Art Kaboom

Nine new spaces have sprouted in our burg in the last 12 months, from the carefully curated parlor of a classic Montrose bungalow to a wild Warholian warehouse hidden in plain site on Main Street.

Catherine D. Anspon
December 12, 2011

Redux Quartet, PLUS a Phoenix Rises

Significantly, four in our story signify successful incarnations of spaces that had previously served as other (mostly art) walls; another represents the rebirth of a museum long dormant. We begin with the most important and influential: Devin Borden Gallery, whose arrival along the Isabella Court corridor — joining Inman Gallery, Bryan Miller, Art Palace and Kinzelman Art Consulting — creates critical mass and generates heat from its historic Spanish-styled storefront that once served as the HQ for design doyenne Evelyn Wilson. After an amicable split with his former business partner, the esteemed Hiram Butler, Borden has rapidly yet astutely established a stable of mid-career Texans and national talents that figure on many collectors’ wish lists: Laura Lark, Ted Kincaid, Hilary Wilder, Matthew Sontheimer, Darryl Lauster and Charles Wiese of the mathematical worlds combined with old-master sensibilities (November 5 – January 10). Borden also represents up-and-coming Houston painter Geoff Hippenstiel, who excels at impastoed abstractions, while the gallery’s inaugural show raided art history with a jewel-box presentation of the late Texan Ben Culwell, a favorite of Walter Hopps, whose intimate paintings and drawings document first-hand World War II from U.S. Navy battleships in the Pacific. Significantly, this newcomer’s Saturday-afternoon openings have revived the entire Isabella complex.

Two others in repurposed digs are D.M. Allison and Gallery Two1Four. The former is owned and directed by artist/printmaker Dan Mitchell Allison (whose other thriving space is Heights 11th Street nexus Nau-haus Gallery). This homespun gallerist has taken over a Colquitt-Gallery Row ranch-style casa that once was a residence. In place of home furnishings, DMA hangs under-recognized Texans such as Perry House, a seminal player in the history of Houston painting. Allison’s other contribution? Publishing engaging catalogs for shows at both his spaces, thus challenging other gallerists to do the same.

Then there’s new downtown destination Gallery Two1Four, whose moniker does not, contrary to that number, reflect Dallas associations. The name is actually taken from its 214 Travis Street address. Owned by dapper Houston/New York art advisor Beau Mann and directed by creative type Hal Kuehn, Two1Four brings an idiosyncratic vibe to the hallowed walls that were once home to the now-shuttered Doug Lawing Gallery. Its opening act? An exuberant reprisal of Houston designer Kelly Gale Amen’s furniture, complete with a floor carpeted with real grass, dramatically wilting roses and palm fronds sprouting everywhere. The outrageous display did not dim the fact that KGA’s forged-metal tables and benches are fabricated at one of the oldest ironworks in America and wrought with a skill and simplicity that rival the furnishings unearthed at Pompeii (through November 30).

We’re also thankful to have two nonprofit spaces back in action. 14 Pews — Aurora Picture Show’s original Sunset Heights church-turned-microcinema revived by new owner/directress photog/filmmaker Cressandra Thibodeaux — celebrates its first birthday this season. November screenings range from We Were Here, a cinematic portrait of the AIDS crisis, to Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre’s play, From My Cold Dead Fingers. And New World Museum, Armando Palacios and Cinda Ward’s important venue for cutting-edge art from Mexico, Latin America, Spain and the U.S. Latino community, gets a new director: London-educated, art-smart Michele LaRocco, who arrives to help relaunch its global programming. On view now at New World is Venice Biennale–exhibited provocateur Pilar Albarracín, whose searing videos, curated by Spain-based Elena Sacchetti, serve up a feminist critique of Iberian culture (through December 12).    

New: Four New Progressives

We’re also mad for sculptress Sharon Engelstein’s charming, prescient space called Front, which is carved from the front room of the Montrose bungalow she shares with husband/painter Aaron Parazette and their daughter, Joy. Front, which raises the bar on artist run spaces, unveiled fortuitously with a highly collected painter: the Whitney Biennial–exhibited Californian Kim Dingle. A former classmate of Engelstein, DIngle’s series of kiddies in little white dresses provides an excuse for some extraordinarily beautiful paint handling (Saturdays through November 26).

Also emitting an avant-garde gesture is Yvonamor Palix’s by-appointment two-story gallery nook at Spring Street Studios. The globally exhibited Palix, who previously directed art operations in Paris and Mexico City, signaled her serious re-entry into the scene at this fall’s Houston Fine Art Fair. Stars of her stable? The witty photographic inventive Sandy Skoglund, who comes to town this month for a talk at the MFAH and an opening with Palix (Saturday, November 12, 3 pm); the gallerist stocks Skoglund’s ground-breaking, tongue-in-cheek food series from the 1970s, alongside local Celeste Tammariello, whose deft graphic and pop photos pair food imagery and text.

Additionally, check out Dandee Danao’s studio, the edgy War’Hous, blocks from Lawndale and once a punk-rock club. This cartooner’s crib has become the best place in town for a happening or rave (as witnessed by Hennessy Cognac’s launch last month for its hot new KAWS-designed bottle). Danao’s take on cartooning, from the Simpsons to the Smurfs, is so bad it’s good and has earned him a New York Times mention. Finally, there’s news of an art uprising at Rice. The almost underground Matchbox Gallery is now joined by Emergency Room. Last month ER debuted hometowner Seth Mittag’s latest dioramas, which manifest mayhem and an odd jolt of the fantastic, endearing and strange.


Celeste Tammariello’s She #7: She Never Said What She Really Felt, 2005, at Yvonamor Palix Fine Arts. Photo courtesy the artist.

Dandee Danao and his creations. Photo by Ryce Yanez.

Yvonamor Palix with a 1970s suite of Sandy Skoglund photographs. Photo by Ashley Wynne.

Perry House grand-opening installation, D.M. Allison Gallery. Photo courtesy D.M. Allison Gallery.

Seth Mittag’s We’re Still Here, 2011, at Emergency Room. Photo courtesy the artist.

Devin Borden with works by Laura Lark, Geoff Hippenstiel and Darryl Lauster. Photo by R.M. Briscoe.

Pilar Albarracín’s still from Musical Dancing Spanish Dolls, 2001, at New World Museum Museum.

Sharon Engelstein with a suite of Kim Dingle oils on vellum at Front.

14 Pews’ Cressandra Thibodeaux. Photo by Mitchell Alexandre.