"Call It Street Art, Call It Fine Art, Call It What You Know"
In our time, there may be no art form more divisive than street art. For decades, the public has debated the merits of the genre — from the criminality of the act to the skill and creativity involved. The Station Museum of Contemporary Art enters this debate with "Call It Street Art, Call It Fine Art, Call It What You Know" — a massive show featuring 21 artists known for their work across Houston doing their thing right on the museum's walls. It's a busy exhibit, from the big wall pieces by Ack! and Eyesore to a whole room devoted to impressive portraits by Lee Washington. Given the number of artists, there are a variety of topics, too, including a powerful cityscape by Wiley Robertson and Bryan Cope across the street on the gas station; Vizie's overpowering memorial graffiti artist NEKST; the mysticism of Angel Quesada's Aura Rising
; and overtly politically charged works by Anat Ronen, Deck WGF, Michael C. Rodriguez and Empire I.N.S. that touch on drone warfare, war mentality and civil liberty. Despite the open title, the Station Museum is pretty firm on where it stands. The introduction to the show observes that the work is "street art that has become fine art," an "important new contribution to contemporary art in Houston." This is never more true than in the work of Daniel Anguilu. The graffiti artist has tagged much of Midtown, but rather than be derided, he is celebrated by none other than the city itself; recently, the artist was proudly outed by Metro as being none other than a Metro employee. Here, half of the artist's contribution is actually leftovers from the museum's last big show. He's expanded on it for a work that stretches nearly around the whole room with its colorful abstract, Aztec-esque design, which prompted one gallery-goer to exclaim, "I want to live in here!" on a recent visit. While Anguilu is a celebrated public figure, some of his colleagues prefer anonymity. This is evident from a video by KC Ortiz of graffiti artists in action. Most faces are blurred or obscured — a reminder that there can be consequences for this form of expression. Whether you agree that it's fine art or not, one thing is for certain — street art is fleeting. Given their disposable nature, these murals are pure expression — refreshingly done for the sake of it, and not for a potential sale. Whereas most public graffiti art pieces can be covered up at any time, these at least have an expiration date — the show is up until August 25, at which point the walls will be painted over and revert to white. Through August 25. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. —MD
"CTRL + P" Authorship. Originality. These are some, but of course not nearly all, of the things that usually come to mind when considering art – the conceit of the artist and that his or her unique vision gives meaning and value to the work. Now, get ready to turn all that on its head. In the exhibition "CTRL + P" at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, words like open source and creative commons are more pressing than authorship and originality. The show, curated by Anna Walker, brings together artists who make work based on ideas and designs that are free for the taking, as long as you have the right technology. In this case, it's cutting-edge concepts like computer-aided design (CAD) programs and 3D printers, which, instead of adding ink to paper, build objects line by line out of metal or plastic. Using this 21st-century technology and designs from open-source websites, the artists here have been able to make sculptural and functional objects, often in bulk. There are silver and gold-plated stainless steel rings made by Erin Gardner and Margaret Drinkwater of The Opulent Project, based on existing ring designs from a Google 3D warehouse and made using a 3D printer. There are dozens of porcelain objects piled behind a glass case – some made by hands, others with the help of a CAD software program and then printed by 3D printing marketplace Shapeways – from ceramic artists Bryan Czibesz and Shawn Spangler. There's even a 3D printer on loan from Houston hackerspace TX/RX Labs for demonstration, spitting out orange teapots. The results are rather crude and unremarkable – there are a lot of plain ceramic pieces in odd shapes – if not for their origins. This is a forward-looking show that's more about the idea than the object and treading new ground in what's possible. For all it says about creation, one thing is of note – the works are still carefully attributed. It just goes to show that authorship –and giving attribution to the person behind the piece – still holds value. Through September 8. 4848 Main. 713-529-4848. —MD