Town and Gown: U of H and Rice Exhibitions

by Rachel Hooper May 6, 2012

Installation view of University of Houston's 34th School of Art Masters’ Thesis Exhibition at DiverseWorks ArtSpace

Houston’s universities are important incubators of artistic talent, with many artists in the city having taught at and/or graduated from either the University of Houston or Rice University. But the thing with incubators is that they can be a bit isolating, which is why it is refreshing to see both schools putting forth greater efforts to integrate their programs with the community at large and welcome wider audiences to view and critique their students’ work. Up through next weekend, both Spring exhibitions are worth a visit.

The University of Houston’s MFA graduates brought their final projects to DiverseWorks this year, due to UH’s Blaffer Art Museum’s ongoing renovation. The students and curator embraced the open white box of the main gallery and made an inherently diverse exhibition lively and coherent. Some standouts from the group are Emily McGrew‘s lush oil paintings and etchings and the collaborative projects of Sebastian Forray and Ted Closson, which are like their own mini-exhibitions. Forray invited other artists to paint mythological re-imaginings of scenes from his life; and Closson hosted a comic convention with thirteen comic book artists showcasing some exciting new work. Natalie LeDuc’s bricollaged contraption at the center of the exhibition also seems fun and imaginative, but it is hard to understand that it a sort-of lo-fi wooden satellite launch without any accompanying explanation.

Sewall Hall at Rice University. Photo: Paul Hester

Rice University’s student shows stayed on campus this year, but they brought two exhibitions by emerging artists into the galleries at Sewall Hall, which makes for a interesting mix of artists at different points in their careers. Emily Link’s fantastic, meticulously crafted exhibition in the EMERGEncy Room is not to be missed. The heroine of her ongoing storyline, a segment of which was shown last year at Box 13, has died, and her funeral pyre is on view surrounded by wraiths and spirits. The Rice senior exhibition is in the adjacent galleries with some impressive work by undergraduates. My favorites were Joyce Chen’s drawings of her social network and Claudia Casbarian’s photographs of convenience stores and empty sign frames. A recent transplant Candace Marie Reilly has her Houston debut in the Matchbox gallery down in the courtyard with decadent and engrossing neo-Victorian shadow boxes and tapestries. Embracing a traditional, feminine point of view, Reilly’s silhouetted self-portraits evoke an almost gothic nostalgia that is open to ones own associations. All in all, they are a really fun set of exhibitions with a lot of artists and a little something for everyone.

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