The New Influencers

Meet Four Who Are Changing the Game of Style in Houston

Portraits Jack Thompson. Art direction Michelle Aviña. Hair and makeup Linette Rivas.

Meet four who are changing the game of style in Houston. From steamrollin’ contemporary printmaking and dramatizing the fabled Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris to a Peruvian-born designer who’s now collaborating with Anna Sui and the poster king favored by Radiohead, we bring you a quartet of creatives you need to know.

 

Carlos Hernandez

Co-owner and co-proprietor, Burning Bones Press; graphics king; man on a (printmaking) mission 

To say Carlos Hernandez is print obsessed is an outrageous understatement. He and colleague/biz partner/master printer Patrick Masterson propel the fine art of printmaking forward from their Houston Heights HQ, Burning Bones Press.

 Hernandez’s background is rich, finely etched with the depth of the woodblock carvings that give his graphics business, Carlos Hernandez Prints, its appeal as a Mecca for branding. His dramatic sensibility with a side of edge has been tapped by Australian vintner McLaren Vale Winemakers, hometown brewer Saint Arnold, the Houston Zoo for numerous campaigns and Goode Company for its momentous 35th anniversary. Perhaps his most visible work graces the Montrose dining spots Hay Merchant (he devised the artistic scheme for the interior) and Underbelly (with printmaking colleagues Masterson and Cathie Kayser; the trio has crafted three art installations to date starring screenprints, woodcuts and copper etchings). And set to open possibly as early as July is a fantastic print-based installation for new downtown watering hole The Pastry War.

 None of this counts the hundreds of concert posters Hernandez has designed for Live Nation, House of Blues and Continental Club, for headliners from Wanda Jackson and Arcade Fire to Florence + the Machine. Most recently, he’s been named the official visual talent for the 2013 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Academia and institutions also embrace Hernandez’s 20-year printmaking expertise: He’s a guest lecturer in Rice University’s art department and holds the first-ever fellowship at the Museum of Printing History (through 2013).  

The Lubbock native/Texas Tech grad is also a proponent of taking printmaking to the streets — literally. Each year, he produces “It Came from the Bayou,” a showcase for printmakers from across America to descend upon Houston and sell their wares, capped by demonstrations including a multi-ton steamroller making prints on the street. Along with 14 other hometown printmakers, Hernandez and team recently brought the International Print Center New York’s survey “New Prints” to town as part of this summer’s PrintHouston (Art League Houston, through August 2).

About his hands-on career with ink, copper plates and woodblocks, Hernandez says, “I like the aspect of discovering visual art through the process of printmaking.” In the end, it’s all about the big reveal and the tangibles of paper on block or plate. “With each step in the process, you are gradually able to see the image come to life … There is something about the physicality and repetition of the process that I find fulfilling,” he notes. To savor or collect Hernandez’s graphics, visit carloshernandezprints.com. Catherine D. Anspon

 

Miri Wilkins

Independent documentary filmmaker; recorder of a disappearing Paris; first-time-out-of-the-gate film festival finalist

For novice filmmaker Miri Wilkins, her divorce and a move back to Houston became the catalyst for inspiration. The mother of two young boys had worked in marketing and was interwoven in the Texas art community as a collector, patron and friend to many visualists. She hit on a very personal topic after a cathartic trip in 2008 to Paris, where she was brought into a circle of brilliant Left Bank eccentrics: the Latin Quarter octogenarian owner of Hotel Esmeralda, Michele Bruel, and its fascinating idiosyncratic inhabitants, alongside the neighboring Shakespeare and Company bookstore, owned by George Whitman and later his daughter Sylvia Whitman. Both locales served as lures for the creative class of expats who flooded post-war Paris — the hotel’s proprietress and the bookseller have owned their City of Lights destinations since, respectively, the 1950s and 1964. Both hotel and bookstore rest in the shadow of Notre Dame de Paris cathedral, in the celebrated 5th Arrondissement (or Quartier Latin, as it is often known), giving rise to the film that Wilkins would make after four trips to Paris and a gestation period of more than four years: Kilomètre 0, Life in the Shadow of Notre Dame.

Kilomètre 0 invites the viewer to participate in an intimate journey of discovery,” says Wilkins, whose inaugural cinematic endeavor interweaves vignettes starring “the well-known proprietors of Shakespeare and Company and the Hotel Esmeralda, as well as other distinguished writers, poets and intellectuals that have been magnetically drawn to this small corner of Paris … Serendipitous events that led me to meet these impressive individuals and to be welcomed into their community inspired me to fulfill my dream of making a documentary film.”

Running 31 minutes and 36 seconds, the film melds its creator’s life-long passion for cinema, literature and art, and taps Houston’s talent pool to contribute to the movie’s evocative sensibility. Visual artist Seth Mittag created the droll animation sequences, which lighten the mood, while Two Star Symphony and Marcus Hughes collaborated for the pitch-perfect soundtrack.

The little film’s reception has been surprising. After applying to a dozen national and international film festivals, Wilkin’s entrée was accepted at two — a rare feat for a cinematic debut. The first named Kilomètre 0 an Official Selection for the Artisan Festival International this May in Cannes, where it was shown along with shorts from Russia, India, Australia, France, Sweden and the U.S. Come fall, it will be screened at Artisan Festival International’s Hamptons venue (September 12 – 15). A Paris showing is planned later this year at Shakespeare and Company. Closer to home, Wilkins is in talks with Aurora Picture Show to present her vision to Texas audiences.

Of her creations, the filmmaker says, “Kilomètre 0 is a realization of my life-long interest in film, literature and the arts. I lovingly dedicate this documentary to my Francophile grandmother, Minerva Alicia Gil, a poet herself and the most influential person in my life.” To follow Wilkins’ short, click to zotfilms.com. Catherine D. Anspon  

 

Ali Rapp 

Owner, protagonist, designer and creative director, Ali Rapp; collaborator with Anna Sui; fresh face of new Peru fashion movement. 

There’s a saying that you don’t get lucky; rather, you make your own luck. In the case of designer Ali Rapp, perseverance and talent guided her through the difficult transition many artists face after college. While she was still a student of photography at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the birth of her son, Alex, led her to leave school and pursue work as an independent designer. After an exhaustive trek to find a home for her work, Rapp admits she was close to giving up. But she took the advise of her mother, Peruvian designer and role model Meche Correa, and kept pushing. The first break came when Vice magazine asked her to produce 500 pieces for its store. Less than a week later, a chance encounter while browsing Anna Sui’s SoHo boutique led to what has become a 10-year collaboration with the designer and the creation of the Ali Rapp for Anna Sui line, most recently seen on the Spring 2013 catwalk.

Currently hard at work on her latest collection, Resort 2013, Ms. Rapp has created knitwear, clothing, totes,
dolls and anything else she can dream up for the Anna Sui label. The collection draws inspiration from characters created during her childhood and vibrant colors from her native Peru — whimsical, droll pieces with an almost irresistible quality.

Anna Sui herself praises her frequent collaborator: “I’ve always been attracted to Ali’s adorable, young-at-heart sensibility. Over the years, she has created for me the most charming totes, turbans, caplets, hoodies and dolls … all featuring her iconic naive cartoon character that everyone loves. It’s been a privilege and joy collaborating with her.”

Rapp is constantly on the go, designing in Houston while managing production in Lima and collaborating with Anna Sui’s team in New York. The media darling is a favorite of editors who’ve featured her designs in Lucky Magazine, Vice, Vogue Japan, Elle Girls and Teen Vogue. Rapp is excited about the fall launch of a new line of accessories bearing her name, and there’s even talk of a Texas boutique to showcase her instantly identifiable aesthetic. The collection, which includes totes, clutches and iPad cases, points to a bright future for the designer. Find her work online at alirapp.com. Steven Hempel


Jermaine Rogers

Founder, owner and creative director of Jermaine Rogers; fave of Nike and Kid Robot; unrelenting artist; poster king of America.

 Speaking with Jermaine Rogers, one gets a sense of a man at peace with himself. The self-taught talent, best known for his original artwork that has graced posters and album covers of bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to Neil Young and Radiohead, has returned to his hometown after spending much of the last 10 years living in Brooklyn. Rogers’ incredible success during his 20-plus year career has made him a sort of godfather to the next generation of street artists — a long-shot success that few would have predicted during his start in ’90s-era Houston, where he gave pen and ink to the bands that played at Numbers. Today, Rogers is a very busy man, with commissions for firms such as Nike and Vans, plus an upcoming collaboration for NYC-based Kid Robot, an exhibition at Scion Gallery in Los Angeles and a new collection for his label Dero72 on the horizon.

As an artist, he feels unbound by process, noting that art is about the expression you create. This ethos is reflective of his oeuvre, which moves from sculpture to drawing, vinyl toys, leather work and poster art,
all distinguished by a personal neo-Gothic/new Victorian aesthetic comparable to fin-de-siècle talents of another day such as Aubrey Beardsley. For Rogers, art is not a job but a way of life. It is the language he speaks, a visual language that stays true to his beliefs. He notes that there is a tendency to move away from art as we grow older; the pressures of life can supersede a career in the creative sphere, but he feels that we owe it to ourselves to remain true to what we believe in. “The day you were conceived was the day you defied incredible odds, and we owe it to ourselves to be happy” is one of Rogers’ mantras.

Rogers grew up in Houston but left the city for Seattle after seeing a U.S. Army commercial that asked: “When will you write your own story?” Upon his arrival on the Pacific Coast, he was inspired by seeing others creating and selling art for musicians and recognized a way to carve out his own career. While the road was not always a smooth or even a straight one, he continued on as he defined and challenged himself as an artist. Now back in his hometown, the king of the concert posters feels Houston has a similar energy to what he experienced in Brooklyn years ago. With his career firmly in place, Rogers is free to do what he does best: explore visions and create art. To peruse his output, tap jermainerogers.com. Steven Hempel  

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