronics. Look through the hood of Camera Obscura to view the cars on Main Street, upside down and with a sepia-toned wash, or gaze through the eyepiece of Periscope to see the people and objects behind the viewer. Tornado Zoetrope is quite inventive, as the sporadic strobe light reveals a cotton cyclone rotating behind the blue glass.

Hicks’s ability to create microspaces is exceptional. From the tiny little Vermeer Fountain with the perpetual pump-driven clay pot to the miniature library full of books with two-way mirror in The Interrogation of Infinite Space and her Rooms by the Sea, replicating Edward Hopper’s famous metaphor of silence and solitude. She also duplicates a miniature version of the optical illusion Ames room, with a small cottony cloud moving in circular motion.

Also on view at Lawndale Art Center are theatrical pieces by The Center for Imaginative Cartography and Research, a collaborative effort between Erik Sultzer and Emily Halbardier. The black and white pieces in “NIGHT WALK” include rocks, basket, wall hangings and watercolors. At the entrance, Jason Urban’s “A Library for Soft Rains” is inspired by a chapter from Ray Bradbury’s dystopian The Martian Chronicles. It includes a small vignette with plant and book, as well as a wall of hand-dyed masa paper printed with woodcuts of phrases from the book. In “Bread, Bath and Beyond,” Emily Fleisher offers works referencing home and garden: a faux stained glass panel of a submerged bather, leftover parchment paper from bread-baking, a painted Ronzoni box with a video of risotto in motion, and a 9-prong gold crown with white picket fence interior.

“Read Me”, “Bread, Bath and Beyond”, “A Library for Soft Rains” and “NIGHT WALK” continue through January 9, at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, open Mondays to Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays noon to 5 p.m., 713-528-5858, Free. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney