Home > Article > Houston Artletter > Jason Rogenes at Finesilver

One of the most difficult things to write about is art for which I don't really have strong feelings. Writing an art blog this becomes a major issue. Here I am on my second post of the season, and I've already run across works that I normally would pass by without comment, except I've got an insatiable blog to feed. They're OK. No great shakes, but not terrible either. Nothing to get excited about. As a mere viewer, I wouldn't give these works much thought. But here's what tends to happen: because I'm on this blog-quest, I've got to spend some time thinking about work that doesn't rate it. This makes me grumpy, and I tend to take it out on the work, nitpicking at it's flaws when, in truth, the most important thing wrong is that it's just not that compelling.

Finesilver Gallery is the scene of this problem's current outbreak- reviewing their shows is often an exercise in categorizing whatever schtick the current artist is using, and proceeding with a dull comparison to similar less-than-thrilling work, as if it mattered. Such a no-win situation has occurred in this case of Jason Rogenes' L0D38T4R.

You see? This already seems like a harsh review, and I haven't even gotten to specific comments yet. Instead of nitpicking, I'm going to talk about the positive things that make this piece better than average, which it is.

Jason Rogenes' starship made from Styrofoam packing inserts is big and showy. It's a fun idea, making a futuristic spaceship from trash, and makes good use of those oddly familiar chunks of machine-formed foam. Its remarkable resemblance to Star Wars leads me to think that Lucasfilm Ltd. used packing inserts, too.

His window-wall makes use of the varying transparency of the blocks to create a futuristic church window: Fernand Leger meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. In this case, less is more. Rogenes simply displays those oddball negative spaces that surround our consumer products and lets them be themselves, like colored bottles on a beach-house windowsill.

By now, you may be under the impression I enjoyed these pieces. I did enjoy the wall, a bit, because Rogenes left well enough alone. But the rest of the installation left me cold. Rogenes hasn't done a particularly good job on his spaceship. Where is the hyperspace drive? The dilithium crystal chambers? There's no joy in the details. It's the K car of spacecraft: cut rate, boxy and uninspired. Predictably, the walls are sheathed in corrugated cardboard, the other uber-trash material.

I also felt as if I'd seen it before. I remember a photograph of a very similar piece in an art magazine, years ago. I thought it was interesting. I still remember it. I thought Mr. Rogenes' piece was just a tired rip-off, but no. Rogenes IS the guy who did that piece way back when, making the current piece at Finesilver merely a tired retread.

Here's where living in Houston puts me at a disadvantage. This is the first of Rogenes' pieces I've ever seen in person. If I lived in LA, I would have seen Rogenes' earlier work, and I would know whether this piece seems tired because Rogenes had an off day, or hurried through an installation in far-off Houston where no one important to his career would see it, or whether his pieces are all like this, and just look better in pictures.

also by Bill Davenport
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