January 12th, 2010
The Starck Chair Project at Dean’s Credit Clothing
In 6 Words: Large-Format, Menil, Starck, Elvis, Champagne, Dean's
This weekend brings a bit of a conundrum with it. Saturday holds the option of catching the last show of The Tontons (creators of our favorite Houston album in 2009) or The Starck Chair Project opening reception at Dean’s Credit Clothing, both scheduled at the same time. So, I am forced to make an executive decision and opt for art over art (music?). A Loopster field operative heads to Walter’s in my stead, as I head down to the heart of Montrose with a posse of friends, to catch some unique, large-format photography and grab a couple of drinks.
I leave my apartment around 8PM, which already makes me late for the opening. Nonetheless, hunger overrides all other motor responses as I drive down to Romano’s to grab a quick bite of food with my party. Mom always said, “Never drink on an empty stomach.” Come to think of it, that was probably a lesson I learned on my own from peer-pressured nights and hellaceous mornings. Romano’s is a perfect choice, considering they have pizza by the slice, any number of variations of [fill in the blank] Parmigiana sandwiches, and pastas on the menu. All are quick to prepare and filling.
We load up on Italian and then make our way back out into the winter weather, bundled up, yet still shivering. It’s less than a 5-minute drive to Dean’s from our spot on West Gray, putting us at a pre-9PM arrival time, which I consider a success. Fashionably late, as I refer to it. There is parking on Hyde Park Boulevard behind Dean’s, which is located on Fairview. It leaves us with about a block’s worth of walking, almost too much on an evening like this.
Dean’s is crowded, but not packed. I can’t claim to know if it’s a usual Saturday night crowd, as this is my first trip to the bar that first made a name for itself at its downtown location. The space is clean and not as unique as I would have guessed. Judging it relative to the neighboring Boheme , Dean’s lacks the flavor apparent on the rest of the block.
After the initial look around to take in my surroundings, it’s straight to the bar to order drinks for our party of three. I ask for two Fireman’s 4 after a short wait and realize I’ve already made my first error of the night: leaving my camera in the car. Richard and his wife set back out into Old Man Winter’s clutches to retrieve my neglected equipment. The longnecks are placed on the warped, slightly concave bar and I grab one in each hand. They’re cold, almost to the point of being uncomfortable.
Once my friends are back inside, we make our way to the wall opposite the front door, to take in the exhibit. Alexandra Gaisbauer, Stephanie Webb, and Wendy Brown are the protagonists behind The Starck Chair Project and are listed in their order of appearance (and spelling difficulty) in the photos. The premise behind the Project seems simple enough: self portraits on designer chairs in unique locations with a large-format camera Ansel Adams would be proud of. The artists have chosen their ten favorites from their nearly year-long photo expedition and hung the photos in black frames with white matting on the indistinct brown wall over a slew of couches and modern armchairs.
It’s a game of “where are the Starck chairs” as we go over the photographs. There are some easily identifiable locations. It is easy for me to pick out the famed tree of the park at the Menil since I walked by it nearly every day for two years. The lit up “ELVIS” that finds a home behind Continental Club and Shoeshine Charlie’s Big Top is easily recognized by anyone that’s spent time on that block of Main Street. One of the more intriguing photos is taken on the water at Barton Springs. It’s apparent that instead of just picking backdrops that look interesting they each have a story behind them, especially one with the three women indoors in front of a large window.
I get Stephanie’s attention as she flits around her opening party. The women of the hour are always hard to track down at events such as this. Stephanie sips champagne from a flute that she tells me was called in by a friend in New York City that couldn’t be in attendance. Your spirit is here in the bubbles, unknown supporter of the arts. She guides me around the photographs with a certain excitement of having her work displayed above all else. As we talk about photography a friend of mine approaches and joins the conversation.
“I have a question that I’m sure you’ve had to answer a million times,” says the millionth and first.
“I’m sure I haven’t been.”
“What inspired you to create this project?”
“Oh, I have been asked that question a million times…”
She trails off as we all laugh. It’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask, but we never hear the answer because the other artists walk up and we are introduced to Alexandra and Wendy. We talk about the aspirations for their work. They’re looking for a space for the entire series, somewhere to show the notes and proofs; the entire process. As the conversation takes a few twists and turns I return to the bar for another beverage. The mingling is constant and distracting, especially when it comes to tending to my empty drink. I spot Southern Star Bombshell Blonde and order one before taking another lap of the exhibition.
I run into my friends who have been perusing the installation on their own and ask them what they think about the work on the walls. They’re unsure. They were expecting something different, maybe something more. But before we can get too in depth we’re talking about the viral craze that was “Where the Hell is Matt?”
I run into Stephanie one more time as she makes her circuit around Dean’s. There is one thing that I really want to find out. “What’s your favorite photo?” I ask her. She points to one near the corner of the room, “that one of us in front of the window. It was taken at my old apartment. Everyone had a key, the door was always open. I have so many good memories when I look at that photo.” It answers my question in more ways then one. Art for the sake of the viewing public matters not. If you’re not creating the art for yourself, then you might be missing the point.
HINTS and TIPS
- The Starck Chair Project will be on exhibit through February 28th.
- If photography isn’t your thing, hey, you’re still at a bar. Live it up.
- They used a 4×5 Land Camera for the Project, for you photography buffs out there.
- Why the Philippe Starck designer chairs? Why not?
- The prints are for sale… just to let you know.
Where – 315 Fairview Street, Houston, TX 77006 (View Map)
What – Photography, Fireman’s 4, Southern Star, Gin and Tonic, You name it
Wear – What will keep you warm, for now.
How Much – The art is free for your viewing pleasure. Drinks are average.
When – Monday-Sunday: 5:00 pm – 2:00 am
Web – Dean’s Credit Clothing; The Starck Chair Project