East Side Informality, "Piece By Piece"

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Wednesday night marked the beginning of the 2011 art season with a free art and music show at El Rincón Social, a cooperative arts space on the East Side. A new street-art network called 901 Gallery (for its storefront at 901 Richmond), under the direction of Angel (last names were generally hard to come by), hosted an exhibit of works by artists in Houston who wouldn't otherwise find gallery space. 901 Gallery seeks out artists and presents them through an informal system of acquaintance and self-promotion. Besides mounting art shows like these, it aims to provide professional resources and knowledge for artists whose métier is otherwise at the street-level.

El Rincón Social, active for several years now but always under construction, is a workspace for a small group of artists. It hosts various events, but only occasionally, so the works in "Piece by Piece" were on exhibit for one night only. Three central works in the large front gallery - where DJ Meshak spun records and several bands performed, including Muhammad Ali - were large-scale collaborations by several unnamed artists, each contributing their own trademark styles and motifs. Other pieces were recognizably those of artists whose works you've seen painted and wheat-pasted all over town. Dual's wheat-paste collage included photographs of his other pieces found around the city, including the new Gonzalez Rebellion flag ("Come and Take It") painted on the back of the Moon Tower Inn, just a few blocks away on Canal Street. We walked through the quiet, booming East Side neighborhood of residences and warehouses for a little break during the show, enjoyed cheap beer and an excellent sausage dog, and recalled the little skirmish that started the Texas Revolution in 1835.

Back at the show, independent vendors were selling vegan tamales, spray paint for practitioners, and henna tattoos. Between bands, the small gallery would fill up, where visitors viewed smaller scale works from Etoms, Machete, Flo, Machine, Shef, Skum, Weah, Tofu and others. As you'd expect from artists claiming street cred, the artwork specializes in pop-cultural allusion, strong contours, mixed words and imagery, surrealist anti-dimensionality, tattoo filigree, political invective and cartoon humor.

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