First off, let me just say that El Rincón Social is where it’s at. It’s my answer when people talk about the glory days of Lawndale, or how underwhelming the Joanna is. Patrick Renner is in good company at El Rincón with Matthew Sullivan, who works at Third Ward Bike Shop and makes perpetually seductive prints, and Daniel Anguilu who provides us with those momentary color blisses on buildings throughout Houston. El Rincón is also a hub for Counter Crawl, the 17-hour citywide art-music bike journey conceptualized by Alex Tu.
So the work at hand: As you enter, you walk through Marisa R. Miller’s clinical but provocative images and sculptures of prostheses. The work was interesting, painstakingly crafted and thoughtfully installed and is on view through April 17th.
Renner’s work is in the official gallery. Let me just say that I’ve never had a disappointing moment in this gallery. The work is always aesthetically compelling and often conceptually interesting to boot.
Renner’s installation is tragic and poetic. It’s an ache, a liminal burial ground and archaeologic excavation site. You see the familiar; a Jacobs ladder, a needlepoint cat and one of Shell Silverstein’s books, all sunken into the soil. Cultural touchstones that hit your own personal memory note even before you become aware that they form a wider history. The plots are so neatly carved out, the piles so precariously balanced that you feel a tender tension in this mixture of earth and found city fragments.
It evokes your fifth grade geology text books as much as the sublime moments of accidental collage you find walking through the city. The work brings together both like they are one thing, and they are kind of one thing, some kind of innocent discovery, a spark fated to extinguish.
I had this read even before learning that the work is about Renner’s relationship with his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s. The objects embedded in soil represent her moments of clarity, those touchstones of certainty, in a memory that avalanches away.
The work is materially delicious; socks between soil, old windows and compacted layers of earth. Spatially it is unexpected and asks the viewer to revolve, weave through interior and exterior. You perceive the disparate elements lying embedded in the soil; it’s up to you to construct their connection, but you also feel like you’ve stumbled upon a dreamscape from a dream that everyone has had.
Renner’s work is tender, haunted, sharp. Go see it and the rest of the good offerings at El Rincon.
Patrick Renner: Bounded Operator
El Rincón Social
March 24 – April 17, 2012
Carrie Schneider is a conceptual artist who sees artists as activators, free agents, problem solvers, tricksters, healers, liminal space dwellers and conduits for change. Her work includes collaborating in the development of labotanica, facilitating art projects for refugee youth from Burma, and launching an online library of public-generated audio walking tours around Houston.