Visual Arts

City of Houston's "Art on Loan" Barely Worth the Lonely Planet-Esque Adventure

What a cluster you-know-what.

Earlier today, Art Attack spent about an hour negotiating downtown's city hall annex to check out two art receptions for the "Art on Loan" program. Out of that hour, about 40 minutes were devoted to asking grumpy city employees for directions, sauntering through metal detectors, sidestepping floor buffing machines and unequivocally looking/feeling like a completely lost idiot.

As in years past, the city is hooking up Houston-area artists with wall space inside of its governmental environs through the beginning of next year. Today marked a closing reception for Artists Alive and Well and an opening shindig for the Expressing Exhibition group.

Artists Alive and Well is a three-year old co-op that gives beginning and up-and-coming creative types to show off their work in public. For this show, the displayed work was sub-par at best, mostly because the group got the shaft on its space: a grim, fluorescent-bathed hallway that typifies government buildings. On top of that, the slanted pass-through, complete with a dirty low-hanging ceiling, makes it difficult to view the work on a level plane.

It's totally plausible that the work -- which mostly showcases predictable scenes such as wild deer and snowcapped mountains -- would have sparkled if hung in a normal gallery. But this . . . this was just sad. (After today, some of the work will join other Artists Alive and Well pieces that are currently on display on the third and fourth floors of city hall; they will remain there through January 5, 2012.)

Following multiple empty-handed inquiries, we exhausted every floor via elevator and finally discovered that the Expressing Exhibition group show, curated by Belinda Smith, was holding an opening reception on the other side of the city annex building.

Scattered across five floors in depressing carpeted waiting areas, this work was much more refined, both in execution and in wall/lighting perks. Particular standouts included Jane Honovich's potent Night at Pineridge acrylic-on-wood painting as well as Shelley Shanks' six-by-four foot mixed-media work Generating a New Horizon. (These and additional pieces -- which hang in various conference rooms, but can only be accessed after convincing security to buzz you in -- will be displayed through early January 2012.)

The art-viewing experience wasn't a complete wash, but unless you've got a fetish for red tape and/or want a foreign country-like adventure, viewing these shows is probably not worth your time.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen