At first, This Weird Place seems like a pretty small show, an easy sprint around Lawndale. It's held in the modest mezzanine of the art center, and totals 20 works by six artists who, as intended by curator Sebastian Forray, explore that weird place between abstraction and figuration. Two of them have only submitted one piece each. But even in those single pieces, there's much to take in and keep you looking.
Take, for instance, Lane Hagood's "Sartorial Advice." The fairly large painting is loaded with mini portraits of figures both recognizable -- a pregnant Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, Woody Allen, James Dean, Bob Dylan, Max Fischer from Rushmore -- and others less so. It comes off like a vanity project -- a visual spreadsheet of characters, actors and musicians that the artist likes. Either way, you could devote much time studying each little caricature and appreciating their likeness and attention to detail, even though the work itself (essentially replicas) isn't all that original.
Cody Ledvina also submits one piece to the show, but it's one that'll keep you puzzling over it for some time. Titling it "Art for Sebastian's Show at Lawndale in Houston...Let's Get Drinks After the Show," Ledvina doesn't seem to take the assignment too seriously, and his giant collage sculpture is indeed pretty silly. The wooden structure is bombarded with all manner of material -- food (a cucumber, watermelon, eggplant, apple and potato were spotted), multiple sticky notes with the words "Mom" and "Dad" on them, many representations of feet, and other items that could really only succinctly be labeled as garbage. It's a lot to take in, and is pretty polarizing stuff, as the word "garbage" can attest to.
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Other artists' work appeared to fit the mission of the show better. Lee Piechocki's small acrylic still lifes brought a hodgepodge of elements together -- a beach ball, cat, candy cane and a floor plant in one -- and splattered them with droplets or whole messy globs of paint. In the same piece, there'd be minute attention to detail, and then these careless dots or swirls of paint, like intentional accidents or imperfections. Eric Shaw delves more into abstraction with his tribal-esque works of gouache on paper. The paintings are either images of people comprised of alternating lines of bold, zigzagging yellows, reds and blues, or geometric shapes in the same color. All look like they could glow in the dark, the paint is so vibrant and on fire.
Alika Herreshoff and Anthony Record seem fully comfortable in the abstract realm. Herreshoff's minimalist acrylic works are like shiny, pretty Rothkos, employing violets and purples that in some parts look like thin layers of sand, making the paintings sparkle. Record also works in acrylic, and his muted works look like paintings whose images have glacially moved over time, scrambling a once-cohesive image into stretched, rounded lines. I'd prefer the melty, dreamlike quality of this weird place over a normal one any day.
"This Weird Place" at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, now through February 25. For more information, call 713-528-5858 or visit the center's Web site.