Capsule Art Reviews: February 19, 2015

"Mel Chin: Rematch" For the next few months, Houston-born and raised Mel Chin will be taking up practically the whole art atmosphere of the city with his 40-year retrospective. It's a progressive art feast so big that it takes four museums to hold it all. And as a special treat for hometown folks, there's even an added bonus of Chin drawings not included in previous stops in New Orleans and Saint Louis. Due at least in part to this retrospective, Artnet named Chin as one of only two Houston artists on its list of "The 50 Most Exciting Artists of 2014." Pick a nice day to see the show because you'll be driving all over town. And go with an open mind because your preconceptions about what art is will likely be soundly shaken. Chin has been called a "provocateur, environmentalist, activist, political subversive, community organizer, showoff and occasionally an artist; news maker, civic problem solver and a dreamer." Did you notice "artist" almost lost somewhere in the middle of all that? And you thought this was just another artist career retrospective. Wrong. This is not your granddad's idea of what makes art. Unless your granddad was Marcel Duchamp. But is Chin's work art or something else? Or does it really matter what we call it? As long as it helps us see things we might not otherwise see, goads us to think outside our usual box, motivates us to move in (positive) directions we might not take on our own? It is what it is — whatever that is, and you should take this opportunity to see it. Which is probably about as much as a prudent review should say. "Mel Chin: Rematch," Blaffer Art Museum, The University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun Road, 713-743-2255, blafferartmuseum.org; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250, www.camh.org; Asia Society Texas Center,1370 Southmore, 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas; Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 1502 Alabama 713-529-6900, stationmuseum.com; and "Paper Trail and Unauthorized Collaborations", Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530, www.artleaguehouston.org. Check each venue for exact dates and times. — RT

"Portraits of Denial & Desire" In his current exhibit at Rice University, "Portraits of Denial & Desire," activist artist John Halaka focuses on displaced indigenous Palestinians and their stories of exile, resistance and survival. He has enlarged his photographs, stripped them of color and printed them as triptychs on blankets, which serve as both a symbol of protection and an illustration of the temporary nature of refugees. Ibrahim Essa is flanked by the crumbled ruins of structures overgrown by vines. His family had lived in the same village for 700 years, tracing their connections back to the early Christians of Galilee. Elias Wakim stands in front of a church, between images of fragmented bones and overgrown cacti. He watches over the cemetery, where once-decorated mausoleums are now desecrated. He is unable to leave, since the bones of his father are here, now mixed with trash and the strewn remains of other graves. Umm Aziz displays a poster of her sons, who disappeared in 1982 when hundreds of men were herded into trucks and taken away. She still searches for her boys, who would be middle-aged by now, she herself trapped in the unknowingness of their fates. Hamed Moussa, with piercing, alert eyes, was born around 1910 and lived more than 100 years. He was one of the few Palestinians who was not displaced from his homeland and who was permitted to farm his ancestral land. He never felt that the land belonged to him but rather that he belonged to the land. Through March 13. Rice University, Department of Visual & Dramatic Arts, Media Center Building, 6100 Main, Campus Entrance #8 (University Boulevard at Stockton), 713-348-4882, arts.rice.edu. — ST

"The Reductive Landscape: Paintings & Drawings by Jack Boynton and McKie Trotter" Prepare yourself for a journey into darkness at William Reaves Fine Art with its current modernist exhibition. Boynton's Blind Beast, a monstrously large side profile of a flat-nosed mythical creature's head with coarse hair and yellow mouth against a somber gray background, is incredibly powerful. Dissection is almost certainly representative of the demise of this same creature, with the lightning-cleaved halves showing the fading heartbeat on one side, the empty void of life on the other, and a cataclysmic background of iridescent green. Boynton continues the macabre theme with the riveting Reflections, a darkly ominous creature with a caged face, fiery embers for eyes and brush strokes of chaos on its torso, backlit by an emerald-green glow. Trotter and Boynton met at Texas Christian University and evolved their relationship from teacher and student to professional colleagues. They introduced a reductive form of landscape painting by reducing the light to its simplest terms. Many of Trotter's works are dark, but I favored the brighter Earthscape With Sea (Fields) and Earthscape #14, both relying heavily on the orange and russet tones, but to different effect. Fields portrayed a stormy turmoil-filled sky, with the lower two-thirds composed of vertical crops of teal, green, gold and yellow, expanding in their growth off the canvas, while the other promised peace and calm in spite of its red cloud sky. The gallery is offering a lecture on Saturday, February 28, from 2 to 4 p.m., with Sarah Beth Wilson, who once worked for Boynton as a freelance curator. Through February 28. 2143 Westheimer, 713-521-7500, reavesart.com. — ST

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Randy Tibbits is an independent art writer and curator, specializing in the art history of Houston. He is a member of the Board of Directors of CASETA: Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art and the coordinator of HETAG: Houston Earlier Texas Art Group. He writes art exhibition reviews for Houston Press from time to time.
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