It was easy to get lost in the crowd of high heels and penny loafers at the Caroline Collective on Friday night; the posh crowd was more concerned with conversing and being seen than looking at the art. However, if you were one of the few people skillful enough to maneuver your way around the throng of bodies to the pieces on the surrounding walls, you could take in a motley collection of works presented by Raul Gonzalez, Nubia Gala-Seibert and Zak Vazquez, collectively known as the 2011 John Palmer Escapists. Since 2009, three artists have been handpicked annually by renowned artist John Palmer, whose works are so exclusive that one has to make an appointment just to see them, for mentorship and marketing advice, and this year, Gonzalez, Gala-Seibert and Vazquez were the chosen three.
With his gilded "Oro Series" paintings that smacked the viewer in the face so hard that he or she almost forgot there were other works in the room, it's not hard to see why Zak Vazquez made the Escapists cut. During a recent trip to Turkey, the new artist (he quit working as a medical sales representative in 2010 to pursue art full-time) and gallery first-timer wanted to recreate colors he found on the furniture he saw while there. Cue another bit of inspiration by a Berlin artist who worked with curved canvases, and a cacophony of gold leaf, acrylic and resin on bent wood was created. Guests converged around his royal "Gilded Cheetah" painting like coworkers to water cooler gossip all evening.
Painter Nubia Gala-Seibert's works may have looked much quieter next to Vazquez's conversation pieces, but the discerning eye took the time to see past the muted red, off-white and mud-brown streaks and found a community of monks praying inside of her "Connections" painting or a shy African girl peeking out from her "Windows of Opportunity" piece. But it wasn't intentional, insisted the 25-year painting veteran. "I don't think about what I'm going to do next," she said. "I want it to come from the heart."
Doe-eyed painter Raul Gonzalez relied on street scenes and cityscapes as the central theme of his "Flower Series," (one of his paintings highlighted a traffic ticket he once received) which he placed alongside a paradoxical juxtaposition of squiggly lines, geometric rectangles and, of course, flowers. Since he was seven, being an artist for Gonzalez has been a full-time job. He paints and also teaches private lessons to other aspiring artists. The Escapists exhibit will run until June 11.
After a while, it was time to exchange the hollow wooden walls of the Caroline Collective for the hallowed white walls at Wade Wilson Art, where the artgoers were a lot friendlier and a lot more interested in what was hanging than what was happening inside their plastic glasses. The Blurring Lines exhibit showcased artists who, if the title didn't make it clear, employed varied uses of lines as the thematic linchpins of their art. Lucinda Cobley was the only artist in attendance and she explained to the crowd her nature-inspired oil and pigment-on-glass paintings. The process began by looking at trees, she said, exploring the vertical lines, lights, shadows and colors, and then reinterpreting them into green, black and white-streaked finishes.
The other artists (the paintings, not the people) made a respectable showing, as well. Joan Winter's "Rise and Fall" was a whimsical stack of circles and Jill Moser's "Promenade," showed abstract mix of straitlaced orange horizontal lines placed atop a schizophrenic blur of black oil.
But it was Danielle Frankenthal's work, smoldering conspicuously in the furthest corner of the gallery that drew the most eyes. "Embers," a confusing and captivating duo of orange and black acrylic pressed onto three acrylic panels, was the darling of the night. Blurring Lines will last until July 2.
The last artist to be visited was Jim Adams, who brought the saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure," to life in his one-man exhibition, Visions, at the homey Archway Gallery. The exhibition featuring reworked metal sculptures that had lived--and died heroically, according to Adams--in the line of industry battle. A self-proclaimed "dumpster diver," Adams has cultivated "industry benefactors" in cement and truck maintenance companies all over the city who allow him to scour their trash bins for old metal plates, rotors and meat grinders.
"It's amazing how much really nice stuff you can find in what appears to be trash," Adams said.
Once he finds his trash--or treasure--of choice, he refines it, weathering the already weathered material into permanent pieces of history. The sculptures are a testament, he said, to a historic mechanical industry that built our country and that is now being outsourced.
"I have a problem that our country is selling its infrastructure," he said bluntly. Perhaps thoughtful works like "Eclipse" and "Engagement" and other pieces of petrified machinery will reinstate Adams' beloved industry. Visions will be open to the public until June 30.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.