This is the third year the Texas Contemporary Art Fair has been in Houston, but my first time attending. The art displayed here differs greatly from what is exhibited at the Fine Art Fair. It’s less traditional, more experimental, and as I would expect, pushes the boundaries further. Contemporary Art is one of my favorite types of art to experience. Sometimes I want to experience art that makes me think and is relevant to the world today. While there is beauty in more traditional ideas of art, I’m not sure all of those ideals still apply today. To be able to view art from recognized artists such as Damien Hirst, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Paik, Ann Hamilton, and Andy Warhol is always a fun experience for me. Immediately walking in, there was a huge pink sculpture looming in the entrance created by Ann Wood. A small structure with animals on the roof, everything was covered in layers of pink rubbery goo oozing down the sides. Also covered in flowers, this piece was very tactile, alternating between tacky and smooth plastic. It was pink, girly, shiny, and attractive, yet grotesque all at the same time. The animals are very skinny, showing ribs, and covered in this goo as well. When something is entirely covered, I always think of suffocation and being restricted. I have previously discussed this particular feeling regarding a sculpture by Cy Twombly and a photograph by David LaChapelle. My thoughts are also about the objects being merged together, bound by this goo like substance. The structure itself may be a shelter for hunting, but I’m not entirely sure. With no other explanation but the title, One More Reason to be Good, I am left to decipher what this piece is about. Walking further into the entrance, was another building, a laundromat covered in graffiti. A familiar place to most people, the inside is lined with brightly colored bottles of detergents that extend to the playful and colorful imagery taking over the walls, spilling out from within. This has a more welcoming environment that’s well lit, inviting the viewer to enter. The ritual of doing laundry is something the average person would experience on a regular basis, going to a laundromat to perform this cleansing. Created by the Clayton Brothers, this piece is titled Wishy Washy. I get the sense that something should be cleansed, all the components are there to do a load of dirty laundry. This idea of a structure, a familiar place, a shelter, domesticity were strong concepts presented in these two very different installations. The 1st is a sticky, layered mess, while the latter is a clean, organized location that serves a specific purpose. The 1st structure is a curious type of place, not existing prior to it’s creation while the other represents a familiar place where you would clean your clothing. The choice to juxtapose these two different structures as you enter is an interesting choice that I hoped was the beginning of an engaging display of art throughout the fair. There were many major art dealers here. The Kristy Stubbs Gallery from Dallas had an impressive roster of artists that included Damien Hirst and Robert Rauschenberg. The Hirst butterfly pieces were priced at $225,000 each. Well known artists with familiar pieces at serious prices. This is only the 2nd time I have seen his butterfly pieces in person, the other time in a small gallery in New York that represented more modest pieces by Hirst and Jeff Koons. In contrast with my 1st experience, these pieces were more intricate. One of my new favorite light artist was presented here, Chul Hyun Ahn. I had included his work when I wrote about last year’s Houston Fine Art Fair. His work appears endless, creating repetition with the use of lighting and mirrors. A new element existed that I don’t recall seeing last year, was the lighting changed through a spectrum of colors. His work is now ever changing, both in color and depth, each view point offering a slighting shifting perspective. Every time I have seen his work, people are always drawn to it, enjoying the illusion created, looking into infinity. Another great neon piece is by Tim Etchells. I have written several times about light pieces, including art I have experienced by James Turrell and Dan Flavin. I am very drawn to them and will take every opportunity to view them. The contemporary use of a message is something I am particularly interested in. Bruce Nauman is one of my favorite pioneers, smartly displaying similar words or shifting text, changing the original context. Neon has traditionally been used to give information, such as open/closed, enter, XXX, etc. Now it is often used to express a sentiment, another type of information that is now documented. With so much intriguing art, it is difficult to just discuss a few pieces. One thing that did stand out was the amount of art that sold. Many limited edition pieces sold out. Red dots seemed to be everywhere. It is always a good sign to see many pieces of art being sold. The fact that it is contemporary art also says the art market is currently playful and open minded. Art fairs are an experience. The opportunity to visit with many galleries from different locations is a rare opportunity. However, it is just a sample, as most are small spaces displaying a quick view of their most sell-able artists. My goal is to get to Art Basel (Basel Switzerland or Miami), Pulse (New York), and Frieze (London) someday. All of these fairs exclusively exhibit contemporary art. This is just one way to experience art. I recommend mixing art fairs in with studio visits, as well as regular visits to the museums of any city you are in or visit. The more art that I experience, I find I am able to have a better understanding of contemporary art, a better idea of topics being discussed, and often am introduced to new ideas I have not come across before.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from my trip. The last few months have been a whirlwind but that has now become a calm lull. For the first time in a while, my immediate projects and concerns were completed. There will always be my long-term art projects to work on, but for now, there is no immediacy, no impending due date hanging over my head. Also swirling in my head was all the new information I had to process from the trip. There was so much art, so many experiences, what do I do with it all now? Not to mention I didn’t really have much work lined up. I needed a few days before I could even begin to think, it was too much. It turned out, I needed two full weeks of decompressing to bring me back to my normal, take charge personality.
After I reconnected, I am able to see more clearly and not feel so stressed when I look. Since I don’t have a stable employer, this is all my initiative, and I get to choose what direction I head. While I am certainly capable of this and is how I normally run my career, this is also why I couldn’t necessarily jump right back in. It takes a lot of energy, organization, and networking to work with lots of artists, different galleries, and find work for myself.
The first major project I decided to focus on was Invisible Gallery. During these last two weeks, I got a not so happy call from my partner about our studio and gallery space that we were getting ready to move into – she lost the space. It was a fantastic three bedroom apartment that was the entire first floor of a two-story house in Tobin Hills. She had been living there and was ready to move on, but still loved the space for a studio and I entirely agreed. I was to have control of the large living room for a gallery space. When she originally called with the bad news, all I could really say was ok. I was stressed, broke, and in a weird, unfocused place. I wasn’t in a position to take charge at that moment. However, once the fog cleared, I realized it was completely salvageable. But I can’t dwell on that now, I have to spend my time looking for a new space, not lamenting the lost one.
But Invisible Gallery has never been a physical space to date. It has been my art representation company. Although, in the beginning, I did have a space for a few months. Taking advantage of a vacant house close to where I live, I decided to squat, not letting it go to waste. For six months I had a rent fee studio space that I shared with Linda Arredondo. Unfortunately I was not able to keep that space and I had always agreed with myself that I would willingly move out, when eviction time came.
While I have dreams of running my own gallery space, I still sell art now. I decided I needed to contact the artists I am working with and get things started there. I am primarily concerned with trying to sell work from their existing inventory, not getting a new body of work at this time.
Linda Arredondo is how and why Invisible Gallery began. Her work has always been widely admired and respected. She uses a wide array of media and is very experimental with techniques, making her work intriguing and original. However, Arredondo is a typical artist, more concerned with working in the studio than spending her time meeting people to sell her art. While I highly respect her drive, she was being overlooked simply because her work was not getting out there. I decided I had to do something about that, her work is so amazing. It all began with a facebook post. I simply put I had three pieces from Arredondo for sale. With no images, prices, or descriptions, I sold two pieces within an hour. The realization that I have been building a network of people that will listen for a moment is invaluable. They are interested in art. Arredondo and I have worked together on a few projects, the biggest by far was as co-curator for Seven Minutes in Heaven. I love promoting Arredondo’s work because it is informed and interesting at the same time. We often joke about managing each others careers. She is always giving me fantastic advice on my career, and I work with her on hers. Arredondo received a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2008, as well as a Master’s of Fine Art from Yale in 2010, and continues to exhibit her work.
Artist number two was John Cody Williams. We had previously discussed my selling his work, but I had never received any images, a key component needed for sales. He often works on mylar or paper, creating delicate, yet often taboo imagery. When I get to talk with him, he is still interested in my representation. Things are going good so far. I have worked with Williams several times before. We have both been in at least one group show together at JusticeWorks. He has also been an artist in two shows I have curated, Experimenting Sound, 2009 and Seven Minutes in Heaven, 2012. Williams work is dreamy and poetic as he visually draws us into often very private moments, sometimes awkward and uncomfortable, yet inviting you to stay at the same time. His beautifully detailed drawings often take the viewer into a place where everything else is forgotten and are surrounded in Williams’ world, a place where the landscape is ever changing. Williams attended the University of Houston, receiving a degree in Studio Art in 2008, exhibiting his work and having several article about his work published.
Vanessa A. Garcia is another artist that I am now representing. She had approached me several months ago about representation. She previously had trouble dealing with a local organization that had her work and needed some help. Living in Boerne, tx, which is about 30 minutes outside of San Antonio, it can be difficult for her to always come into town for shows and to meet people. Unfettered by color, all the nuances in her work are the primary focus. Using canvas and muslin, the pieces transform into delicate objects revealing vulnerability and femininity. The daughter of a tailor and seamstress, her work incorporates fabrics with strong elements of sewing. Garcia received her Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2007, and has been exhibiting her work since.
Another artist I am now working with is Barbara Justice. Her architectural photography is often haunting. She takes an inanimate structure, such as a building, and captures the essence, often a feeling of desolation. The loneliness comes through in each image, a single captured moment, finding once “alive” locations, that are now seemingly hidden and forgotten. Justice’s photography is quiet yet powerful, something I respect about her work. I have a long standing relationship with Justice, and have always respected her tenacity, starting JusticeWorks Gallery as a student and running it successfully for almost five years, only closing her doors to make a move to New Mexico, wanting a new start. I am excited to see her new body of work with all the fresh inspiration. In 2009, Justice completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Photography from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has had her work published in Photographers Forum and continues to work commercially.
The fifth and final artist I am representing is Adriana Barrios. As a print maker, Barrios is concerned with techniques and details. While smaller in scale, her work is thoughtful and precise. She had previously discussed with me about representing her work. I liked her business approach, asking me what I could do for her. As the other half of JusticeWorks, she also made the move to New Mexico, and was still interested in showing and selling her work in San Antonio also. However, nothing had ever been solidified, so I took the initiative to contact her, asking if she wanted to be the final artist I represent. Confirming we are now working together, I am very satisfied with the Invisible Gallery group that has been established. Barrios completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Printmaking from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2009, continuing her studies in Florence, Italy.
I personally find the work of these five artists compelling and intelligent. Building relationships with all five of them since college, I respect their work and understand how dedicated they are to their own ideas. The diversity of the artists is also something that interests me about this group. As a curator, I love walking into a show with an idea expressed in various media. That is a primary goal I focus on when putting together a group of artists.
Five artists is all I can really handle at this time. With the exception of my initial approach to Linda Arredondo, the other artists all sought me out for representation. I appreciate that they want to work with me and respect what I am trying to accomplish. This is an endeavor I have been slowly working on now for a couple of years that has continued momentum. It is also something I never had particularly envisioned myself doing. Running a gallery, yes. Representing artists with no physical space, well, that never even crossed my mind. But being self employed, I have learned to search for opportunities wherever they may be. I suppose creating my own opportunities. Thinking outside the box has lead me down a very interesting journey. Once you can accept there are constant unknown factors, it is actually exciting to challenge yourself with new ideas. That is why I love being an artist.
So now my focus is to get imagery and info from all of the artists. I am trying to be active on the Invisible Gallery facebook page again.
I am also about to begin creating a website. No, I have never created a website before. But I have gotten a lot of great advice and info from people that have. I will never let the fact that I have never done something before stop me from trying. Will I see any type of immediate payment for my effort? No. However that doesn’t change how this new endeavor is very exciting for me. I am hopeful it will present new opportunities for me. Most importantly, for myself, I couldn’t be happier doing what I am working on or that I am working with some fantastic artists. That’s the bottom line for me.