From left: Curator/artist Robert Hodge, artist Preston Gaines, and producer India Lovejoy hang out on bold chairs near a tropical environment made by Gaines. (Photo by Catherine D. Anspon)
"Collect It For the Culture III" was a high point of the Houston art world this spring. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Dynamic duo, Robert Hodge and India Lovejoy have the recipe down on how to throw a successful art show. The pair poses under Tim Glover's "Listening to Nature," 1995. (Photo by Emile C. Browne)
Colby Deal used this longtime First Ward resident and preserver of culture and history as his muse. Shown: Deal's "Cleola Williams: Lady of First Ward," 2020. (Photo by Nicole Electra)
India Lovejoy, founder of Black Buddha Creative Agency, the producer of "Collect It For the Culture III," pauses for just a moment to take pics for press on opening night. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Chinese-born, Houston-based painter, Gao Hang, employs fluorescent hues which he considers to be the tones of his generation. Above: Hang's "Just Freaking Dunked on my Girlfriend," 2020. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Piper Faust, public art curator, stops by to chat with India Lovejoy and see the show. (Photo by Catherine D. Anspon)
Preston Gaines, Kenyatta Day at Bison's fashion pop-up. (Photo by Catherine D. Anspon)
Empty stage before music arrives. Work by Rabéa Ballin features the hairstyles worn during the pandemic and commands attention in the background. Rabéa Ballin's "Quarantine Portraits," 2020. (Photo by James Karroum)
The words written on Gao Hang's shoes "Qiáo Dān" means Jordan. The artist's "Trademark Your Mom Trademark," 2020. (Photo by Catherine D. Anspon)
Mexico City-born, Houston-based Veronica Ibargüengoitia's inspiration comes from photographs of windows she observes from around the globe. Above: the artist's "Window #23," 2019. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Live music by Everlasting Vibes greeted guests on opening night. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Bárbara Miñarros' work had a room to itself with sculptures made of reclaimed clothing that mimicked hanging meat. Above: the artist's "Between Us," 2018. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Saida Carter, owner of Era Vintage, models one of her outfits straight off the rack in her boutique space at "Collect It For the Culture III," which transformed a former Forever 21 store into an outpost of the avant-garde. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
A view from "Collect It For the Culture III" highlights pops of color that framed the art and made for a lively scene. (Photo by James Karroum)
Crayons and paintbrushes on a colorful grid hide a more serious topic of race. Israel McCloud's "Some of My Best Friends Are Colored," 1994. (Photo by James Karroum)
Dallas artist Alicia Eggert's intention is to prompt viewers to think about the way the world is (reality), but also about the way the world could be (possibility). Shown: the artist's "All That is Possible is Real," 2016-2017. (Photo by James Karroum)
India Lovejoy, founder of Black Buddha Creative Agency and promoter for "Collect It For the Culture III." (Photo by James Karroum)
Patrick Medrano's "Both End of the Candle," 2020. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Haitian-born artist, Mathieu Jean Baptiste's was one of the most Instagrammed works of the show. The artist's "Saccharine pt2," 2020. (Photo by Crystal Correa)
Bartender, Clif Taylor, was a popular man all night at the opening of "Collect It For the Culture III." (Photo by Nicole Electra)
Guests were encouraged to become artwork in the framed nooks of the former Forever 21 store in downtown Houston. (Photo by Nicole Electra)
Artist Alex Ramos wears a black-and-white shirt showing his neutrality between the dark and light side. Ramos poses with "Dark Side of the Empire," 2015. (Photo by Catherine D. Anspon)
Tranquil, Renaissance beauty resonated from this piece: Johanna Booth's "Lady in Waiting," 2020. (Photo by Catherine D. Anspon)
The shell of a former Forever 21 in downtown Houston was the perfect place for a different kind of shopping this spring. Midway’s sleek two-story building at GreenStreet made for a modern, bright, spacious exhibit filled with turns, hidden spaces and rooms that allowed plenty of social distancing to accommodate its visitors. India Lovejoy, producer and event manager, and Robert Hodge, artist and curator, proved that the third time was the charm by presenting another successful “Collect It For the Culture” show.
This powerful duo doesn’t need to rely on luck however, because their hard work, experience and taste was more than enough to bring in interested artists and collectors in spite of the pandemic.
“Collect It For the Culture III” was also, quite possibly the highlight of the spring in the Houston art world. The only regret that came with this exhibition is that this ambitious show closed too early for the art-going audience and the collector crowd to fully take it in.
On opening night, guests were welcomed by thumping, hype beats played by the band Everlasting Vibes. The band came dressed in white painter’s disposable coverall suits. Drinks, served by Clif Taylor, were freely flowing. Once inside, I felt overwhelmed by so many things to see. I wasn’t sure where to start or where to go first.
Even though the plan was to showcase approximately 30 artists, once installation started and things fell in place, dream team Lovejoy and Hodge saw that they could accommodate a total of 43 Texas based artists in order to fill the space nicely.
Lovejoy’s event management degree knowledge was definitely put to well use. She mentioned that her job as a producer was much more than just getting the word out. Although pulled in every direction during the VIP opening, the stylish Lovejoy remained gracious, welcoming visitors and press alike, and setting up photos. As invitees left, they gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up and kind words over the show.
“I’m so honored to present these artists and work next to Robert and our partners,” Lovejoy tells PaperCity. “The amount of love and support that has poured in has truly been overwhelming, I love this city.”
Hodge and Lovejoy have known each other since 2015 and met while working for Project Row Houses, a community platform that spans five blocks of Houston’s historic Third Ward made to house art programs and enriching neighborhood activities. After working on Collect It For the Culture for four years now, this being their third show, they continuously challenge themselves and often meet up to discuss how to improve the series and add new concepts and ideas even before they have a venue.
The atmosphere felt welcoming and like I walked into the middle of a chic, modern party. QR codes were available next to each piece to have information on pricing at your fingertips. They managed to make the process of purchasing art less daunting and more approachable — especially for a younger generation.
Curator Robert Hodge, who is known as a community builder was able to make the installation look seamless and made good use out of the space. That was no easy task considering that the cavernous space needed to transform into a 23,000 square-foot gallery. Artists varied in mediums including sculpture, photography, painting, film and installation.
It was Hodge’s goal to help established artists as well as rising talents by giving them support and recognition here in their own hometown before they seek it elsewhere. Diversity was also emphasized and embraced.
Lovejoy attributes the success of “Collect It For the Culture III” to “mindful curation that happens from the beginning to the end between myself and Robert. We like to consider how the art will impact the audience. We used intention to create a well rounded show with a focus on representation and diversity.”
The invitees looked like art themselves with vibrant, unique ensembles. Art revelers were encouraged to be on display in empty framed nooks leftover from the Forever 21 store’s fixtures made for Instagrammable moments. Something truly different was having a repurposed vintage fashion boutique at the event.
Giving off fashionable vibes, Era Vintage’s Saida Carter excitedly greeted customers in her two-piece, hot pink outfit paired with knee-high white Western boots to finish off the look. As the owner, model and style expert for Era Vintage, she sews vintage apparel and breathes new life into them by making them modern.
The prices were also very affordable, which is another reason why her store was so busy. (This writer scored a vintage leather backpack for $30.)
Collaboration was an absolute must with this exhibition being the largest yet in the “Collect It For the Culture” series. Hodge tapped four Houston galleries: Hiram Butler Gallery, Nicole Longnecker Gallery, Anya Tish Gallery and Inman Gallery, exhibiting artists that these respected dealers represented.
I was excited to see artists such as Gao Hang and Veronica Ibarguengoitia, both of whom I recognized from my recent internship at Anya Tish Gallery.
Among my personal favorites was also work by Bárbara Miñarro. Her sculptures were made with reclaimed clothing that was stuffed with soft material and tied with yarn. It hung from the ceiling like meat on a hook while other works draped from walls to floor. Lovejoy and I agreed that we were both fighting the urge to recline on the sculpture.
Joining Lovejoy and Hodge in organizing this inventive production were The Heist Agency, GreenStreet and Rukaz Kultura.
All in all, “Collect It For the Culture III” signaled an exhibition that represented a high-water mark in Houston’s spring art season. In many ways, this diverse presentation in a decommissioned big-box retailer equaled in energy and talent such signature presentations as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s “Fresh Paint: The Houston School,” from back in the day.
PaperCity arts guru Catherine D. Anspon contributed to this report.