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The artist contemplates his next move in one of two intimate studios that are home to icon production (an ongoing series of paintings showcasing Houston’s visual community) and the Ukrainian art form of pysanky, which the artist is transforming from Easter eggs to edible gelatins thanks to an Idea Fund/Warhol Foundation Grant for “Archetapas-Gastronanza,” a collaborative art-and-culinary project with Houston toque Robert Rosenberg (aka Chef Bob).
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In studio, eggs to icons evoke Topchy’s Ukrainian heritage, which he raids for his richly layered contemporary practice. The vaulting and simple white-plaster walls suggest an Italian medieval ossuary for saints’ bones. “It’s bubbling up from the Collective Unconscious. Mystery is embraced, not explained,” he says. “Geometry is always a guiding principle.”
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Future icon subjects from the pantheon of Houston artists, curators, collectors and gallerists, including, shown in the photograph (upper left), dealer David Shelton.
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Minuscule brushes and a litany of symbols are tools in stock for pysanky painting; Topchy’s exhibited his exquisite revival of this Ukrainian tradition in a solo at the Galveston Arts Center in 2008 and internationally at the Ivan Honchar Museum, Kiev, in 2011.
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Pigments readied for a future icon or egg.
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A fleet of soft-soled shoes stands guard inside the studio.
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The artist’s icons of important Houston art-world personages were first shown in a one-night-only exhibition, “Iconic Portrait Strand,” at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Directors in September 2010. This May, Topchy continued the tradition at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons with “Incorpus Articum.” Center row, fourth from left, Walter Hopps, founding Menil director.
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The cupola-topped Chapel occupies a remote nook in the yard, adjoining the water lily-filled fish pond. It was a repurposed structure from the original TemplO complex, circa 1998-2000. (The mythic Zocalo/TemplO existed in the West End from 1989 to 2001, co-founded by Topchy with fellow creatives Rick Lowe, Dean Ruck and Jim Pirtle.)
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Our protagonist in traditional Ukrainian garb, a nod to his paternal roots.
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Topchy’s inspiring glass-and-steel space was begun in 2009, with the help of two assistants. The light-filled portal is formed from repurposed casement windows and doors gleaned from an Art Nouveau-era building in Argentina and Houston mid-century industrial structures. Entitled Crescent, it took five years to complete, and functions as the site of board meetings for Topchy’s monumental next concept, Hive.
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The artist surveys his kingdom, gazing across a pond whose water lilies rival Giverny. “We needed to work on our next place, or I didn’t want to stay in Houston,” says Topchy of the closure of TemplO.
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Topchy’s Eightness, a hypnotic pigment/wax resist on canvas from around 2010. Shown in the “Archetapas-Gastronanza” service trailer. “The table is for serving the gelatins edible corpus,” the artist notes of a future art-plus-food endeavor.
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An orb, painted the same ethereal shade as Yves Klein Blue, hovers in a tree at the front of the property, a sign that this is an artist’s abode and something big is up.
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