The influences in Russell Prince's collages intriguingly range from the Cubists and Dadaists to tattered billboards, old textbooks, and his great-grandmother's deteriorating Victorian home.
Indeed, the Houston artist's works have an aged quality to them, from the musty old book covers from classics like David Copperfield that he rips from their binds to the highly distressed, unique frames that keep it all together. It's as if they've been around for decades, collecting dust in a musty study somewhere, rather than all crafted within the past three years. "Pastmodern," the name of the self-taught artist's current show at Front Gallery, is quite apt.
There are nearly 40 collages, scattered salon-style on two walls and arranged on the shelves near the front room's fireplace. Stamps, old paintings, book covers and other indiscernible scraps come together onto postcards and canvas boards of varying sizes. The show, put together in collaboration with guest curator Jay Wehnert of Intuitive Eye, nicely plays with this variation in size, as the pieces get progressively bigger and then smaller again as you move through the show.
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As the name "Pastmodern" suggests, this is a serious show that still doesn't take itself too seriously. In Barrel of Monkeys, the collage prominently features scraps of paper curved like the plastic monkey pieces in the children's game in an unexpected, charming reference. The best works are the smaller ones on postcard like Barrel of Monkeys, which gel despite their randomness. The bigger they get, the less control they have and the proportions don't quite work at that size.
Prince is a neighbor of Front Gallery owner Sharon Engelstein, making this an extremely local show. It's also the artist's first solo show. His collages remind me of ones by another Houston artist who recently had his debut - designer Jerry Jeanmard - but without the lovely white space of Jeanmard's. Something must be in the water.
"Russell Prince: Pastmodern" at Front Gallery, 1412 Bonnie Brae Street, runs now through June 1. For more information, call 713-298-4750 or visit frontgallery.com.