The truth is, they're not. Most of Houston's smaller galleries are curated and patroned by down to earth people, and display captivating yet digestible art for a wide audience. Many of them showcase the work of students and promising amateurs, and most feature more local and regional work than can be found on the walls of fine art museums and high society galleries.
The following is a list of some of the city's most exciting current and upcoming exhibitions outside of the fine arts mainstream. From photographs that capture the beauty of a fictional town to mind bending fashion sculptures, these exhibits represent the true depth and diversity of Houston's creative community.
The Menil Collection: Byzantine Fresco Chapel
Francis Alys: The Fabiola Project - Ongoing until 10/28/2018
On the Menil campus, one block down the street from the main building, sits the Byzantine Fresco Chapel. The Fresco Chapel, like the Rothko Chapel, is part art installation, part gallery, part place of worship. The architecturally stunning structure housed two 13th century frescoes from 1997-2012, when the works were permanently returned to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. It now serves to house temporary exhibitions like The Fabiola Project by Fancis Alys.
Francis Alys is a Belgian-born visual artist who resides in Mexico City. His work is highly interdisciplinary, ranging from paint on canvas to photography and performance art. Much of his work is politically charged with strong appeals to social justice and the human condition. The Fabiola Project represents a decades-long obsession for Alys more so than an original work. The exhibition is a collection of 514 replicas of an obscure 19th century painting by Jean-Jacques Henner. Henner's original 1885 painting, which has long been lost, depicts the left side profile of a 4th century Christian Saint known only as Fabiola.
Alys first encountered replicas of the painting in a Brussels flea market in 1992. He was struck by the popularity of the piece among amateur plagiarists, noting that more professional copycats opted for the standard masters such as Van Gogh and Da Vinci. Alys notes how the unrefined, even unskilled nature of many of the replicas give each piece a unique identity. Rather than 500+ copies of the same painting, Alys has assembled a collection of 500+ individual works of art, many sharing only a subject and nothing else.
The collection will be on display in the Byzantine Fresco Chapel until October 28, 2018. Currently the Menil main museum building is closed to the public, but will reopen with new shows and exhibits on September 22, 2018.
Habitats: Artwork by Sabine Street Artists - ongoing until 9/8/2018
Sum of Parts: New Photography by Clara Hoag - ongoing until 9/22/2018
Against the backdrop of 24 hour train schedules, in the heart of the First Ward, Sawyer Yards is an ever-growing behemoth of creative and entrepreneurial projects. By far Houston's largest congregation of studio spaces, artists, creators, and galleries, the Yards are a sprawling campus of re-purposed warehouses now serving as art studios and creative businesses. With dozens of studios on the campus, there are always multiple exhibitions ongoing at any given time.
Among the current exhibits are two extremely different projects that both represent Houston's diverse creative landscape.
Habitats, a project by the artists at Sabine Street Studios, is the first exhibition of work from this relatively new studio at the far north end of the Sawyer Yards campus. The collection is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be on display until September 8. 2018.
Blaffer Art Museum
Alfred Leslie: One Hundred Characters in Search of a Reader - 9/7/2018 - 1/26/2019
The Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston houses some of the most outstanding contemporary art in Texas. The museum's exhibitions feature the work of students, community artists, and international touring exhibitions. Among it's upcoming shows is the newest project by renowned contemporary artist, Alfred Leslie, One Hundred Characters in Search of a Reader.
Leslie, who has been an important American artist since the 1950's, began his career as an Abstract Expressionist painter. He later made two iconic works of film that helped define the post-war Beat Generation, before transitioning to realism, and most recently to computer generated digital paintings. His newest project, which he has not yet completed, will be a collection of imagined portraits of literary characters from novels, plays, and screenplays. The project will demonstrate Leslie's unique versatility with mediums and reflect his lifelong passion for literature.
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
B. Anele: I Dont' Play That Game - Ongoing until 10/7/2018
Unlike other galleries, studios, and museums that display mostly photography and paintings, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft has a more narrowly defined focus. Art made with crafting materials. You may call them sculptures but many of the works of art displayed at the HCCC transcend sculpting and defy definition. Take for instance the ongoing exhibition, I don't play that game by Houston based artist, B. Anele.
Anele presents a collection of wildly unique works of art that incorporate raw canvas garments into soft sculptures. The pieces are highly exaggerated, even architectural, yet functional as garments and displayed on models. The artist creates provocative art that challenges its audience, fusing the real and the surreal to join fashion with environment.
I Don't Play That Game will by on display at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft until October 7, 2018.
Houston Center for Photography
What the Living Carry by Morgan Ashcom - 9/7/2018 - 11/11/2018
The Houston Center for Photography is both a renown photography museum and educational institution. Hosting exhibitions from some of the world's most talented contemporary photographers and offering hundreds of classes and workshops year round, the HCP is committed to the ongoing advancement of the photographic arts.
Its upcoming exhibition by Virginia based photographer, Morgan Ashcom, What the Living Carry, marries aspects of the fantastical with scenes from rural America in the creation of the fictional town of Hoy's Fork. Using unedited realism, portraiture, and familiar aesthetics of Americana, Ashcom creates an entirely fictional place that seems easily believable to the viewer. The exhibition will include a hand drawn map of Hoy's Fork, a typed correspondence, and photographically-generated sculptures among other creative elements.
What the Living Carry will be on display in the Houston Center for Photography from September 7, 2018 until November 11, 2018.