There's a lot to experience at the inaugural Houston Fine Art Fair as CultureMap found out when we toured the show floor with director Fran Kaufman. Here are some highlights:
A renowned curator of emerging and mid-career artists, Kaufman started us at a captivating piece from American artist Sarah Frost entitled QWERTY East, an installation of disassembled computer keyboard letters spread across a full wall of the William Shearburn Gallery.
“It almost has the impression of a Byzantine mosaic,” Kaufman said as we moved into the gallery booth to view Soft Target #2, a large circular wall hanging constructed from the stripes of American flags. The piece’s artist, Joseph Havel, who also heads the Museum of Fine Art, Houston’s Glassell School of Art, was integral in bringing the fair to Houston along with the late Peter Marzio, the museum’s former director.
Along with the legendary Riva Yares Gallery, Shearburn also maintains a large display of Color-field paintings from Kenneth Nolan and Abstract Expressionist works by Robert Motherwell.
“Houston collectors have a strong interest in contemporary art and we’d like to expose some of our younger artists,” Robert Goff said, pointing to a piece by Joanna Vasconcelos entitled Milady, which features a ceramic snake wrapped in multi-colored crochet.
Bolstering Kaufman’s curatorial focus on Latin American art for the HFAF, Miami’s Sammer Gallery offers work from South America’s historic mid-century Geometric Abstraction movement. Paintings and drawings from Uraguyan modern master Joaquín Torres-García cover the front wall of the booth. Meanwhile, projected onto the wall is a 1949 short film by Argentine abstract painter Ana Sacerdote. Each of the film’s 2,880 frames was hand-painted by the artist herself onto 16mm stock.
On the verge of Stendhal Syndrome, we were ushered into the VIP area, which, coincidentally, appears to be a high-end art show in itself. Hanging on the walls are works by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffmann and one of art’s rising stars, Argentine artist Jose Luis Landet.
Kaufman’s tour continued with a stop at São Paulo’s Oscar Cruz Galería for a look at international contemporary art. A minimal design offering only the artist’s name in pencil under each work, the featured faceless portraits by Portuguese artist Adams Carvalho, a delicate triptych by Brazilian artist Lina Kim, and bold abstractions from British painter Michael Stubbs.
Stepping into the New York and London-based Haunch of Venison, gallery director Robert Goff focused our attention on artists like Ahmed Alsoudani and Isca Greenfield-Sanders, who had two large paintings on display.
“Houston collectors have a strong interest in contemporary art and we’d like to expose some of our younger artists,” Goff said, pointing to a piece by Joanna Vasconcelos entitled Milady, which features a ceramic snake wrapped in multi-colored crochet.
At the Bentley Gallery, a 3-foot concave metal disc reflected upside-down images of patrons passing by, an untitled Anish Kapoor piece from 2009. Echoing a sentiment heard from many other galleries at the fair, owner Barbara Bentley said the gallery tailored selections specifically for Houston.
“We contacted several of our artists to make new work especially for this weekend’s show,” she said. “In fact, a painting is still drying in our back office.”
Houston galleries presented major artists as well, with Meredith Long & Company representing Donald Sultan, who received the HFAF Lifetime Achievement Award Thursday night. Gallerist Barbara Davis is showcasing internationally-recognized artist Donald Lipski, who was interviewed on-stage in a special public event this afternoon.
As our tour ended and preview gala started, CultureMap spoke with early arrival Ben Murphey, an art car designer whose new project “Purple Haze” incorporates images of both Jimi Hendrix and president Rutherford B. Hayes.
“I’m just here as part of the social infantry tonight,” said Murphey, one of the many curious attendees happy to just soaking in the scene at one of the year’s top art happenings. “It’s great to see an event like this inviting people out to the edge of what they normally see everyday. I’m already looking forward to the next one.”