Lawndale’s Latest

by Rainey Knudson March 14, 2009

Lawndale Art Center has been on something of a roll lately. Their curatorial process hasn’t changed: all shows are decided by open submission to a curatorial board, so there’s no one "vision" driving the thing. In the past, this has made for lukewarm shows sometimes, but they seem to be getting (or maybe hustling) good proposals, and good shows beget good proposals…

Last night’s show was no exception. Dennis Harper, a recent UH MFA, filled the main space with a show described thusly:

"Ritual Prototypes for the Afterlife is a sculpture
installation meant to evoke the interior of a spacious tomb… The furnishings suggest ritual preparations of an aggressive and
indulgent culture anticipating a hereafter purportedly lacking in the
activities and amenities it has grown accustomed to in life—sex,
entertainment and high-speed internet."

As a student, Harper (who is around 50, so you know he’s committed) made funny trompe l’oeil sculptures out of crummy materials like cardboard. His show at Lawndale is simiarly made from craft store junk, but at such a monumental scale that the pretense of this being an actual gold-plated car engine or a giant winged motorcycle is abandoned:

The souped-up tractor projected video and played music:

There’s also a great video of Harper-as-Tutankhamun (dressed in modern clothing and sitting on a chintz sofa), responding to interview questions about how his life, and afterlife, have turned out.

Upstairs, David Waddell & Kelly Ulcak collaboarted on an installation meant to evoke the "dazzling things that an escaped prisoner encounters in Allegory of the Cave from Plato’s Republic." This is the second Platonic reference I’ve read in an artist’s statement lately… I’m not sure if that constitutes a trend. Regardless, and call me thick, but I didn’t quite make the leap to the ideal in Waddell’s and Ulcak’s gallery:

However, despite not getting the reference without a little help, I liked these hanging gardens made from plastic caps and other debris.





Pat March 15, 2009 - 15:16

“50, so you know he’s committed”
What a strange description of the artist on top of describing him as a student. Would you say this about the “old ladies’ who repeatedly take classes at Glassell after retiring? Are they more committed than those who study and make art before their latter years? These assumptions and vice versa do not benefit younger or older artists. I have not seen this show yet but I have seen these, or at least some of these, sculptures pictured above of Harper’s in other shows around Houston, so I know they are nice. It is definitely an improvement from the tire art recently in the same space!

Asshole March 15, 2009 - 21:03

That engine is committed to being a fuckin’ blast.

Rainey March 16, 2009 - 13:58

Touche, Pat.

To clarify: sometimes people in their 20s go to grad school because they don’t know what they want to do with themselves and going to college/grad school is the thing one does in one’s 20s (if one can afford to). People getting a master’s later in life presumably have more of a life to give up to go to school — hence more commitment, as a rule.

Asshole March 16, 2009 - 15:52

I know a woman who achieved a masters in philosophy at 65. Studied with a woman who’s mentor, a woman began writing books at 80 and wrote 4 very worthy ones.


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