Betsy Huete’s ‘Big Show’ Top Ten of 2021

by Betsy Huete July 26, 2021

Wes Holloway, Nicky Blue Eyes, 2021. (See #4 below.) All photos by Betsy Huete.

Ed note: As she does for each year the exhibition takes place, Houston-based artist and Glasstire contributor Betsy Huete has chosen her favorite Lawndale Big Show works for Glasstire.

I’ve missed this.

Thanks to the pandemic, we lost last year’s Big Show in Houston, but it’s back. This year’s guest curator of Lawndale Art Center’s annual, juried, open-call show was Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, and thematically, she centered the show around the pandemic, essentially making the argument that it was difficult for artists to not somehow, in their work, respond to the upended world around them. (She selected 212 artworks by 182 artists from more than 500 submissions.)

She employed innovative exhibition categories, too: Fajardo-Hill arranged the work into thematic sections like “Deferments” or “Embodiments,” allowing for an arrangement that feels more conceptually driven and less superficial than the curation we’ve seen in Big Shows past.

Note that Lawndale’s Big Show attracts emerging artists from the region. Without further ado:

Ryan Baptiste, Soon You Will See the Light of Day, 2020

10. Ryan Baptiste, Soon You Will See the Light of Day, 2020

Baptiste’s Soon You Will See the Light of Day shows a lonely walker pacing along murky stone steps. Is this person heading toward some unknown fate? We are given limited clues: the paint Baptiste has used on reclaimed wood is flaking off, abstracting parts of the painting, and most notably the protagonist’s face. It’s only a snippet of a story that Baptiste has given us, but with the deterioration of the wood and the muddy tones of the steps, that snippet feels more than ominous.

Veronica Gaona, Desapareciendo Ante Mis Propios Ojos, 2020

9. Veronica Gaona, Desapareciendo Ante Mis Propios Ojos, 2020

It was next to impossible to get a decent shot of this piece without a massive glare, so perhaps Desapareciendo Ante Mis Propios Ojos needs to be seen in person even more than the other works in this list. Regardless, the photograph is intentionally hazy, making what feels like a photograph of a sculptural assemblage feel mythical, even mystical.

Benji Stiles, Boys & Girls, 2021

8. Benji Stiles, Boys & Girls, 2021

I’m not sure what Stiles has cast here — maybe the bottom of a container? That’s mostly irrelevant, considering the end result is a highly satisfying wall installation. With mild gradations in color, it has enough playfulness to read as large pieces of candy, while also coming off as cold and detached — like something mass-produced in a factory.

Hallie Gluk, Artemesia, 2021

7. Hallie Gluk, Artemesia, 2021

So saturated, so decadent: I’m enamored with the dramatic reds in this photograph, particularly the glow of the central maraschino cherry as it pops against the hand mirror. It’s hard to ignore the tension as that maraschino cherry — plump and taut — is punctured by multiple needles.

Hong Hong, Ladle for Beasts Lapping at a Moon-Shaped Pool, 2021

6. Hong Hong, Ladle for Beasts Lapping at a Moon-Shaped Pool, 2021

Hong’s title pulls our imagination toward a super-specific image, but the piece itself feels irreverent and dislocated. And that disharmony, paired with with the work’s scale, creates an immersive, slightly claustrophobic symphony of errant marks and dark poolings. 

H. David Waddell, Organs, 2020

5. H. David Waddell, Organs, 2020

This grouping of ceramics by Waddell reads as fleshy organs. But the skin-like colors and the twisting, intestinal quality of these sculptures also lend each of these pieces a life of their own, like crawling slugs or some other grotesque creature on the go.

4. Wes Holloway, Nicky Blue Eyes, 2021

It’s hard not to be seduced by this painting, which is so bubblegum gay. But its queerness is reined in enough to feel sexy and subtle instead of maximal and kitsch [see image at top of this page]. The subject reveals a potentially vulnerable aspect of himself with his prosthetic leg, but his detached demeanor, as well as Holloway’s choice to cut part of his face out of the frame, indicates that this man wants to be gazed upon, to be objectified.

Sydney Parks, Stuck in Saran Wrap, 2019

3. Sydney Parks, Stuck in Saran Wrap, 2019

Delightfully grotesque, Parks’ Stuck in Saran Wrap is a slow meditation in being suffocated, sanitized, packaged, and constrained. From the pandemic to recent extreme abortion laws, I think most Texan women (if not most all women) can relate to this video.

Tere Garcia, Anti-Monument, 2020

2. Tere Garcia, Anti-Monument, 2020

Originally I objected to this video. My thought process at first encounter was this: the video is not the piece. The abstract photo-sensitive papers are the works.

Anti-Monument as a whole — the music making, the video in total — is excessive documentation and performance. But as I continued to watch, I noticed the tenderness with which Garcia was making music with the border fence. I think this complex tenderness and sincerity in which she’s engaging with the border fence is absolutely needed, and probably wouldn’t have come through with just the abstract works on paper. Although those pieces definitely stand on their own.

Daniela Antelo and Brenda Cruz-Wolf (Las Girls Collective), Landscapes of Feet With Material, 2019

1. Daniela Antelo and Brenda Cruz-Wolf (Las Girls Collective), Landscapes of Feet With Material, 2019

The work seems simple enough on its surface: these photographs by Antelo and Cruz-Wolf don’t attempt to confound or deceive. But these corporeal drawings are formally dynamic, lending body parts into almost mechanical contortions. With this kind of arresting performative formalism, Las Girls Collective has found its stride.

Through Aug. 14 at Lawndale Art Center, Houston

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Paul Hester August 1, 2021 - 13:08

Thank you for your good review of the Big Show.
Your selection of work and your articulate & insightful observations about the overall show and the individual pieces is just the encouragement i need to get off my computer and drive to Houston.

since i stopped teaching @ Rice in 2018 and returned to photography full-time, i have been at home in Fayetteville more, but i keep a little place in Montrose so i can sleep over for assignments and some socially distanced socializing.

although i am vaccinated, i am worried about the rising number of the Delta variant cases, so i am continuing to mask in public.

i hope you are doing well.
keep up the good work for glasstire, and put me on your mailing list when i can see some of your artwork

good wishes,

Paul Hester
[email protected]


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