Collage photography is having a bit of a moment right now in Houston, thanks to a major exhibition up at the Museum of Fine Arts called "Utopia/Dystopia." For a much smaller show that still manages to cover a lot of ground, there's also "CTRL group two" at Bryan Miller Gallery.
Both exhibitions showcase artists who work not just in photos, but in photo-collage. The two shows even share some of the same artists. And though the MFA show has four times as many works on display, Bryan Miller Gallery manages an impressive variety among its seven artists, from David DuPuis's color pencil drawings and collage on paper to Jonesy's video animation.
Among the seven, Javier Piñon's works stood out the most. It's no coincidence that one of his three collages ("The Pact") is the first you see upon entering the gallery. It is a dense nature scene that contains its own mythology. A pale, naked woman is stretched out over rocks, a dagger in her hand, while a dead rabbit lies beside her. A fox stumbles across the scene, as a skull floats in a nearby river. It's oddly compelling, and will leave you puzzling over what it all means.
Heimir Björgúlfsson also works with nature themes, juxtaposing unlikely elements onto conventional scenery shots. In "This ain't the first rodeo," a snowy, tree-lined slope is overlaid with out-of-proportion planks of weathered wood and a patch of rocks. In "A peacock who sits on his tail is just another turkey," a rooftop view is interrupted by a giant floating turkey and close-ups on cacti. Thanks to Björgúlfsson's idiosyncratic touches, these nature shots don't seem so natural after all.
All the works display a degree of intimacy, though none more so than Matthew Stone's -- in a more literal sense of the word. His "Polymorphic Love Diagram Unfolds" features sculptural photo-collages of intertwined bodies on wood, which bends and contorts like the bodies do.
The prints look like classical paintings, with the naked men and women warmly yet sharply lit against black backgrounds. They are quite beautiful, though I almost overlooked them entirely. The works are found on the floor of the back section of the gallery, slightly cut off from the rest of the exhibition. At first glance they looked like discarded remnants of a previous show. If it weren't for the gallery list, I might have passed over them without even realizing it. Even then, given the tight space, I couldn't fully walk around to appreciate the sculptures. Combined with its unfortunate placement, this polymorphic love diagram may be a bit too unconventional for its own good.
"CTRL group two" is at Bryan Miller Gallery, 3907 Main, now through May 19. For more information, call 713-523-2875 or visit the gallery's Web site.