January 29th, 2010

Lawndale Art Center: Politicos, Audiophiles, and Bedlam

In 6 Words: Anatomy, Darfur, A/V, Chaotic, Diversity, Boomboxes

Admittedly, the most fulfilling of duties for The Loop Scoop has been seeking out the art scene in Houston. Whether it be photography, painting, sculpture; having the chance to witness the artistic endeavors that the town offers has done much to refine my palate. Should we go ahead and call me a “cultural dunce.” Sure, it’s your call. But let’s at least agree that I’m on the path to erudition.


I received notice from at least three different sources that Lawndale Art Center’s newest exhibits were being unveiled (when you’re working toward journalistic credibility you start using words like “sources” instead of “friends”), so I made sure that my schedule was clear on Friday night. The prospect of art, free St. Arnold’s Lawnmower, and maybe being propositioned for sex by a homeless man (again) are all the incentive I need. That’s the kind of experience you can’t just turn down, plus my ego could use a little massaging no matter where those hands have been.


There is a friendly wager whether I will be able to find a spot in the parking lot or not as I wind through the neighborhood streets to approach Lawndale from behind. I assure my companion that I am magic and one will appear. Things don’t look so good as I pull into the entrance of the parking, but, violá, just as my assertions look most bleak a spot opens up.


Afrodet is outside as we walk up: A case of perfect timing. “Oh, good. You wore nice shoes,” is the way she chooses to greet me on this night. I take her little comment and put it in my pocket to be addressed the next time I’m making wardrobe choices. There is no time for dwelling on her turn of phrase as we make for the door and enter the downward sloping hallway to the first exhibit: Ned Dodington’s Poly-Lawn-Dale. Nylon stockings filled with soil and each with a full head of grassy hair hang at eye-level in front of us. Individual IV bags are above each of the hanging gardens, constantly feeding the already healthy growth of indoor flora.


It’s close to 7:15 and Lawndale seems packed. There are a lot more patrons at the opening than I remember from the first I attended in December. Either these artists are much more popular with the community, or their personal friends are proving much more supportive. There’s no time to consider the implications as we’re off, bobbing and weaving through grassy orbs, on our way to the main exhibit DARe to go FURther by UUPA Crust (Robert Hodge, Lovie Olivia and Michael Kahlil Taylor).


The artistic collaboration of UUPA Crust is the most obviously political of anything we will see today. In their artist statement they say “cleverly hidden in the show title is the region of DARFUR which caught the attention of all of us.” Capitalizing “DAR” and “FUR” in connected words in the title is like hiding an elephant in a cypress tree. However, the exploration of the cultural links between African-American and native African culture is equally difficult to miss. One piece in particular stands out to me. The painting of a man and woman both wearing a combination of native African and distinctly urban styles is not displayed prominently but proves to make the biggest impression.


We make the way around the rest of the John M. O’Quinn gallery taking in as much as possible. Not only are there more people here to view the work, there is much more work displayed than when Monica Vidal took up this large space. The most curious is what looks like an open plastic bag hanging from the ceiling with a pile of dust (or maybe fine ash) below it on the floor. Once again, missing the artists’ talks proves to be a debilitating road block for the untrained mind to understanding. Instead of straining myself too hard we make our way to concession stand of potent potables.


After filling a plastic pint glass with a Lawnmower (and of course making a donation) we make our way to the stairs that lead to the Mezzanine Gallery where Harmonic Spheres by the tandem of Christopher Cascio and Anne J. Regan is displayed. Cascio’s work is easily what I relate to most out of all of the exhibition. As and aspiring audiophile (and fan of neon orange), I find myself staring at the images of various devices from sirens to boomboxes piece by vibrant piece. It’s a study of symmetry and grids that morph in perspective as you travel from the top to the bottom. Before even taking the flight upstairs I’ve decided that is my favorite of the evening.


Not one to shirk diligence, I turn to head up the stairs and the final two exhibits. On the handrail the remnants of Jasmyne Graybil’s Negotiation cling stubbornly unable to give up its time in the spotlight. It’s the first time that I feel like an informed patron when I have to explain to the man walking in front of me what he’s privy to. I’m only 13 or 14 visits away from being a plausible critic. That’s when I see what deserves no critique. An anatomically correct, teddy bear on a swing at the top of the stairs.


Things have definitely taken a turn toward the unexplainable. This is the case for the entire third floor. As I turn the corner from the stairs and head into the first space I am met with a chaotic scene. The work in front of me is Ab-Scrap by Sally Heller. If I didn’t have the pamphlet telling me that she had created “an abstract landscape installation from… cultural remnants of our everyday lives,” I would have no clue what I was looking at. Finding it hard to focus on any one part of the exhibit, I exit and follow the hallway down to the final show of the night.


Jarrod Beck’s Migration Center is in the most reclusive corner of Lawndale. I had overlooked the original exhibit which is outside on the back lawn (or, “Sculpture Garden” as they call it), but this installation seems more intriguing than the jewel of Beck’s work. It’s a glimpse into the origins of the idea and the application of it maintaining it’s own beauty. Am I allowed to like this more than the casts that are strewn in the sculpture garden? Maybe this installation brings order to the bedlam that is outside and that’s why I appreciate it so much.


With our time at Lawndale drawing to a close, inspired by the pangs of hunger, we meander through the maze of the facility back to my car. My companion is particularly fond of the very first installation (Poly-Lawn-Dale), whereas I am still advocate for Harmonic Spheres – for which she scoffs at me. One thing is certain about the current exhibitions at the Art Center, they provide a much more distinct diversity than the previous opening that I attended. That fact alone will probably bring me back at least one more time before they clear out for the Spring show.


- The current exhibits will be available for viewing through February 27th, 2010
- Check out the rest of the (unedited and uncropped) photos at The Loop Scoop’s Flickr Account
Jeff Gray, Grayco Partners, Art League Houston and Lawndale Art Center invite you to preview Houston Streetscapes on Thursday, February 11th, 2010. RSVP to rsvp@theprboutique.com. The proceeds from the 4X6 canvas paintings will go to Art League Houston and Lawndale Art Center.
– Check out Lawndale Art Center’s in-house photos of the current exhibits on Flickr if you don’t trust ours.
- Next exhibit opening will be March 12th, 2010 (everyone deserves a little advance notice).



Where – 4912 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002 (View Map)
What – Political, Video, Collage, Audio, Any Class of Art you can Think of
Wear – Some Nice Shoes, Paul. Sheesh.
How Much – Free (plus free drinks on opening night)
When – Mon-Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sat: 12:00 am – 5:00 pm
Web Website; Facebook; Twitter; Flickr; Blogger

— Paul


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