The Texas Contemporary Art Fair was a pleasant experience. The Oct. 10-13 fair had a lot of strong work and looked good. There wasn’t really any jaw-droppingly bad stuff included (as opposed to the recent Houston Fine Art Fair.) It certainly wasn’t crap-free, but the worst I saw was art whose crimes were of a superficial, interior designer-pleasing nature.
I didn’t see everything, but this was probably the worst piece I saw at the whole fair. Carole Feuerman does all these irony-free casts of attractive, scantily clad women. I think you can buy them in different bathing suit colors.
I’m guessing the swim caps are because you can’t cast hair. It’s slick, Duane-Hanson-manqué art for rich people to decorate their pools. Unsurprisingly, it’s sold by a Beverly Hills gallery and produced by a 60-something artist who appears slightly less lifelike than her sculptures.
One gallerist I spoke with was pleased with the fair overall but did observe a certain sameness to everything—quality work that seemed somewhat homogenized. I could see his point but we wondered if that sameness was because of the kinds of galleries selected or because of that’s just what the art world looks like these days?
If it is, there must be a lot of stripes out there…
I actually really like stripe painting and seeing how different the same thing can be—poured, dripped, taped, matte, shiny, but seeing so much of it in one place kinda makes you wonder.
This was the fair that the Houston galleries flocked to and they made a good showing. Here’s some of what they brought:
In addition to Rob Reasoner’s stripes, McClain Galllery brought Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher‘s Bellows, 2013. Push the red button and you activate live video and accordion sounds. (Much more haunting and lovely than my description. )
Texas Gallery brought in a great piece by Susie Rosmarin. Stunning, yet optically painful!
Barbara Davis Gallery had a nice booth as well. This is another shitty iPhone photo but Jay Shin had some lovely drawings on layers of translucent vellum.
Gavin Perry’s stripes were interrupted by color-saturated pools of resin.
and Gabriel de la Mora‘s oddly elegant drawings with hair. The “ick” factor probably varies with the individual viewer…
Inman Gallery brought a whole room of Brad Tucker including these goofy-ass TV-tray-looking things. Tucker crafts objects that seem like vaguely recognizable mutations of the ordinary.
Inman also brought some quiet and small-scaled work by Yuko Murata.
David Shelton Gallery brought these paintings by Cheryl Donegan that seem to be made from fabric and Mod Podge (???). They’re pretty great with a grease-stained tablecloth vibe. You may remember Donegan from her widely publicized “milk” video in the 90s.
Margaret Meehan also had work on view, including this strangely poignant charred-looking object.
Dan Sutherland’s strangely vintage-looking abstraction…
and a nice drawing by Debra Barrera, she of the accidentally destroyed installation. (For full details see here: http://glasstire.com/2013/10/13/drive/) Sorry, the photo of the polar explorer drawing was too crappy to use.
Art Palace brought work by Charlie Morris. His neon orange ouija board planchette is an engagingly strange object. They also had a delicate-looking print by Jeffrey Dell but it was too faint to photograph well through glass.
Rice Gallery brought Gaia, the artist who created their current Houston narrative installation.
Avis Frank Gallery brought Joseph Cohen’s elaborately crafted yet seemingly haphazard painting.
Ariane Roesch brought along a huge selection of UNIT’s limited editions, multiples and publications. I had only seen things here and there and it was great to see the range of work and artists they are featuring. Kudos for the purple walls as well…
The Blaffer Art Museum had a great booth featuring BAD, Blaffer Art and Design, a collaboration with the University of Houston’s Industrial Design and Graphic Design Departments.
Whew, that’s a lot of Houston participants. And now for some of the other TX Contemporary highlights.
I was glad to see Nina Katchadourian‘s work in person at the Catherine Clark Gallery booth. She’s gotten a lot of press for her series of photos in airplane lavatories where she imitates Flemish masterworks.
This video diptych was a riot. It comes with earphones, you can hear the artist lip synching AC/DC. Katchadourian is one of the artists who seems to be having a helluva lot of fun while making good work. She’s completely willing to act like a goofball as well as risk the ire of fellow passengers for hogging the airplane bathroom to make art.
Peter Halley had some finely crafted day-glo and cellotex work at Carl Solway.
Lora Reynolds brought in a Kehinde Wiley portrait filled with finely crafted floral excess.
The Clayton Brother‘s laundromat was a big crowd pleaser, but it was also strangely evocative. The fluorescent lighting and the recorded sounds of washing machines made you feel like you’d left the art fair. It brought back memories of nocturnal loads of laundry in brightly lit, Tide-scented buildings. I had a momentary urge to sit down at the table and fold towels.
Other large-scale fair works included Sharon Engelstein’s enormous inflatable sculptures along with Ann Wood’s melting cake of a house at the fair’s entrance.
Tara Tucker‘s Bigfoot Loves Minicorn lounged against a wall in the fair.
She also had a shot of the “mosque” the army built as part of its Irwin, California training set. It looks like something from a failed Disney imagineer.
There was also some ruin porn photography on view at the Diana Lowenstein Gallery booth. It’s a genre that can be morally problematic, but riveting.
One of the best things I saw in the whole fair was Jenkins Johnson Gallery‘s solo presentation of photographs by Gordon Parks, who was also a musician, writer and the director of Shaft. He created some incredible photo essays for Life Magazine. The Jenkins Johnson booth was like a condensed museum show, packed with amazing photos and information about the work. We’ve all seen black and white images of segregation but Parks’ powerful color images make it incredibly real for those of us who didn’t live through it. These shots were taken less than 60 years ago. It’s wrenching to see parents out for a day with their children and being forced to subject their sons and daughters to the indignities of segregation. Parks’ work is one of those rare blends of great art and political activism. Go to the Gordon Parks Foundation’s website to see better images of his work.
also by Kelly Klaasmeyer
- Habsburg Splendor: Great Art and Inbreeding at the MFAH - July 24th, 2015
- Mel Chin: Rematch - March 22nd, 2015
- Buildering: Misbehaving the City - October 9th, 2014
- A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James at the Menil Collection - June 15th, 2014
- Plexiglas Makes it Possible! Francisco Sobrino at Sicardi Gallery - June 6th, 2014