Houston Art Collective {exurb} Lets Us Become One With the Machine

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When the transdisciplinary artist collective {exurb} took a look at their allotted exhibition space at Art League Houston (the Main Gallery), their first thought was, “Cool, no windows!” They took it even further, hanging blackout curtains on the fourth wall and creating a site-specific installation that looks and acts very futuristic, with 47 downward-facing LCD monitors networked together, displaying one image, mining text from headline news and interacting with movement in the space.

The group formed in 2011 and, while there’s been some ebb and flow within the ranks, the current lineup includes Houston artist and mega-sculptor Patrick Renner (named one of our MasterMind Award winners for 2015) and Johnny DiBlasi, a digital artist who splits his time between Houston and Indianapolis and who specializes in the intersection of video, programming, installation and digital media. The nerdy-artsy quartet also includes Stephen Kraig, an electrical engineer who is experiencing success with his line of custom hand-wired tube amplifiers for electric guitar and bass; and Eric Todd, a sportswriter, editor and musician with a background in creative writing and theater.

The genesis for "Array" is loosely rooted in the idea of a starry night sky (as seen in the country, not from light-polluted Houston), combined with the information overload that we all experience in this gadget-heavy existence. Beginning with breaking news from The New York Times, the artists add a little programming mumbo jumbo to create oscillating sound waves for ambient noise, with text-converted-to-images displaying on the monitors, all while interacting with the movement of viewers in the space. Whether lying down on the oversized black pillows underneath the monitors, or circling the installation to view the glowing cables above, our movements become part of the imagery in an electronic and creative closed loop.

High-tech meets old school in the very light and bright Front Gallery, where works by Alex Trimino are on display in her “Totemic Lore” exhibit. Merging neon lights and plexiglass tubes with low-tech knitting, crochet, fibers and found objects, the Colombian artist (who now resides in Miami) seeks to explore tradition and technology across generations. She has a pair of vertical lights, backed by neon, but it’s the totem-like sculptures that capture the imagination. The merging of “granny’s knitting” with the glowing neon is a nice juxtaposition and, in some cases, she has placed silver or black shadows on the wall to replicate the shapes of the sculptures. Trimino has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in both Sweden and Florida, and the clean lines and bright colors of her work echo the design aesthetics of both locales. 

In the Hallway Space, small works on paper by Colombian artist Johan Barrios, who now lives in Spring, are on display in his “Intervalo” exhibit. His technique of merging graphite with watercolor yields monochromatic images that are haunting and fragile.

“Array,” “Totemic Lore” and “Intervalo” continue through June 18 at Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, open Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m., 713-523-9530, artleaguehouston.org. Free.

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