Snoop Around City Hall for a Houston Art History Lesson

Randy Tibbits thinks we should all know a bit more about the rich history of Houston’s art scene. Those who read his Houston Press article, “MFAH and the Menil Are Depriving Us of Local Art,” last April may have also read Devon Britt-Darby’s snappy response in Arts+Culture Texas called “Great and/or Mediocre Houston and/or Texas Art of the Past and/or Present in Houston Museums Now!” Now, there’s a chance to get in on the argument with an exhibition called Houston Founders at City Hall.

Dorothy Hood, Crossing the Great River, c. 1972

Dorothy Hood, Crossing the Great River, c. 1972

The Mayor’s Office, in conjunction with William Reaves Fine Art, has organized the show of Houston painters from the 1920s through the 1970s (also serving as co-curators were TSU’s Dr. Alvia Wardlaw and the Houston Public Library’s curator Danielle Burns). There’s tons of work by folks like David Adickes, John Biggers, Dorothy Hood, Richard Stout, and Dick Wray. The exhibition runs through October 1 but, since it is installed throughout City Hall’s working spaces, viewing is by appointment only, except during the few scheduled talk and tours.

Tibbits himself will be giving the next talk, called “Houston Artists of the Early Twentieth Century,” this Friday evening at 5pm. For more information on the exhibition and the scheduled events, go here.

Dallas Arts District Continues to Expand with Restaurants, a Grant Foundation and Public Sculpture

01hallaerialThe five-acre area behind the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District is being developed by Craig Hall, a DFW-based developer who is married to Kathryn Hall, the former U.S. ambassador to Austria.

The two-phase project, called Hall Arts, will be a mixed-use site on two city blocks with two restaurants (including Dallas super-chef Stephen Pyles’ new place) and another yet-unnamed restaurant, as well as various public sculpture projects by yet-to-be-determined Texas and international artists. The first phase is scheduled to open sometime in 2015.

According to the Dallas Morning News, “Because the Halls own wineries in California under the rubric of Hall Wines, they cannot legally own a building in Texas that contains a restaurant that sells alcohol. So, they have given up being the landlord of Pyles’ restaurant and the other one to the nonprofit Communities Foundation of Texas.”

The foundation will take money collected from rent on the restaurants and package and give out grants to Dallas art organizations. The Halls will oversee the initiative and say that all kinds of art-based non-profits, large and small, will be considered.

This isn’t the Halls first time to promote art publicly. Craig Hall already owns the Texas Sculpture Garden at his Hall Office Park in Frisco. It’s open to the public and features 165 works by local and international artists including Frances Bagley and James Surls.

(photo: Dallas Morning News)

The Masters of the Representational Art Universe to Converge on Midtown Houston Tonight!

By the power of the grayscale...I Have the Power!!!"

By the power of the grayscale…I have the Power!!!

Abstract painters and conceptual artists: beware! The Masters of Representational Art (yes, that’s the name of the group) have been meeting up once a month to eat pizza and strategize their takeover of the art universe. Or, as founder Elizabeth Cencini innocently explains to Your Houston News, “I feel there are already strong art circles within Houston in abstract, expressionism, conceptual art and performance art. However, as a representational artist who is traditionally trained, I find it hard to meet like-minded artists who want to continue the traditions of the old masters.”

It’s time to choose sides. Artists who wish to join forces with the Masters can meet them tonight at Piola Houston Italian Restaurant (3201 Louisiana Street) at 7:30pm.

European Censorship: Google’s Missing Links

Censorship! AAAAAAA!

Censorship! AAAAAAA!

Google has begun removing links to websites in Europe, complying with a May European Court of Justice ruling that individuals have the “right to be forgotten” and may request the removal of embarrassing, irrelvant or outdated search results they don’t like. According to the company, it has gotten 70,000 such requests since it put a form online May 30, among them a link to a Guardian (UK) story about battling Post-it art by French office workers. The links remain visible on Google’s US website.

Pushback from the British press has been fierce and immediate. British MailOnline publisher Martin Clarke said, “These examples show what a nonsense the right to be forgotten is. It is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like. MailOnline intends to regularly publish lists of articles deleted from Google’s European search results so people can keep track of what has been deleted.”

Funnel Tunnel’s a Keeper, Says City; Painting Party Planned

funnel tennel 2Art League Houston has announced that the City of Houston has authorized an ordinance that will allow Patrick Renner‘s Funnel Tunnel to remain on the median of Montrose Blvd. through January 2015. Dedicated on August 10, 2013, the piece was originally approved by the city for a three month run, with the option for two three-month extensions.

But the 180-foot long trumpet woven from reclaimed lumber has proved as durable as it is popular. It was recognized as one of the year’s best pieces of public art at the 2014 Americans for the Arts conference, and has gathered several other awards, featured in hundreds of articles and uncounted thousands of photographs, prompting the city to keep it longer.

Some of the piece’s woven wooden slats need spiffing up, though,  so the Art League is holding a Funnel Tunnel painting party on Saturday July 12 from 10am- 3pm in the back garden of the ALH residency house at 1003 Bomar St., Houston. All the painting supplies will be provided; just bring is yourself, your creativity and some old clothes. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
funnel tunnel
This will be the second painting party for the piece; volunteers helped paint it during its original installation last July.

Early Announcement from the Texas Art Fair: Who We Know is on Board for 2014 So Far

fredfraisThe Texas Contemporary Art Fair has announced some of its growing exhibitor list for 2014, which will be in its fourth season this September at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center.

This art fair features mainly Texas galleries with a smattering of national galleries (and of course there’s plenty of programming around the fair iteself).

So far there aren’t a lot of surprises, which is not a bad thing.

Among Houston spaces that are reupping: Art Palace, David Shelton, Moody, and Inman. No word on fantastic non-profit Rice Gallery?

William Campbell makes the trip down from Fort Worth, and The Public Trust from Dallas.

Austin’s Dutton is on the list but no word yet from Lora Reynolds, who attended last year.

From the two coasts so far: Rosamund Felsen from LA and Fredericks & Freiser from New York. No word yet on return visits from Mark Moore (LA) or Freight + Volume or DCKT out of NY. But it’s early days.

(photo: John Wesley, Woman # 4, via Fredericks & Freiser and Texas Contemporary Art Fair)

Overnight painting heist foiled in Houston UPDATE!

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 8.50.53 AMOvernight in Houston security guards at Chase Tower downtown stopped some well-dressed thieves from stealing a painting hanging in one of the common areas of the building.

The men dressed in business casual talked their way past guards by claiming they worked in the building, but once they were in they nabbed a large painting (it looks to be a beach landscape).

The guards spotted the men on a security camera, gave chase, and they ultimately dropped the painting outside. They were caught and detained by HPD officers who were in the area; the men will be charged with felony theft. The painting was recovered.


The painting, which hung outside the Alonti Cafe in the underground tunnel system, was commissioned in the 1990′s from artist Joan Steinman. Harwood Taylor of Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, which represents Steinman’s work in Houston, said the piece was worth $18,000-$20,000.  KPRC reported that  the two alleged thieves, Juan Noriega, 25, and Austin Brown, 24, appeared in front of a Houston judge on July 3 and were charged with theft. Brown’s attorney claimed his client didn’t intend to steal the painting—it was lying on the floor and he assumed it was trash!

The Late Michael Brown’s Freaky Art Collection Flies Off the Block at Webster’s Auction Palace

622x350-1If a man’s art collection is a window to his soul, then one that recently hit the auction block in Houston leaves us scratching our heads. It turns out that Houston’s notorious late hand surgeon, Michael Brown, was an art collector. Here we might insert sayings like “The heart wants what it wants” or “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like” or “There’s no accounting for taste”; the hodgepodge of paintings might or might not tell us something along those lines about the man beyond his troubled criminal past.

The high-profile (through his TV commercials, anyway) Brown died last year while in a coma after a semi-botched suicide attempt. He was about to start serving jail time for assaulting a flight attendant, though that charge was just the latest in his history of abuse on past wives and other erratic behavior. After his death his houses and storage space were accessed and it turns out he owned a lot of paintings, many of which have been auctioned off as part of bankruptcy proceedings in recent weeks.

According to Houstonia Magazine, Brown’s favorite painter was “a Russian woman calling herself Anastasia the Great who specializes in customizing the interiors of luxury cars and was recently arrested for stealing items from Brown’s estate.” He had evidently packed his various homes with this kind of thing; besides the work of Anastasia, he had pieces by all kinds of questionable figures who tended toward pastiche of other kinds of work, like old Dutch still lifes, Rubens, and cityscape Impressionism. You can see some of it here. I would suggest the work was on par with Thomas Kinkade but without the gravitas. (That is a joke.)

At any rate, the collection has been sold off at Houston’s Webster’s Auction Palace, so people inexplicably did indeed buy it.

(photo: Houston Record Chronicle)

How to Make Art Out of Homeless People!

BaronetOn July 1, artist and SMU advertising professor Willie Baronet began a month-long journey, from Seattle to New York, purchasing signs from homeless people. Baronet has been collecting these signs for 21 years and, while he admits some ethical stickiness to the project, he meets and chats with the signmakers and lets them set their own prices (usually $5 to $25).

In 2009, Baronet had his first solo art exhibition at Deep Ellum’s Hal Samples Gallery. A few years later, he gave a TED talk at SMU, and was profiled in last September’s issue of D Magazine. He is writing a book and is now chronicling this month’s trip on his blog “We Are All Homeless.”

On the very first day of Baronet’s summer journey, Hyperallergic also reported on the Barcelona-based Arrels Foundation that now turns homeless people’s handwriting into typefaces. In an article entitled “Homeless Fonts Are a Feel-Good Fail,” the web journal calls Arrels out for their suspiciously warm and fuzzy video campaign and their vague explanation of where the profits go. For the Arrels Foundation, there is no acknowledgment of the sticky ethics—corporations and advertising firms that buy typefaces from are given “a quality seal identifying the project and so demonstrating their social commitment.”


F2: Grad Student Sculpture Collapses in San Antonio Park. Bummer.

F2, before.

F2, before.

Via the San Antonio Express-News: a public art sculpture designed and built by a UTSA students has partially collapsed in its park location, either from wind, or being climbed on. It’s cordoned off by caution tape until student builders can be recalled from vacation to repair it.

The 40-foot long, 15-foot high spiky dome, titled “F2” was conceived and built by architecture grad students at the University of Texas at San Antonio as part of a class on the fundamentals of parametric design. Their teacher, Lecturer Kevin McClellan, stated that the project was completely student run with his help as the supervisor, along with architect Andrew Kudless. It was unveiled at Travis Park less than a month ago.

F2, after.

F2, after. photo: John Gonzales/San Antonio Express-News

The sculpture is meant to be the first of such projects planned for Travis Park’s “Art in the Park” program initiated by a branch of the city’s development office. (If I had not heard this news I would not have guessed the sculpture was caved in just going by the pics; its new shape could easily have been deliberate. But it really wasn’t, so there’s that.)

Houston’s Ginormous Art Comes to the Small Screen

It’s not really true that everything is bigger in Texas, but those who catch tomorrow night’s Arts InSight on Houston Public Media (TV 8) will be left with the impression that Houston artists believe it.

The show’s host Ernie Manouse will interview Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau, creator of the recently unveiled Midtown artwork billed as the “biggest mural in Houston.” The episode will also feature artist David Adickes talking about his big ol’ presidents heads. Boileau will discuss the importance of public art; Adickes will talk about Andrew Jackson’s pretty hair.

Arts InSight will air on Thursday, July 3, at 7 pm.

Houston Public Media crew on site at Houston's largest mural. Image via Right: David Adickes' presidents.

Houston Public Media crew on site at Houston’s largest mural. Image via Right: David Adickes’ presidents.

“We had that ‘neatnik’ gene in common.”

mike-smith-2Late last week MOCAtv, a web channel devoted to the goings on at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, posted a short but excellent video featuring artist Michael Smith telling his story about his friendship and various collaborations with the late great Mike Kelley. It also features some rare photos, footage, and audio.

The video compliments MOCA’s ongoing Mike Kelley retrospective, and in it Smith recalls first meeting Kelley in 1975 in Ann Arbor, and their occasional collaborations before delving into a project they undertook together in a few years ago, titled “A Voyage of Growth and Discovery”, featuring Smith as his alter ego Baby Ikki. For this, Kelly suggested they take the character to Burning Man and record him wandering the festival and interacting with people for days. Kelley loved the result and together they produced a multi-channel video and sculpture installation (Austin’s Andy Coolquitt was involved as well) around the footage; it was exhibited at the SculptureCenter in New York in 2009.

In the MOCAtv video, Smith is remarkably respectful and honest about Kelley, without getting overly wistful (I really like hearing good artists talk about other good artists), though it’s hard not to find in his recollection of Kelley how much the art world is still reeling from his suicide.

Highly recommended viewing.

(photo: LA MOCA)

Potato Salad for All! Fredericksburg Mayor Proclaims Charles Beckendorf Day

Charles Beckendorf, Texas Spring

Charles Beckendorf, Texas Spring

On June 17, Fredericksburg Mayor Linda Langerhans proclaimed an annual “Charles Beckendorf Day” in honor of the renowned wildlife artist who helped put that Hill Country town on the map.

The reception, organized by marketing consultants Sales by 5 for Beckendorf”s gallery, was well attended by friends and family, but was only a shadow of  of past public-relations glory. Guests recalled annual citywide cookouts behind Beckendorf’s 16,000 square foot gallery (a former purse factory) on highway 290 where the artist and his wife served steaks and potato salad to 3000 townspeople.  One eulogist (Beckendorf died in 1996) claimed it was “the largest one-artist gallery in the world.” In 1979, Beckendorf published his book Images of Texas in Fredericksburg, having pre-sold 10,000 signed an numbered copies.

Beckendorf grew up in Mathis, Texas, attended the University of Corpus Christi and Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos (now Texas State University) before finally getting a degree in Fine Arts from UT Austin. He worked as an illustrator in Houston in the early 60′s.  Beckendorf brought his family to Fredericksburg in 1965, and opened his first gallery on April 1, 1971, saying, “Any fool artist who opens a gallery in Fredericksburg, TX, should open on April fool’s day.”

beckendorf cake

Van Gogh-go-go with the Bass Collection

vangoghstreetIf you want to see how the one of the great art collecting families of Texas used to roll, mark next spring on your calendar. On Friday the Kimbell Art Museum announced a major loan and exhibition of 37 incredible works belonging to the first royal family of Fort Worth, the Basses. “The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass” opening in March 2015 will feature painting and sculpture by the kinds of artists most people will only ever see in museum collections, yet Nancy and Perry got to eat breakfast with these things in their own house(s): Van Gogh, Pissarro, Renoir, Monet, Miró, Léger, Vuillard, Bonnard, Rothko, Chagall, Matisse, and that slouch Picasso.

The intensely private family of course spearheaded the entire redevelopment of downtown Fort Worth with great success. Despite being known internationally as great art collectors and more than partly responsible for the fine art reputation of Fort Worth and its museum culture, this collection has never before been shown publicly. The couple’s adult children have arranged the loan. The value of the collection must be staggering.

(photo: Van Gogh’s “Street in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer,” collection of Nancy Lee and Perry Bass)

Who needs Etsy? Facebook’s the new Salon!

print sampler2In celebration of his upcoming bricks-and mortar art show at Andy Howell’s The Shape of Things Art Gallery and Shop in Houston (wedged into a strip center on Westheimer between ex-Radio Shack and Erotic Cabaret) local “creative Spirit, formerly known as Visual Artist” Dune-Micheli Patten is offering three prints for sale directly through PayPal. Patten created a Facebook event with the title “Fun Happy Little Happening” to publicize the sale, where he asks viewers to look at these photos posted in the event’s comments section, then click through a link straight to a PayPal page to buy them from now until tomorrow night at 11pm.

With more sites hoping to sell art online than there are suckers to buy it, Facebook is growing as a last-ditch populist outlet. Unlike gallery sites like Saatchi, dedicated shopping sites like Etsy, or even wild-and-wooly eBay, which all charge at least a nominal commission, artists like Patten and Natasha Wescoat are, with startling simplicity, using Facebook itself as a gallery. This primer by Charly Mercer tells how to step on the internet rainbow and find your own pot of gold.

Houston artists are good at this public art thing

North-Texas-Sunrise-by-Dixie-Friend-Gay-at-Dallas-Love-Field-Airport_123353Giant art commissions by two Houston-based artists have been selected as among the top public arts projects in the U.S. by the Public Art Network Year in Review. Patrick Renner and Dixie Friend Gay created the works cited in the annual survey, which was founded by the national advocacy non-profit Americans For the Arts and its Public Art Network branch. 37 pieces were chosen in all; the jury for the selection is made up of national artists who specialize in public art commissions.

Patrick Renner’s “Funnel Tunnel” installed along Montrose Boulevard in Houston is a 180-foot long painted reclaimed-wood and steel sculpture commissioned by Art League Houston. Dixie Friend Gay’s “North Texas Sunrise” is a 63-foot long mosaic mural (pictured) in the lobby at Love Field Airport in Dallas, commissioned by Love Field as part of its public arts program. Congratulations to both artists.

(photo: Nathan Cox/CultureMap Dallas)

Tesla Project’s magnetic field hits Austin July 5

Tesla_circa_1890On July 5 East-Austin artist space Canopy and Art.Science.Gallery will host The Tesla Project, an all-day celebration of the genius of Nikola Tesla, the popular scientist/inventor/über-geek. The free extravaganza is open to all ages. Proceeds benefit Girlstart!, a STEM education program for girls.

The day’s events, all linked to Tesla’s interests and history, include robots, t-shirt screen printing, a dove release (Tesla was into pigeons), a costume contest, film screenings, live theremin music, plus food trucks and more. I admit it does sound like a lot of fun. The complete schedule is here.



The Tesla Project: Saturday, July 5, 2014 from 2-10pm at Canopy
916 Springdale Rd. Austin, TX 78702 Free!

(photo: Tesla, aged 34, 1890, by Napoleon Sarony)

Lovely Rita, tow my heart away.

IMG_2419If you’re an artist with a couple of extra hours on your hands today, you might just make the deadline: The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs has put out a call for entries for artists to come up with ways to spruce up the city’s parking meters, called “One Meter at a Time: A Temporary Public Art Project.”

The Office of Cultural Affairs (paired with the police department) will select three artists for the project; the meter art will stay put somewhere between six months and a year. There is an honorarium.

The OCA states: “Using existing parking meters in three locations identified throughout Dallas, selected artists will be commissioned for ‘creative interventions’ such as decorative paint, removable graphics, or wrapping projects (i.e., yarn bombing or vinyl wraps) to enhance the exterior of parking meters.”

Not surprisingly, the locations are downtown, Deep Ellum, and Oak Cliff. We wonder if the Dallas OCA was inspired by the art-on-city-hardware project going on in North Richland Hills.

So chop chop! Deadline is five p.m. today. Entry requirements and guidelines can be found here.

(photo: Virgina Jones, a meter in Alabama)

San Antonio history on repeat

san_antonio_saga_bc_04Via the San Antonio Express-News: Debuting tonight at 9 p.m. “a 24-minute video collage of images set to music” called The Saga will be projected onto the face of the San Fernando Cathedral. This kicks off what is scheduled to be a ten-year run of the installation, created by a French artist named Xavier de Richemont. Weather permitting, it will start up again at 9 p.m. each Tuesday and weekend night.

The video, projected for the foot traffic at 115 Main Plaza, was commissioned by the Main Plaza Conservancy, and reportedly shows a series of photos in “a tribute to the local culture and history,” which includes historical images of San Antonio’s storied past and extends to photo portraits of current residents. According to the Express-News, Richemont has made something of a career for himself in creating these kind of installation college projections for cities worldwide. His other works, like the San Antonio iteration, take “the form of designs, photography, writing and music” and are then projected onto historic landmarks.

(photo: San Antonio Express-News)

Do you remember… (the Alamo)

622x350The Texas General Land Office announced this week that ultra-wealthy British musician Phil Collins will donate to the state of Texas his massive and massively valuable collection of artifacts from Texas Revolution. Collins has in recent years collected tens of millions of dollars worth of Alamo-related memorabilia, including hundreds of original documents handwritten by the likes of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, as well as war paraphernalia such as sword belts and shot pouches owned by legendary figures Davy Crocket and William B. Travis.

phil_collins_alamoCollins, 63, has kept most of the collection in his house in Switzerland, and it was documented in his 2012 book, “The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey.” It is considered the world’s largest private collection of artifacts from the Texas Revolution.

When the GLO took over the site of the Alamo from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 2011, the GLO project manager Kaye Tucker caught wind of Collins looking to exhibit the work somewhere. She met with him and the ball started rolling. According to Texas Monthly, “The deal is part of a larger effort by the GLO to improve Texas’s most sacred historical site.”

The collection will make up a permanent collection at the Alamo. Details about the gift, including shipping, insurance, and timeframe for the first exhibition of the artifacts have yet to be determined, but for many pieces in the collection it will mark their first return to Alamo since 1836.

(Photo: J. Michael Short/San Antonio Express-News)