What happens to a graffiti artist when he puts down the Krylon and gives up writing? If it's the case of David “Skeez181” Flores, whom we named one of Houston's top 10 graffiti artists as recently as 2013, you know he can't just stop creating. The artist/sculptor/art teacher has been spray-painting artworks for more than 23 years and – even though he's given up the tagging and bombing – he definitely hasn't lost his edge.
Flores has long been fascinated with Aztec symbolism, embracing the colors and menace of pre-Columbian imagery, often concentrating on faces. He's been working on a series of sculptures lately – cups, jewelry and masks made of brightly colored polymer clay – and two of those pieces are on display in “Atelierista” at The Mariago Collective. It’s the teeth that are most disturbing, but in a good way; Ataque looks ready for the fight with bared gums and snaky ropes of pink, red and brown framing its war-like mask.
The premise behind “Atelierista,” curated by Lee Carrier and Dandee Warhol, is that super-creatives rarely play in just one sandbox. All 11 artists featured in the show are educators with an arts background who also are engaged in a broad spectrum of activities that either cultivate, practice or demonstrate art.
Two works by Aaron Parazette are sheer perfection in execution. Gazing up close at the letterforms of Snap and the geometric Color Key #39 reveals the cleanest, sharpest lines imaginable. He’s a coast-jumper, having been born in California and doing his undergraduate work in Tampa, but he ended up in Texas and has been on the faculty at the University of Houston since 1997, now as a professor in the School of Art.
Carrie Markello understands the imaginative mind of a child, or so it seems with Play 1 and Climbing. From the former, with the child gazing at life-size chess pieces under a color-washed sky, to the latter – a boy in a red cape looking down from his climb – make it easy to remember those early make-believe days of building forts under tables or houses in trees.
Chilean-born Yamin Cespedes – son of a master woodworker – is comfortable working in wood, metal, leather, glass and photography. For this exhibit, he has returned to his roots, offering up two sculptures of carved cedar wood. Biomechanic Leg is exactly how it sounds, only in this instance the femme robot is wearing boots with shark fin wings. (Fans of the Lunar Chronicles will instantly think of Cinder, future queen of Luna.) Huge props for his Biomechanic Scorpion, set against a black acrylic frame, with its head fortified with ninja stars and the venom-injecting barb of its tail poised to strike. He’s no stranger to H-town or the Houston Press; we covered his Ghost Town Artworks show at Dionysus Hair Salon about five years ago, and those sculptures were also awesomely creepy.
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Those who follow Patrick Renner (one of our 2015 MasterMind winners and Best Artist for 2015) and his larger-than-life sculptures made of repurposed wood know that he downsized the 180-foot Montrose Boulevard esplanade Funnel Tunnel so that it could be resurrected as an edited 155-foot version on the Poydras Street sculpture corridor in New Orleans. Some of that leftover wood will live to see another day, this time in a new (and much smaller) sculpture titled Dunce that, either by design or happy accident, now rests on its side in this exhibit (echoing the Tunnel) instead of upright as is shown in the photograph above. Renner’s other work in the show, Growth and Opportunity, has evolved since the late February opening. The sculpture began with string and various writing implements, but visitors have since added more pens and graffiti to his upright door, marking their height and scrawling the kind of stuff generally relegated to a bathroom stall.
Also on display are a conch shell-inspired wood and ceramic piece by Cavan Leerkamp (he also carved an ode to the joy of discovering a new refreshment), creative uses of paper bags in two vibrant mixed-media works by Lee Carrier, alien-inspired art by Karine Parker, two homages to the American Indian by Marjon Aucoin and a return to ’80s chic by Dandee Warhol. Anthony Suber has two mixed-media works that reference violence and inequality, but Mother Afmerika is worth the walk upstairs, with its charred wood giraffe toned neck, live ammunition embedded in it spine and a face rendered silent by a metal plate over its mouth.
There’s an artists' talk from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 12 and a closing reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, April 8. “Atelierista” continues through April 8, at The Mariago Collective, 1707 Waugh, open Fridays 1 to 5 p.m., Saturdays noon to 4 p.m., 832-997-6102, themariagocollective.com.