Last year, the Houston art fairs were the talk of the town, and most people were dubious that two fairs would be able to survive. Well, not only did both return this year, but a third satellite project has been added– The Pan Art Fair. Organized by Robert Boyd, author of the blog The Great God Pan Is Dead and frequent presence on Glasstire comment boards, the Pan Art Fair is in suite 307 in the Embassy Suites across Discovery Green from the George R Brown Convention Center where Texas Contemporary is taking place.
The premise of Boyd’s project is simple: start small and strong in a single hotel suite. He removed the bed and much of the furniture from the space and turned the narrow sequence of rooms into jam packed displays. The maximal approach, where photographs are installed above the bathroom sink, in the mini-fridge, and inside dresser drawers, makes for a cluttered display but an impressive collection of artists. Most of the participants are artists or artist-run spaces, so the project has a distinctive Houstonian voice that is a welcome alternative to the NYC feel of Texas Contemporary.
The first room pairs photographer Emily Peacock with a display by Cardoza Fine Art featuring Chris Cascio. Peacock is showing a sampling of her past series including color photographs of her family and her black and white tribute to Diane Arbus seen in full at Lawndale Art Center during the FotoFest biennial. She is also showing new color photographs of slices of spam and bologna that are a surprising departure from her past work and unexpectedly beautiful in their simplicity.
Emily Sloan’s The Kenmore is back with a mini-fridge installation curated in collaboration with David McClain that will be filled with free stuff throughout the weekend. When I was there opening night, it had free VIP passes to the Texas Contemporary and free fridge magnets. The Kenmore is a gift that keeps on giving.
Front Gallery, ironically in the back room of the suite, has assembled an impressive group of artists and artwork including the elusive Mark Flood, Biff Bolen‘s gestural paintings on paper, Virginia Fleck‘s mandalas, and drawings by Monica Vidal. Vidal’s drawings were particularly exciting to see as they give a mythical context to the artist’s “hives” seen most recently at Box 13.
Lane Hagood also has some surreal large paintings and sculptures that weird me out in a good way. Especially this hairy foot with the veins showing through translucent skin is the definition of uncanny.
The highlight of the fair are the “micro booths” i.e. drawers filled with art. That Geoff Hippenstiel, who had a focus booth at the Houston Fine Art Fair, now has small works in a drawer is both beautifully egalitarian and speaks to the high quality of work that one can find in the smallest of places at the Pan Art Fair.
Jim Nolan also has a stand-out project in a dresser drawer. The context is perfect for Nolan’s sock sculptures, which look beautiful in the drawer. The tongue-in-cheek minimalism of stripes and dot against the red wood is funny, vulnerable, and poetic.
Another great thing about the Pan Art Fair is the prices. For those of us who may not have the budget for Texas Contemporary, Pan Art Fair offers many works under $500, including some small examples of Solomon Kane‘s visionary art for under $100. Art fairs are a unique opportunity to see a wide range of artworks in one place and directly support artists and galleries. If you see something you like, consider making it your own. Owning an artwork that is beautiful or meaningful to you is one of the best investments you can make, and in this case, it is a way to encourage Robert Boyd to keep the project going next year.