Visual Arts

Kallinen Contemporary's East End Circus

Kallinen Contemporary is off the beaten path, in more ways than one. It's in the far East End, devoid of any other galleries or artistic attractions, not counting taking photos of the Houston Ship Channel, in a law office, and its first show is titled "Space Zombie Mayan Apocalyptic Human Sacrifice Uplift Mofo Party Plan Spring Break 2012." But it's a suitably atypical show for its atypical location.

Despite the odd location and crazy title, the show managed to draw a big crowd -- between 300 and 400 people -- during its opening night last month, testament to the strength of some of the impressive names involved. Paul Horn, Solomon Kane and John Paul Hartman joined forces with Randall Kallinen, a civil rights attorney by day, artist and now gallery owner by night, to put on the party. And among the more than 20 artists on display, there's also Kelley Devine with her antler-sporting nudes, light installation artist Ariane Roesch and Pop-Art devotee Dandee Warhol.

There are more than 100 pieces to take in, filling every inch of the two-story warehouse space -- including an aerosol painting on the outside brick by GONZO 247 painted opening night. Though the brand-new gallery is still very much working out the kinks of putting on such an ambitious show. For one, many of the pieces aren't labeled (this will infuriate many, not faze some), the show's still being rearranged and hung, and last-minute, campy elements (a fake rat, the "Scream" mask) placed on some of the works are a bit distracting. Though there are some notable standouts in this colorful circus -- including, even, a clown.

Yamin Cespedes's pop culture wood sculptures are hilarious -- there's a replica of the alien from Alien next to a blond-haired, red-faced Billy Idol -- as well as extremely well-crafted. Gian Palacios-Swiatkowski stands out among the painters, his portraits of women beautiful and arresting. Camargo Valentino's paintings are also showstoppers in a sense, including a black-and-white portrait of Emiliano Zapata Salazar. The Mexican revolutionary is done in incredible detail, while his followers behind him are out of focus -- it's almost photographic.

William Reid's minimal works -- rectangles of color, surrounded by circles of scorched canvas -- are nothing new, but still seem radical and bold. Hartman's "Amerimou$" series is appealing -- he's placed the iconic Mickey Mouse ears over the Starbucks logo, men's and women's restroom signs, an outlet that's fueling lit gasoline containers. It's a clear critique on commercialism that runs the risk of being clichéd, but among more than 100 works, it's memorable stuff. Above it all sits Eduardo Portillo's giant puppet-like "Gonzo the Clown," perched on the second story in all its creepy glory.

And then there's the color works by Kallinen, the gallery owner himself. He has a lot of work in the show, more than any other artist, it seems, given that the space also doubles as his studio, or maybe it just seems that way because they're so big and attention-grabbing. The large canvases of splattered color and damaged hearts are his.

Given the unique location and limited hours (the gallery is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment) -- most people who wanted to see "Space Zombie Mayan" went opening night. If you do venture out to the limits of the outer Loop, you'll have to be sure to have the gallery's number handy -- when I went, the door was locked and I had to be let in. But don't let that stop you from checking out this carnival of a show.

"Space Zombie Mayan Apocalyptic Human Sacrifice Uplift Mofo Party Plan Spring Break 2012" at Kallinen Contemporary, 511 Broadway, now through May 28. The gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment. There also will be a closing night party on May 25 from 5 to 11 p.m. For more information, call 713-320-3785.

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Meredith Deliso
Contact: Meredith Deliso