Arts / Museums

A Quiet, Little Art Show With Ties To an HBO Star Deserves Notice in Houston

Let the Blockbusters Wait

BY // 03.26.16

Amid the fervor generated by the upcoming Dallas Art Fair and the arrival of contemporary museum blockbusters next month for Irving Penn at the Dallas Museum of Art, Frank Stella at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Mark Flood’s “Gratest” hits coming to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, one modestly scaled Houston gallery show provides a quiet moment of contemplation and connoisseurship — and there’s still time to catch it before it closes today (March 26) at 5 pm.

“Prints and Pots” – organized and sensitively curated by Hiram Butler Gallery — presents 10 pairings of disparate objects and media, which freely romp through art history. The premise of the show pairs contemporary and modern greats and their forays into print-making with largely under-known potters, as well as several widely heralded masters of ceramic art. Just 20 works tell the story, 10 creations on paper paired with corresponding clay vessels.

The show highlights big names and their prints — Richard Serra, Martin Puryear, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Sam Francis, Carroll Dunham (father of Lena Dunham of HBO’s Girls fame), Fred Sandback and the mighty James Turrell, whom the gallery has represented for decades — with their equals in the media of stoneware and fired clay. Consequently, collectors in the field of ceramics will be delighted to discover a pot by the immortal Beatrice Wood, as well as turn-of-the-century examples from the American firm Rookwood Pottery, plus a recently crafted primordial wood-fired box by Tim Rowan, from 2014, showing the influence of ancient Chinese ceramics.

We’ll leave it for the viewer to decipher the connections between the planetary orb of Richard Serra’s dramatic, dark-side-of-the-moon Coltrane etching from 1999 and Austrian talents Gertrude and Otto Natzler’s stoneware dish from 1950 bearing an otherworldly knobby and cratered surface. Or revel in the steaks of glazed beauty from a Rockwood vessel, circa 1900, and its perfect match in a Sam Francis lithograph, pulled some 75 years later (Untitled, SF 351, 1973-1984). But if we had to pick a personal favorite, it might be Turrell’s serene woodcut Aten Reign, 2014, idyllically matched with mid-century British potter Bernard Leach’s stoneware jar bearing a honed surface marked by a mysterious semi-gloss green glaze.

“Prints and Pots” at Hiram Butler Gallery, 4520 Blossom, Houston, through Saturday, March 26, 2016.

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