Houston is very much a dog town. There's a bar for dogs, for one, plus that whole Paws on Patios movement. You'll probably have a harder time thinking of friends without dogs than with. So a show devoted to art depicting man's best friend is almost a sure thing.
G Gallery put out the open call earlier this summer for artists who use dogs as subject matter in their work. And the resulting show is indeed a winner. It has a range of mediums, from paintings to photography to sculpture, with submissions by some of the Houston art scene's heavy hitters. And predictably, there's much to like and admire among the 40 some-odd works thoughtfully laid out throughout the open space of the 11th Street gallery, but not just because of the adorable subject matter.[jump]
A real standout is Suzy Gonzalez's "How Much Is That in the Window?," a surreal oil painting depicting a normal family scene -- mom, dad and little boy, who's pointing off excitedly at something out of view -- except for the fact that they have dog heads instead of human. It's like a surreal Norman Rockwell painting. You can only wonder with a bit of morbid curiosity what the dog-boy is gesturing to in the window.
Other drawings capture dogs in their element. James Ruby's "Smooch 2.0" is wonderfully all snout. Theresa Crawford's "Fixated" is a regal portrait of a contemplative shih tzu. b.moodyart's "The God Dog" is a raw, emotive portrait of a bulldog, almost primitive in its acrylic sketches. On the contrary, there's an extreme lightness in Nola Parker's "Charlie I," which depicts a dog mid-air, bounding carefree through the grass.
In photography, there's a great suite of dogs at their quirkiest. Mary Magsamen and Stephan Hillerbrand turn to the family dog for their portrait of "Cerebrus," who's lying almost luxuriously in a pile of white bread. Lee Deigaard's goofy "The Dog Who Took the Place of a Mountain" is a blurry portrait of a cross-eyed bloodhound named, perfectly, Buster, while Martha M. Thomas's "Disdain" depicts an extremely angry-looking poodle that is just raw emotion.
They're not all loving or humorous portraits of the artists' pets. Ben Tecumseh DeSoto makes it political with "Dog Realizes Death," a photograph of a frightened-looking puppy being led reluctantly by a person in rubber rain boots. The text accompanying the photo tells us that the dog is about to die by lethal injection. It's the most heartbreaking and serious submission in this diverse show -- it's even literally placed next to an appropriately smutty photograph of two dogs humping -- but that's the gift of the open call.
"Dog Park" at G Gallery, 301 E. 11th St., runs now through September 30. For more information, call 713-869-4770 or visit www.ggalleryhouston.com.