Critic’s Picks: Houston

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Where Does Time Begin?
2015
Katja Loher
two-channel video, 7:15 minutes looped, self contained Videosculpture with acrylic hemispheres
26″ x 42 1⁄2″ x 10″
Photo: courtesy of the artist

Swiss-born, New York-based artist Katja Loher starts with an idea, a message, and lets it “become its own creature,” taking cues from Earth’s pollinators for how to use beauty and movement to communicate the importance of ecological relationships. Loher works across disciplines, enlisting a choreographer, costume designer, dancers, musicians, and more to help create “videoportals” to a kaleidoscopic world that unfolds to reveal an ideal, and questionably attainable, synchronicity of humans and nature. Filmed from a bird’s eye view against vividly colored backdrops-or landscapes-of patterns produced by sound waves, enchanting dancers cloaked in bird and insect costumes move together to form letters, words and questions inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions. Loher houses her “miniverse” video creations in small minimal wallmounted portals and tabletop scientific beaker-like sculptures, often capped with hand-blown clear glass or acrylic hemispheres that bring to mind Petri dishes, the globe of Earth, the oculus of our eyes, and cycles of life. “Where Does Time Begin” is the fourth collaboration between Anya Tish Gallery and Loher, and dancers from her video portals will perform and interact with the gallery audience during the exhibition opening on September 11 through October 10, 2015.

Vane III
2015
Demetrius Oliver
Enamel on paper
30″ x 22″
Photo: courtesy of the artist and Inman Gallery, Houston

September marks Kerry Inman Gallery’s 25th anniversary and, with an exhibition of new works by Demetrius Oliver, the gallery shows no signs of slowing down or shying away from provocative art. For his show “Anemometer,” New York-based Oliver continues to use found imagery and everyday physical materials to explore abstract ideas and interpret phenomena, specifically positioning the artist’s studio and the gallery as a celestial or cosmic observatory. In this case the installation, inspired by a three centuries old storm on the planet Jupiter, is a collection of sculptures, photographs and drawings using prosaic materials that interact with properties of air, going so far as to obstruct several of the gallery doorways with aluminum storm shutters. Whereas previously his work could be considered an inquiry on the act of looking, this exhibition hints at the effects of atmospheres as well. Oliver studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Pennsylvania before attending the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; he is currently a visual arts lecturer at Princeton. In 2010, he presented Jupiter, an installation for New York’s High Line that celebrated the autumnal equinox and the Jupiter opposition, and was on view for an entire lunar cycle. “Anemometer” runs September 11 to October 24, 2015, at Inman Gallery.

Untitled No. 1988 from the series Endless
2015
Miguel Angel Ríos
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle cotton paper, dibond
Photo: courtesy Sicardi Gallery

Miguel Angel Rios is known for striking a poetic balance between the aesthetic and the political, most often using the remote desert landscape as a charged setting through which to explore political dislocation, altered states of consciousness and awareness, power and vulnerability. In the mid-1970s, in order to escape military dictatorship, Rios fled his home country of Argentina and relocated to New York City, eventually also living part time in Mexico City where he could safely reconnect with Latin America. Since the 2000s, Rios has used video to create symbolic narratives about such human experience, violence, and mortality- as well as the legacies of modernism. For “Endless,” his exhibition at Sicardi Gallery, Rios includes a new video titled Piedras Blancas (2014), in which the camera follows a small avalanche of uniformly shaped white balls as they quickly tear downhill through grooves in the dusty terrain. At times, some of the balls crack and crumble, or get sidetracked or stuck, while the masses end up in a large pile at the of what could be considered the end of destiny’s trajectory. “Endless” also includes a collection of related drawings and photographs and will be on view at Sicardi Gallery, September 15 through November 21, 2015.

Untitled (rotor rotator double cross)
2014
James Siena
Ink on paper
11″ x 81⁄2″
Photo: courtesy Hiram Butler Gallery

James Siena’s exhibition of typewriter drawings at Hiram Butler Gallery illustrates his use of “visual algorithms,” or self-imposed systems and restraints. Works of a similar sort and spirit come from an art historical lineage that includes groups like Oulipo and Concrete Poetry, individual artists such as Carl Andre and abstract painter Frederick Hammersley who made computer drawings in 1969. Siena’s typewriter drawings were initially inspired, in part, by typographic emails and analog “emoji” characters, his love for and collection of typewriters, and an affinity for palindrome. Each drawing is a riff on potential patterns in the arrangement of numbers, letters, and punctuation in order to create not only a visual, aesthetic effect (sometimes typing in colored ink) but also a conceptual and linguistic one-often a rift in the pattern is meant to draw attention to something else in the visual field. With a career that spills into design and theatre, as well as running a gallery on New York’s Lower East side called Sometimes (A Work of Art), it’s clear the Siena’s systems allow for a wide range of twists and turns, In his words: “I don’t make marks. I make moves.” James Siena’s typewriter drawings are on view September 5 to October 31, 2015.

Luz y Fiego / Fire and Light
2015
Susan Plum
Inkjet print
50″ x 55″
Photo: courtesy Deborah Colton Gallery

This fall, Deborah Colton Gallery presents “SOUL RETRIEVAL,” Susan Plum’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, comprised primarily of works on paper and glass sculptures. Raised in Mexico City and trained as a painter, Plum began using glass after extended travel through parts of Asia. While living in Seattle, she discovered “flame working,” which involves using a torch and the ultimate alchemical material-glass-to create sculptures that then further inspire her photographs and drawings. The exhibition’s title is based on a shamanistic understanding of soul loss, wherein souls leave the physical body, most often due to trauma or abuse, and wander in the shamanic realms. Plum believes that today the role of the shaman in society is carried out by artists, musicians, scientists, cosmologists and members of ancient spiritual traditions, explaining that the exhibition presents a “cosmic story… asking the question, or ‘divining,’ what changes we -all of Nature-are going through, these evolutionary growing pains.” That story is depicted by mysterious webs and cloud-like bodies, brightly colored symbolic shapes such as triangles and circles, delicate lines and labyrinths on the backdrop of a deep dark abyss. “SOUL RETRIEVAL” can be seen at Deborah Colton Gallery September 12 through October 31, 2015.

The Verge I
2015
The Bridge Club
Archival inkjet print
60″ x 40″
From the The Verge, live performance with The Trailer. Prospect 3+ Biennial satellite venue programming presented by Press Street, New Orleans, LA, October 2014.
Photo: The Bridge Club & Art Palace’

The Bridge Club, an art and performance group with “an anonymous collective persona,” is comprised of four women who address universal themes in timeless fashion (literally and figuratively) to play with preconceived notions of art, audience, and performance. They appeared on the Southwest art scene in 2004, took Texas by storm in 2010, and had their first solo exhibition in Houston at Art Palace in 2012, for which the performers literally placed themselves where the art typically hangs-on the walls. For “Cut,” their new exhibition at Art Palace, The Bridge Club executes a new performance amidst an exhibition of photographs of live performances over the past two years. From a low pedestal, the four women cut away fabric from one another’s garments- color coordinated with the dresses they are wearing in the photographs -to question traditional female roles in art and the subtle violence of female complicity. Though references to Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” are unavoidable, The Bridge Club uses “Cut” as another opportunity to transcend expectations about a specific time and place, outfitting themselves with clothes, wigs, props and attitudes that enhance vague historical theatrics, creating “an unsettling normative air to odd or uncomfortable situations.” On view at Art Palace from September 11 through October 24, 2015.

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Deborah Ross
Donna Tennant is a Houston-based art writer who writes reviews for various publications, including art ltd. and Visual Art Source. Other publications she has written for over the past 35 years include the Houston Chronicle, Southwest Art, Artlies, ARTnews, and the Houston Press. She has also written numerous catalogue essays. She has taught art history at University of Houston–Downtown and Lone Star College and is currently a writer and editor for the Houston Independent School District.