The Texas Contemporary Art Fair brought some of the art world’s most innovative gallerists and artists to the George R. Brown over the weekend, offering the city a four-day opportunity to soak in the newest themes, trends, and dialogues within contemporary art.
“About 10,000 people walked through the door this weekend,” fair director Max Fishko tells CultureMap. “At the opening benefit party for the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, we had 3,500 guests who helped to raise $20,000 for the museum. It’s been a great event and we’ll definitely return next year.”
Here's a selection of highlights from the inaugural fair, starting with Maximilian Toth's Clamming, a large-scale canvas examining the artist's personal mythologies of his suburban youth.
RIGHT: Maximilian Toth, Clamming, 2011, graphite, grease pencil, and oil on canvas. Courtesy of Fredericks & Freiser, New York.
Fishko said he maintained open conversations about what vendors might like to show in Houston, but stressed that all gallery owners shaped their final selections.
Fishko’s only curatorial imprint was found at the center of the fair, where the director requested artworks displaying an environmental theme. Andy Coolquit's large + ("Plus Sign") installation employed a number of reappropriated materials. Jason Willaford chrome-plated a stack of oil barrels in Out of Sight, Out of Sight. Jaehyo Lee's sculpture 0121-1110 = 1091213 was constructed from sustainably harvested pine.
RIGHT: Jaehyo Lee, 0121-1110 = 1091213, 2009, pine. Courtesy of CYNTHIA-REEVES, New York.
Rice Gallery's booth offered a special appearance from noted painter Steve Keene. Known for producing prodigious numbers of paintings, Keene sold more than 400 $5 pieces at the four-day Texas Contemporary Art Fair. Rice Gallery hosted a live-painting exhibition with Keene in 1998, drawing some of its highest attendance numbers to date.
Throughout the 1990s, Keene collaborated with a variety of musicians to produce album cover art for Pavement, Soul Coughing, The Silver Jews, and Japanese noise artist Merzbow.
"A lot of our artists might be a little obsessive compulsive," laughed one gallery owner.
Meticulously constructed works employing pieces of everyday detritus were found throughout the fair. Sarah Frost, who had work on display at last month's Houston Fine Arts Fair, painstakingly reassembled discarded computer keys for the large wall piece Check Bottom of Cart II.
RIGHT: Sarah Frost, Check Bottom of Cart II, 2011, discarded computer keys. Courtesy of P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York.
Michele Pred's American Red Cross pieced together airport-confiscated knives into a bold and familiar international symbol. Other works in the series utilized razors, tweezers, and other personal items taken by airport security.
RIGHT: Michele Pred, American Red Cross, 2008, knives on wood. Courtesy of Jack Fischer Gallery, San Francisco.
Texas-based artist Kelly O'Connor reconfigures found objects and paper into pop-culture laden pieces with an almost psychedelic twist. The artist's Alpha Color took on 1982's Poltergeist by Austin filmmaker Tobe Hooper, who also directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974.
RIGHT: Kelly O'Connor, Alpha Color, 2011, found paper. Courtesy of David Shelton Gallery, San Antonio.
Pierre Obando explored the everyday building blocks of our technological surroundings in his Red, Black, Blue Binary Triptych, a measured artistic rendering of binary code.
RIGHT: Pierre Obando, Red, Black, Blue Binary Triptych, 2011, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Dean Project, New York.
For the most part, Texas Contemporary concentrated on new work from emerging artists, offering less blue-chip artists than last month's Fine Arts Fair. Of the major-name works, there were David LaChapelle photos, Wayne Thiebaud paintings, a Carlos Cruz Diez piece (right), and even a William Wegman image.
RIGHT: Carlos Cruz Diez, Physiochromie No. 1669, 2010. Courtesy of Sicardi Gallery, Houston.
Two limited-edition Robert Rauschenberg prints from the late 1970s ranked among some of the fair's most instantly recognizable work.
RIGHT: Robert Rauschenberg, Rookery Mounds–Level and Rookery Mounds–Grape Levee, 1979, numbered prints. Courtesy of RH Gallery, New York.
Work based on found graphics and photographs was seen throughout the fair, taking a variety of forms. Al Souza carefully sliced and altered a vintage advertisement in Italian Film Posters (right). In another piece, the Houston-based artist wadded balls of newspaper from the San Francisco Chronicle into an organized grid.
RIGHT: Al Souza, Italian Film Posters, 2006. Courtesy of David Shelton Gallery, San Antonio.
With his mask pieces, Brion Nuda Rosch cut rectangular face-like openings into found photographs to create works that straddle a line between the recognizable and the unfamiliar.
Nuda Rosch will be included in an upcoming group show at Inman entitled "Related Clues," which opens Nov. 4. The exhibition also features Jillian Conrad, Claire Falkenberg and Ian Pedigo.
RIGHT: Brion Nuda Rosch, collection of works from artists' "Masks" series. Courtesy of Inman Gallery, Houston.
Like Maximilian Toth's Clamming, Crossing by Kent Dorn tapped into memories from the artist's youth. While Toth elevated his personal story into a classic scene from the Odyssey, Dorn's piece evoked a far darker tone that makes viewers worry about the scruffy teens in Crossing.
RIGHT: Kent Dorn, detail of Crossing, 2011. Courtesy of Bryan Miller Gallery, Houston.
Leo Villareal's Firmament II installation was crowded throughout much of weekend, as fairgoers lounged on two reclining bench seats to watch an ever-changing LED light display on the ceiling.
Villareal made headlines in 2008 with his Multiverse installation in the underground passageway connecting the two museums at the National Gallery of Art.
RIGHT: Leo Villareal, Firmament II, 2011, LED installation with reclining seats, custom software. Gering & Lopez Gallery, New York.