Each summer, Lawndale Art Center invites artists living within 100 miles of Houston to submit artworks for a chance to be included in its annual open-call, juried exhibition, The Big Show, and a shot at one of three cash awards.Months before the event, Lawndale scours the nation for an alternative art authority to serve as a guest juror. Once all entries are received, the museum is locked for two intensive days as the Houston newcomer determines which artworks will make the cut. Only minutes after this year's judging marathon was complete, CultureMap capitalized on the chance to speak with 2010's arbiter of contemporary taste.
Paul Middendorf is a Portland, Ore.-based artist and curator. For Lawndale, he offers an appealing dichotomy: international experience - he was born in Neuenbürg, Germany and established a collaborative experimental arts organization in Berlin - and an expertise in regional art through his work at GalleryHomeland.
Middendorf slashed the entries down to 114 pieces, sending home the work of 83 artists. Unlike previous years, which featured a wealth of video and performance art proposals, Paul estimates that about 70 percent of this year's entries are painting on canvas.Melanie Loew, ”Goddess of the Hunt," 2010, Oil on panel
This collaborative work is part of a series of similar mini-fridge installations at Box 13 ArtSpace. Emily Sloan documents the project in her blog, Curation Myth. Sloan also hosts an avant-garde Salon des Refusés for those pieces rejected from the Big Show."The Kenmore presents: Aisen Caro Chacin, Loli Fernandez, Valerie Powell, Emily Sloan"
As guest juror, Middendorf inherited The Big Show's system of judiciously placed PostIt notes.
Lawndale executive director Christine Jelson West witnesses the wreckage.
An admirer of Salvador Dalí, Jesús Galvan incorporates nostalgia and macabre landscapes with universal symbols.Jesús Galvan, “The end,” 2008, Mixed media on canvas
Born in Switzerland, Winkler Rayroud has practiced in the folkloric art of papercutting, Scherenschnitt, for nearly 30 years. Conceiving one piece can take up to several months.Catherine Winkler Rayroud, “Women’s Liberation? What Liberation?” 2008, Papercutting made with nail scissors
Using a pair of cuticle scissors, the artist meticulously creates each piece with the intent of ideal balance and proportions, offset with light, beguiling narratives.Catherine Winkler Rayroud, “Set Yourself Free!” 2008, Papercutting made with nail scissors
Chapa's multimedia artwork reeks of EaDo edginess.Andrew Chapa, “I Heart Paint," 2010, Resin, spray paint
Laughlin's meditative watercolor rests quietly among the piles of this year's submissions. The distilled palette and restrained composition contrast with paintings that address similar imagery, from Théodore Géricault's canonical romanticist canvas, "The Raft of the Medusa," to East Texas artist John Alexander's "Five Fishermen of the Apocalypse."Joan Laughlin, “Again,” 2010, Watercolor on board
Several Big Show submissions arrive accompanied with detailed instructions for assembly by Lawndale volunteers.Daniel Esquivel, “Cielo Azul,” 2010, Glass, metal
Because of his unfamiliarity with Houston artists, Middendorf was forced to make the most honest decisions possible. Some of the works he selected almost demand an exhibition to themselves.Valerie Powell, “Portrait of a Relationship Residue,” 2009, Acrylic on shrinkable plastic
Artworks need not be big to compete in The Big Show.Mari Omori, “Object (of desire): he loves me not," 2009, tea bag, tea tag, ink
Mari Omori's work has been featured in Rice Military's Poissant Gallery.Mari Omori, “Object (of desire): he loves me not," (detail), 2009, tea bag, tea tag, ink
Once jurying has ended, artists eagerly await a phone call from Lawndale with congratulations of their acceptance. For those who do not receive a call, it is assumed that their submission will not be featured in The Big Show.Because of the limited time allotted to mount the official exhibition, entrants are provided one day to retrieve their artworks.
Whereas guest jurors typically leave after their two-day tenure, Middendorf will remain in Houston for a week to visit grass-roots organizations such as La Botanica and Skydive.
The Big Show, Houston's largest survey of contemporary local artists, will hold an opening reception on Friday, July 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.