Arts / Museums

Your Ultimate Guide to the Houston Fine Art Fair

The Booths, the Buzz and the Beneficiary

BY // 09.04.15

YOUR GUIDE TO THE ART ACTION: The booths • The buzz • FotoFest as opening night beneficiary • Dorothy Hood Pavilion • Art League loft • The worthy honorees • Paper splendors • Houston’s Hall of Fame. Calendar these dates: September 9 through September 12, at NRG Center; tickets, gallery roster and details: houstonfineartfair.com. 

Year five of the Houston Fine Art Fair inaugurates the fall scene when it opens two days after Labor Day. The Fair once again interweaves aspects of community (bowing to our city’s visual history, leaders and nonprofits) while underscoring Houston’s internationalism and the primacy of photography here, as well as setting up an intriguing dialogue with out-of-town galleries and their stables. Also watch for a unique installation presenting three Latin American artists who probe the medium of the moment: paper.

Anna Charlotte Schmid’s Daniel I, Budapest, 2012, at FotoFest
Anna Charlotte Schmid’s Daniel I, Budapest, 2012, at FotoFest

Great excitement swirls around the Fair’s opening-night beneficiary. Wednesday, September 9, the action unveils at NRG Center, with proceeds from Black Card (first access, 6 to 7:30 pm) and VIP (7:30 to 9:30 pm admission) ticket sales going to FotoFest, the Houston-founded and headquartered nonprofit that presents programs around the world; it’s also one of the most significant forces in global historic and contemporary photography anywhere. Investigate a presentation curated especially for the Houston Fine Art Fair in the FotoFest booth — selected by FotoFest trio Wendy Watriss, Steven Evans and Jennifer Ward that will showcase some of the seminal voices in contemporary photography today.

Once again, Houston Fine Art Fair commissions Houston-based independent curator Mariana Valdes Debes to present a look to Latin America. (Valdes Debes’ installation in 2014 by Nacho Rodriguez Bach is still remembered for its haunting mix of sight and sound.) For this iteration, titled “Paper Today,” the curator’s concept is the medium of paper. Valdes Debes has tapped three Latin American artists — Alfredo Gisholt (Mexico), Maribel Portela (Mexico) and Miler Lagos (Colombia) — whose exploration in this smart, fresh media often bow to the natural world (Portela’s blooms, Lagos’ tree trunks) or circle back upon the vaunted traditions of drawing and collage (seamlessly enfolded in Gisholt’s work).

For the second year in a row, former Houston Chronicle art critic Patricia Johnson weighs in on the definitive artists who shaped Houston’s scene. Johnson’s Hall of Fame section this year recognizes painters David Aylsworth, Mark Flood (to be anointed in a CAMH solo next spring, too), Joseph Glasco (mentor to Julian Schnabel), Aaron Parazette, Gael Stack, Richard Stout and Dick Wray. Sculptors highlighted include: Havel/Ruck Projects (Dan Havel and Dean Ruck), Bill Steffy, Ed Wilson (currently working on an epic installation for the revamped convention center) and Troy Woods. A sizable booth showcases signature works by the dozen talents recognized by Johnson.

Tad Lauritzen Wright’s Pet Rocks, 2015, at Koelsch Gallery
Tad Lauritzen Wright’s Pet Rocks, 2015, at Koelsch Gallery

The pair of dealers representing Houston are Deborah Colton Gallery and Koelsch Gallery. Colton, who plays a lead role as committee chair, stocks her booth with Russian and Middle Eastern heavy-hitters, including the startling photography of Oleg Dou and video master Mahmoud Obaidi alongside internationally exhibited, locally based artists Susan Plum and Sharon Kopriva. (The under-known Plum, one of the most important artists residing in Houston, also solos at Colton Gallery during the Fair; her opening on Saturday, September 12, will serve as a Fair after-party, too. Plum’s work defies categorization but employs ritual and multiple media to mine the cosmos.) Koelsch organizes a monographic presentation for Memphis-based Tad Lauritzen Wright, fresh off the artist’s recent solo in Paris. Wright’s work evokes outsider art; his vibrant paintings, sculpture and text-based drawings buzz with energy.

The final exhibitor list is still being finalized at press time, but these national and international exhibitors have been confirmed: from across the pond, London gallerist Gladwell & Patterson, bringing the Fair’s coup d’état, Picasso’s Guitare Accrochée au Mur, a riveting cubistic canvas from 1927; Tokyo dealer Gallery Kitai, mounting dramatic showings of Sumi ink on paper works by Reiko Tsunashima and Michiyoshi Deguchi; in from Atlanta, the patrician Spalding Nix; Art Nouveau Gallery (with its handsomely honed reductive take on Latin American geometric abstraction) and Adamar Gallery (showing Sultan to Rauschenberg), both of Miami; and Callan Contemporary, a Julia Street player based in New Orleans, known for its pristine installations of abstract to figurative painting and sculpture, the heroic John Henry to the Surreal Sibylle Peretti.

Susan Plum’s Pendulum: Divining Nature — The Art of Search, 2012, at Deborah Colton Gallery
Susan Plum’s “Pendulum: Divining Nature — The Art of Search,” 2012, at Deborah Colton Gallery

Continuing its tradition of honoring Houston’s art citizenry who have shaped our community, HFAF salutes a game-changing trinity for their decades of making a difference: Michelle Barnes (Illumination Award in Arts Education), Lester Marks (Patron of the Year) and Clint Willour (Lifetime Achievement Honoree). Q&As with each recipient accompany the bestowing of the awards: Barnes, Thursday September 10, 4 to 5 pm; Willour, Saturday, September 12, noon to 1 pm; and Marks, Saturday, September 12, 1:30 to 2:30 pm. (All presentations in the HFAF Theater.)

One of the most exciting accompanying components of this year’s HFAF is its pavilion for the late, great Houston artist Dorothy Hood. Curated and conceived by the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi — the repository of the internationally exhibited painter’s estate and archive — this ode to Dorothy also previews the museum’s upcoming traveling retrospective, “The Color of Being,” curated by the brilliant Houston art historian Susie Kalil, set to open in Corpus Christi in September 2016. Hear about the Hood project, meet AMST museum director Joe Schenk and see the 1980s film (produced by Carolyn Farb, which focuses upon Texas’ greatest 20th-century painter) Saturday, September 12, 3 to 5 pm, in the Fair Theater (and learn how you can contribute).

Dorothy Hood's "Untitled," circa 1970s. Collection Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi.
Dorothy Hood’s “Untitled,” circa 1970s. Collection Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi.

Another must-see is Art League Houston’s booth, entitled The Loft, where conceptually oriented Texas talents present immersive interactive installations that double as impromptu salons. ALH has selected Gallery Homeland’s protagonist Paul Middendorf, hometown-based Mat Kubo and Randy Bolton, in from Fayetteville, for this provocative showing. Head to Middendorf’s deer-stand-inspired The Power Tower for a chat, type a missive to Kubo on a vintage ‘70s machine or check out Bolton’s “Today + Tomorrow,” which forges a new language marrying narrative and sculptural print-making.

For additional HFAF coverage, follow our art blog at papercitymag.com.

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