THE FENCE started a few years ago, beginning with a juried outdoor display of images from 36 photographers, arranged in a row along the heavily trafficked Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2012. Entering new cities each year, THE FENCE expanded to Boston in 2013, Atlanta in 2014 and now has been installed along the 3500-3700 blocks of Main for “THE FENCE Houston.”
The images are arranged by categories – creatures, home, people, play, streets – as well as a new category, nature. While in most cities the images have been printed in a very long horizontal row onto a white vinyl mesh banner, the display in Houston is a bit different, owing to the parameters of the installation site. For our exhibit, photographs by 40 artists are arranged in a double row along a 500-foot banner that begins on one side of the street and finishes on the other side. It can be viewed by pedestrians in the trendy Mid Main district outside of or within a construction walkway, as well as by motorists on the street or passengers on the METRORail line. The exhibit is a partnership between two Houston entities – the Houston Center for Photography and Mid Main – as well as the originating organizer, Photoville (NYC).
The competition is stiff – with photographers from all over the world vying for the coveted spots, and a jury of more than 40 photography professionals selecting the final entries. Two artists have been accepted over multiple years – Claire Rosen (creatures) and Gregg Segal (streets).
There is much to contemplate about Rosen’s work, mostly along the line of “how exactly does she do that?” Her images depict animals at a banquet in a composition inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Pierre Subleyras’s The Feast in the House of Simon. Everything is arranged – down to the species-specific meal on the long table to the animals posing for the camera – and, amazingly enough, the vignettes are not the work of Photoshop. She somehow, in a magical Doctor Dolittle-animal whisperer sort of way, induces elephants, honeybees, horses, birds, hedgehogs and turtles to act out these scenes arranged in the style of Dutch still life paintings of the 17th century.
Also in the creature category, monsters that walk among us are revealed through a scanning electron microscope in Marcus DeSieno’s “Parasites.”
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The concept of home is broadly interpreted, with entries including images of Swedish stay-at-home fathers, the residences of undocumented workers, those trapped by poverty in Gaza and the inhabitants of a landfill in Nicaragua.
Play, one of the strongest categories, includes Adrien Broom’s “The Color Project,” Daniella Zalcman’s scenes of British hobbyist re-enactors, Moldovan men carrying on tradition by dancing in preserved bear skins and heads (by Diana Alhindawi), Inge Hondebrink’s athletes with disabilities, and a new take on Superman by Ole Marius Joergensen.
The Mid Main district has expanded parking opportunities along these blocks, making it easy to view the exhibit and then eat, shop, rock and enjoy neighborhood cultural events.
“THE FENCE Houston” continues through March 31, along the blocks of 3500-3700 Main, fence.photoville.com/fences/2015-houston.