Salon style: Paul Middendorf and Olivia Abbott with Ike the feline in Middendorf's home adjoining GalleryHomeland, among Houston's most intriguing new arts venues. (Photo Marc Newsome)
GalleryHomeland finished off the year with a strong solo for Houston artist Mark Ponder, a recipient of a 2014 Tiffany Foundation Grant. The exhibition, "Divine Intervention" featured Ponder's iconic rainbow inverted-smiley character, in this canvas, "Moses," 2015.
Mark Ponder's exhibition spilled from GalleryHomeland into project space, HomeCore. Shown: Ponder with Ike (the gallery's official mascot), patrolling a pentagram, which references the artist's exploration of world religions and belief systems.
Horse Head Theatre Co.'s annual production of the one-woman play, "The Jew Who Loves Christmas," written and acted by Abby Koenig, rivaled "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for compelling meaning.
Horse Head actor Ru-Shane D Tansiel and artistic director Jacey Little got into the spirit during the theater company's Holiday Huzzah! benefit produced at the historic 6th Ward campus of MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts).
Horse Head Theatre Co. contributed another highlight with last summer's debut of "The Whale," a one-man show starring Shakespearean actor Phillip Hays. Photo Logan Sebastian Beck.
"The Whale" took play within a strange contraption designed by Houston artist Troy Stanley.
"The Whale" was staged within a specially constructed geodesic dome on the east side of downtown, adjoining historic silos owned by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
Also imaginative and out-of-the-box, Alley Theater company actor Todd Waite staged the strangely surreal and enchanting Christmas Village at Bayou Bend. Photo Collin Kelly.
Dazzling light displays and projections throughout the Diana Garden brought unexpected night life to Bayou Bend. Photo Cameron Bertuzzi.
Another one of actor/event designer Todd Waite's disarming touches was an animatronic elf deployed in an early 18th-century period room of the celebrated decorative arts museum. Photo Collin Kelly.
Carlo Zinzi's exploding hot dogs in hyperreal gardens were also standouts from the exhibition "Talent in Texas Vi: This Side of Paradise," co-presented by FotoFest and Houston Center for Photography.
Sarah Bahbah's "Sex and Takeout" 2014, at ZK Gallery, shown during the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, also offered an odd take on the hot dog.
At the Houston Fine Art Fair, luncheon meat held sway in a 1978 image by photographic pioneer Sandy Skogland, at Yvonamor Palix Fine Arts.
Pablo Cardoza (far right), one of the new gallerist power players, and his posse, install a Mark Flood show. Left to right: Artists Alika Herreshoff and Lane Hagood with Cardoza. (Photo Auliya Flory)
At his studio in the Cardoza Fine Art complex, Bret Shirley with recent crystal-encrusted canvases. Cardoza sold out Shirley's work at the 2015 Texas Contemporary Art Fair.
Day For Night served up a curated selection of esteemed musical talents — Philip Glass to New Order — matched by light-based artworks curated by Manhattan creative entity Work-Order, led by Alex Czetwertynski. Shown: Festival mastermind Omar Afra and wife, Andrea, contemplate Casey Reas / Thom Rugo's hypnotic generative sight/sound collage.
Paris-based Nonotak — a collaboration between illustrator Noemi Schipfer and musician Takami Nakamoto — transformed a industrial warehouse into a jarring, dynamic spectacle that provided a performative environment for Day For Night.
The School for Poetic Computation set up a workshop space in the Silver Street Studios, pairing code with samples from artwork greats like Bridget Riley.
Another moment from the School for Poetic Computation, which provided an intriguing DIY coding experience.
The reclamation of the Riviana Success Rice silos in the Washington Avenue Arts District — kudos to developer Jon Deal — resonated with its post-industrial agrarian ruins.
The Silos at Sawyer Yards debut as visual venue late last fall added a welcome dose of the real often missing in the contemporary art world.
Claire Cusack's "Eighth Realm," which mimics a comet's tail, was selected from among more than 100 submissions to be in the first round of installations, sprinkled throughout the 30-some silos, CAMH director Bill Arning and past Core Fellow/current UH assistant sculpture professor Jillian Conrad served as jurors.
It’s a crazy (art) world out there! In lieu of a Top 10 list, we’re reporting on eight of the most unexpected, startling, or outright weird —in a good way — stories we covered in the Houston art scene over the past year. Enjoy this glance from the rearview mirror into the white cube.
The Rise of Independent Dealers: Our most notable new power duo both boast downtown addresses. With Paul Middendorf‘s hybrid space GalleryHomeland opening a second location (the edgy HomeCore), the amped-up square footage made a perfect foil for Houston artist Mark Ponder‘s solo this past winter. The show probed religion and belief systems, and included a beautiful video that subliminally addressing the rituals surrounding death.
And waiter-turned-gallerist Pablo Cardoza began repping the inimitable Mark Flood as well as serving as the HQ for talents such as Bret Shirley, a best-seller in Cardoza Fine Art‘s booth during fall’s Texas Contemporary Art Fair. Meanwhile, Cardoza’s sale of a Flood canvas financed his participation in the Miami Project art fair, which took place during this past December’s Art Basel Miami Beach fair week. There’s never been a better time to be an indie gallerist in Houston, especially for those like Middendorf and Cardoza who’ve got “the eye.”
Won Over by Horse Head: It’s good to occasionally step outside the visual arts —and enter a parallel universe. Thrills were provided by avant-garde thespian troupe Horse Head Theatre Co., by virtue of last summer’s production of The Whale; or Moby-Dick, a one-man show spearheaded by company director Jacey Little, penned by playwright Timothy N. Evers, and starring Shakespearean actor Phillip Hays.
The world premiere in a geodesic dome designed by Houston artist Troy Stanley — improbably sited along the banks of Buffalo Bayou — marked a moment of theatrical power and enchantment. This was followed up months later by Horse Head’s annual benefit, Holiday Huzzah!, where for a modest price tag supporters egged each other on in a bad costume contest, partook of a classic cheeseball-and-cookies buffet, posed for party pics on Santa’s lap, and, above all, reveled in the poignant true tale of Abby Koenig‘s one-woman play, The Jew Who Loves Christmas.
Bayou Bend Busted Out: Then Alley cast member Todd Waite was tapped to re-imagine Bayou Bend, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston‘s venerable decorative arts museum. The results were surprising, bordering on shocking, featuring dramatic light projects across the facade of the 1920s-era John Staub-designed mansion, more light interventions in the azalea garden, and performances capped by an animatronic elf in the house museum’s historic interiors. Miss Hogg would have wildly approved.
Dueling Art Fairs and Talent in Texas: Sometimes you have to embrace the wildly ridiculous; case in point is Austin artist Carlo Zinzi, whose exploding hot dogs staged in hypereal gardens were among the highlight of the biennially curated “Talent in Texas,” co-presented by FotoFest and Houston Center for Photography. Also unique to the 2015 Houston scene was the continued role each art fair — Texas Contemporary and Houston Fine Art Fair — played in the dialogue of autumn, forging forward frissons of controversy and excitement even as HFAF announced its purchase by UK producer Clarion Events. (Stay tuned for 2016, when the fairs are a mere four days apart.)
Day For Night Indeed: Talk about spectacle — music impresario Free Press Houston and Summer Fest‘s Omar Afra curated an immersive music experience with Day For Night, which also encompassed art-world curatorial chops vis–à–vis light displays worthy of an international audience. Most impressive and captivating were Paris-based Nonotak as a headliner (the duo’s other commissions have included a project for Tate Britain‘s after-hours Late at Tate series).
Agri-Chic Rocks: One of the most successful preservation stories of the year involves the saving of the Riviana Success Rice silos — reborn as the Silos at Sawyer Yards in the Washington Avenue Arts District.
Who knew an agrarian ruin could be such a heroic art space? The silos’ coming-out party, tapping nearly 30 hometown talents to transform each stack, possessed a raw, eerie and compelling energy that rivaled many museum shows.