The Wild One

Texas Contemporary Art Fair Charges into Town

Catherine D. Anspon
October 18, 2013

Game, Set, Collect

Texas now has three fairs: September’s globally focused Houston Fine Art Fair; April’s sleekly curated Dallas Art Fair, now headed to year six; and this month’s Texas Contemporary, which began as a brash upstart birthed by ArtMrkt’s Max Fishko and Jeffrey Wainhause in 2011. In three rapid-fire years, this lively October convergence has come out of the gate to be the fair that — dare we say — best represents the Houston art world: unruly, exuberant, bold, undeniably important, non-elitist and heavy on happenings (as the throng of 12,500 Fair-goers at the George R. Brown Convention Center last year can attest). Herein, we bring you best booths, picks (but no pans) and why we’re going.

Who’s Storming the Barracks

This year’s Texas Contemporary promulgates a heady mix betwixt and between Houston gallerists and notable out-of-towners, arriving from Dusseldorf, Tokyo, New York, L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Baltimore and even Birmingham, Alabama. Seventy-nine exhibitors meld with presentations by 25 Houston-based museum and nonprofit partners to ensure that the visual fare is diverse, stimulating and world-class.

Hometown Players

More than the other two fairs combined, Houston power players are center stage in the lineup. Fourteen hometown dealers round up offerings, including Fair founding advisors Fredericka Hunter of Texas Gallery, bringing stars of the stable including the late abstractionist Stephen Mueller, and Kerry Inman of Inman Gallery, whose booth includes new work by former Core Fellow/painter David Aylsworth. Watch for the window to Latin American provided by blue-chip Sicardi Gallery; optimistic neon rays by Jay Shinn at Barbara Davis Gallery; in McClain’s booth, Shane Tolbert who recently signed with the gallery; and the always exquisitely curated Moody Gallery, that encapsulates the best of her nearly 40 years in the biz.

Alongside these stalwarts will be newcomers such as Zoya Tommy and Avis Frank; trend spotter Art Palace; Anya Tish’s well-edited roundup, including a special video vignette in the VIP Lounge; David Shelton, whose big sale of Vincent Valdez boxer drawings at the 2011 Fair made his migration to Houston possible; and some democratic surprises from Ariana Roesch’s UNIT. Spoiler: Rice Gallery once again follows up on the success of Steve Keene in 2011 and Jane Miller in 2012, who offered multiples priced for the masses. Stay tuned for a show-stopping installation (and hopefully some affordable collecting ops) from Baltimore/Brooklyn street artist Gaia. And don’t forget to check out Devin Borden’s booth, with Houston talents of portent from Laura Lark to Geoffrey Hippenstiel, as well as Chicago and Houston dual-cities The Mission, with provocative young Latin programming.

Fifteen from (Mostly) Distant Lands

Also circle on your Fair route: Misako and Rosen, arriving from Tokyo with a nuanced stable; the legendary Hudson’s Feature Inc., which showcases the reductive canvases of Andrew Masullo; Freight + Volume, whose roster includes Houston painter Kent Dorn; and all-star Fredericks & Freiser, who we hope will bring John Wesley’s sexy droll figurations and also a Gary Panter or two. Jayne Baum of JHB Gallery, NYC, with long-standing ties to Houston presents book-related sculptures by Guy Laramee and large-format Polaroids of light bulbs and incandescent glasses of water by Amanda Means.

From closer at hand, Austin spaces Lora Reynolds and Dutton, are de rigueur for the respected eyes of Miz Reynolds and Miz Dutton. Meanwhile, Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. is a good bet for Joan Mitchell, since Ms. Weinberg enjoyed a warm and close relationship with the late Ab Ex American master. Rounding out the geography are Mixed Greens and P.P.O.W, both NYC; Rena Bransten, San Francisco and Rosamund Felsen, L.A.; and in from new Orleans, Jonathan Ferrara (ask to see Michael Pajon’s extraordinary Victoriana collages). Finally, look west — to The West Collection, Philadelphia, and Western Exhibitions, Chicago — for, respectively, cool activations of architecture and space and second-gen imagist painters.

Installations Most Fabulous, a Laundromat Spins

Once again, site-specific installations are favorited. (From year one, we fell for Andy Coolquitt’s explosion of pop-cultural detritus; and in 2012, Agnes Denes’ oil- and Rio Grande water-filled pyramids.) This time out, pay attention to the Clayton Brothers’ politically tinged laundromat (courtesy Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City); droll (literally) green furniture by Hannah Chalew that doubles as seating arrangements and planters, mounted by Jonathan Ferrara; Houston-based Troy Stanley’s Zephyr, presenting waving strips of wheaten wood, courtesy Barbara Davis; and the traffic-stopping Bigfoot Loves Minicorn by Tara Tucker, organized by Rena Bransten.

$10,000 Up for Grabs, and What Will Supplant the Saloon or Upstage Cajun Country

Much anticipation swirls around the bestowing of the Texas Contemporary Award (on Saturday, October 12, 3 pm), a hefty $10,000 prize juried by CAMH director Bill Arning and Los Angeles County Museum of Art associate curator Rita Gonzalez. (Last year’s winner was UH professor Rachel Hecker). Then there’s another component we love: Glasstire’s adroitly themed booth (on Thursday night, a watering hole). Previous incantations have ranged from a subversive old timey saloon to Cajun critters gone wild. GT founder Rainey Knudson advises us that critic/artist Bill Davenport will play a pivotal role. 

Blaffer Art Hearts Design, Auction Drama

Rounding out the action, the annual MRKTworks auction — offering editioned works culled from exhibiting galleries — benefits our art spaces Houston Center for Photography, Project Row Houses and Workshop Houston (bidding through, September 25 –October 13). And just in, watch for a confluence of art and cutting-edge design, when the Blaffer curates a pop-up starring objects from the University of Houston’s industrial design, graphic design and fine art departments. And you’ll remember this name — the
shop will be monikered BAD.   

The Essentials

Texas Contemporary Art Fair

When: Thursday, October 10

6 – 7:30 pm Preview Party benefitting Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

7:30 – 9:30 pm Opening Night Party.

Fair days: Friday – Saturday, October 11 – 12, 11 am – 7 pm; Sunday, October 13, noon – 6 pm

Where: George R. Brown Convention Center

Who: 79 international, national and Texas dealers alongside 25 nonprofit art partners

Tariff: $100 (includes Preview Party, VIP Lounge, all VIP events plus three-day Fair admission); one-day admission $20; multi-day admission $35