The Houston Fine Art Fair
Deciding to go to the Houston Fine Art Fair, I was excited to see what all the galleries had to offer. This is the 2nd annual fair in Houston. I wasn’t able to attend last year, so I was eager to go this time around. Only three hours away, my friend and I hopped on the Megabus for about $10 round trip for the both of us and arrived into town. One of my employers, The Southwest School of Art is hosting a booth there, so I stumble upon a free passes as well. With 80 galleries in attendance, over 500 artists were represented, displaying a diverse amount of mediums in this huge space. Fine art fairs are interesting. You get to see so many galleries in a single space, yet they have a limited area to show in and represent themselves with one to maybe five artists. It is a fun, yet exhausting experience. Once you sort through the ‘bad’ art, there are still plenty of great artists trying to sell their work and share their ideas. I need to believe that galleries will show great art from great artists, not just be a showcase for people with connections or money. There was a combination of both, luckily, still with plenty of interesting artworks to explore. Walking into the huge arena, we find the art fair and immediately see this fantastic huge light piece by Matthew Schreiber in the front ticket area of the show. One of my favorite mediums to view is light, I love the way it works with the environment. By deciding to use untraditional materials, I feel an artist needs to use push it to react or engage with the viewer in a different way than traditional mediums, and using the environment is a good way to do this. This should be a particularly important issue for light artists. This piece is maybe five or six feet tall, the same in width, exuding a simplistic, beautiful light. There were other light artists being shown as well. The pieces by Chul Hyun Ahn were amazing. Even though they were bound to the wall, it still felt like they went on forever. The piece on the floor, again, gave the illusion of a bottomless well. The materials were listed as plywood, lights, and mirrors. That seems so uncomplicated for something that looks so complex. Another fascinating use of light was an installation by Jay Schinn. His media was listed a latex paint and light projection. It was much more luminescent in person. Cheech Marin was there in association with Thomas Paul Fine Art. He was actually just sitting at the booth, talking to who ever wanted to have a conversation. The work the gallery was promoting was Carlos DonJuan. I am familiar with his work, most recently having seen him in a graffiti group show in Austin, but originally as a grad student at UTSA when I was there. Since then, I have see his work around, always with a different names – Carlos DonJuan, Carlos Sour Grapes, Miguel DonJuan. That doesn’t really matter, but I wonder if he will ever eventually choose one name to show under or if he is differentiating between different bodies of work. If he is, it is not clear to me. I can always recognize his style before I even see the wall label. I did attend a lecture by Marin, discussing his collection of Chicano art and why it was important to him. While not having an education in art, he was always attracted to art and studied it in books at the library as a child in East LA. By the time he started to make money, he felt he was able to distinguish the good art from the bad, and not just like something. His collection took a particular focus as he started purchasing Chicano Art. Marin goes on to discuss how you can not be born Chicano, it is something you claim, a culture to connect with. This is when he directly hit the stigma attached to the word Chicano. Nobody wanted to show his collection. However, his tenacity paid off and he finally got a major corporate sponsor. His collection then did a huge fifteen city international tour. The story was very inspiring. Art is so subjective, it can be very tricky trying to negotiate unknown or experimental projects if people can’t, or won’t understand the vision. But great artists won’t back down from their ideas and the persistence can be greatly rewarded. Marin was funny and very insightful to listen to. The work of Laura Ortiz Vega catches my eye immediately. This past year my interest in street art has really peaked. I began to realize urban artists are far more visible in the public eye in everyday life than fine artists. Not to mention street art has slowly been creeping into galleries begging the question is it still street art if it’s in a gallery. But looking at the fine detail of Ortiz Vega’s work, there is no question this is fine art. While small in size, the detail of her embroidery is amazing. If I ever put together a graffiti show, I would love to work with her in the future. Always a fan of great hyperrealism, I was excited to see the work of Luciano Ventrone, represented by Hollis Taggart Galleries in New York. I was mesmerized by how this artist could accomplish turning paint into a image that looks so real, like a photograph. I have always been a fan of Richard Estes and other photorealist painters. The watermelon was so visceral, smashed up, referencing the decaying and used items of food in Dutch Realism paintings. The only sign that it is a painting is the weave of the canvas when reflected in the light. This installation by the Art Guys is great! Their art is always witty and fun. Beginning their collaboration at The University of Houston, they continue to work in Houston in many different mediums, including sculpture, performance, and installation. They also gave a great lecture at UTSA when I was a student there. With over 500 artists being shown, I could obviously go on forever. These were just a few of the highlights of this art fair for me. Much more commercial than studio tours, this was an interesting experience. Finding great artists, ideas for shows to curate, as well as new galleries to add to my list was the objective of this trip. It is my ambition to get to the Pulse Fair in New York and eventually Frieze in London. I’ve been to both locations before, so it’s not too crazy of a goal, however, the main obstacle is financial. But this is my Catch 22. I can get a full time desk job and have money for all of these trips but I would not have the freedom to actually go. I think I’m doing ok right now. Besides, I may be in New York soon enough.