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Young curators take on the big leagues with do it: houston, an experimental pop-up exhibition

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do it: houston will be the first exhibition of its kind in the city. Courtesy of do it: houston
do it Houston
Carrie Marie Schneider and David Feil install their work at Alabama Song. Courtesy of do it: houston
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do it Houston

Most art world aficionados would consider it risky for a pair of fledgling curators to organize their first group show without any real indication of how the final product would turn out. For an established artist to agree to participate in such an experimental show by virtually unknown curators is similarly unusual. And for a new gallery to agree to host said show is practically unheard of.

But all of these factors will be in place at do it: houston, a two day pop-up exhibition at Alabama Song Art Space on Friday and Saturday. The idea comes from young, enthusiastic Contemporary Arts Museum Houston colleagues Max Fields and Olivia Junell, who have brought together 27 contemporary Houston artists to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hans Ulrich Obrist's first do it show.

That famed Swiss curator first conceived of the open-ended experiment in which artists follow "scores," or written instructions from other artists, as a point of departure for creating their own works. Since 1993, hundreds of artists have taken part in exhibitions spanning more than 50 cities, but the concept has never been attempted in Houston until now.

Fields told CultureMap that he carried do it: the compendium, a recently-released tome that accumulates scores from more than by 200 artists by the likes of Yoko Ono and David Lynch, in his bag for weeks before approaching Junell with his idea to replicate it in his hometown.

"It has all been a grand experiment," explained Junell, who was immediately on board, along with Gabriel Martinez, the director of Alabama Song.

The curators invited area artists from all stages of their careers to partake in the exhibition in hopes of getting a broad picture of Houston's contemporary scene, and they were overwhelmed at the enthusiastic response. Among the confirmed participants are artists as varied as painter Rachel Hecker, Joseph Havel, a modernist sculptor and the director of the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and poet Ronnie Yates.

Each selected a score from the book, and some picked a few. The resulting interpretations have taken the form of photographs, paintings, sculpture, videos, performances and installations.

Junell said that the artists' inhibitions in fulfilling the project have surprised her. "Oddly, the presence of a set of rules or instructions seems to allow many of the artists more freedom than they might find in their normal practice."

"The idea that anyone could pick up a book and follow instructions to make instant art is pretty antithetical to our long-held notions labor, price and exchange in art making/viewing," said Lauren Moya Ford, a MFA candidate at the University of Houston and an artist in the show. "[For] me, the idea of enacting someone else's idea is liberating. Why wouldn't you do something completely out of your comfort zone, foreign to your mode or process?"

Visual artist Debra Barrera echoed the sentiment. "Working on my scores for do it: houston felt like letting people in to a no strings attached version of the art I make day to day."

An opening reception will take place at Alabama Song Art Space on Friday from 6 to 9:30 p.m., with further performances on Saturday from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

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