Texas Contemporary Art Fair

[uds-billboard name=”TX”]The character of Houston was present at the recent inaugural Texas Contemporary Art Fair held October 20-23, 2011. Yes, lots of Texas money was flying around, making artists and gallerists giddy, but much of the Houston friendliness and warmth was there too. The fair invited “Cultural Partners,” namely non-profits and artist-run spaces that, would not normally be there, and many had impressive displays and booths including the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, FotoFest, DiverseWorks Art Space, Blaffer Art Museum, Rice Gallery, Women and Their Work, Fluent Collaborative, Project Row Houses, and many others. Glasstire, a Texas regional art magazine and blog, added much to the gay delight on opening night with the free tequila and a real pony usually scheduled for children’s parties. They commissioned Houston artist Bill Davenport to create a ranch-style bar, with hand painted wood grain, and painted bottles of liqueur with the names of notable arts organizations in Houston, as if they themselves were the soul soothing elixirs of our not-easily-categorized thoughts and feelings. 

At Cosmocosa (Buenos Aries), the walls fecund with images of historical photographs of meteorites, part of an ongoing project titled A Guide to Campo del Cielo, by collaborators Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg. Faivovich and Goldberg’s project reflects on the cultural significance of a specific group of meteorites, where history, governments and economic concerns ruled the distribution, and ultimately the division of the hunks of iron from the sky. Texas Gallery (Houston) boasted a new Rachel Hecker painting, a series of paintings of found paintings by Francesca Fuchs, and a mind-bending painting in the tradition of op art by Susie Rosmarin. Hecker often paints bits of poignant text she encounters, whether on a post-it or a sign at a restaurant window. At first glance many missed the mis-wording of Sorry We Closed, because of its seemingly ubiquitous design. Inman Gallery (Houston) hosted a series of quiet and observant graphite drawings by Angela Fraleigh and a brilliantly colored silkscreen by Emily Joyce. The very well chosen paintings at Bryan Miller Gallery (Houston) included an complex photo construction by John Sparagana. Exquisite Corpse Booksellers, based in Houston, had a lovely and impressive booth of their many art titles.

I was intrigued by the magnetic painting Eleven, by Allison Miller at Susan Inglett Gallery (New York), who was also displaying quite a few of Robyn O’Neil’s intricate drawings. The group of artists from DCKT Gallery (New York) was impressive, including Michael Velliquette, Brion Nuda Rosch and a striking series of inks on drafting film by Lia Halloran. In her two photographs on display at Kopeiken Gallery (Los Angeles), Germany-based Katrin Korfmann constructed public spaces through her photographs of crowds, photoshoping in many figures to create densely populated areas of human drama.

A highlight was an installation by Leo Villareal, from Gering & Lopez Gallery, entitled Firmament II, where viewers could lounge underneath an endless cascade of LED’s. The experience was mixed; one of sublime bliss, or maybe like laying in the street in a drunken state in Reno, not sure which, but I enjoyed that back and forth. Also incorporating light was Alejandro Diaz – Make Tacos Not War text-based neon was amongst the many impressive works at David Shelton Gallery of San Antonio. Catherine Clark Gallery of San Francisco represented a series of vases, which on closer inspection were flattened into photographs by Stephanie Syjuco. Raiders: International Booty, Bountiful Harvest consist of jpeg’s lifted from websites of Asian art museums. These non-vessels seem to flatten- or rather, level ideas of origin and ownership.

Why have these recent art fairs only just arrived? They fit like a glove here. Overall, I heard the terms friendly, open and elegant, from those involved and attending, to describe the Texas Contemporary. Besides the normal booth structure of art fairs, there were open areas and thoroughfares with loads of benches to rest, reflect, and/or socialize. Houston’s expansive arts community is a well-kept secret, but maybe not for long.


Images courtesy of the author.

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