artshouston The Art of Design Two Shows Highlight Art All Around Us
African American Company Embraces Past and Future
A Glimpse of Stanton Welchâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s New Gershwin Ballet
Houston Organizations Help Youngsters Connect with Writing
Reviews Alley Theatre Main Street Theatre Hope Stone Dance McMurtrey Gallery DiverseWorks Artspace The Menil Collection Museum Artists Alive and Well Deborah Colton Gallery 1
STANTON WELCH ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Gershwin Glam �
February 21 - March 2
�� Glamorous gals with legs that never stop, giddy sailors on leave, gangsters, reporters, tourists galore. It’s Stanton Welch's fun-filled, tongue-in-cheek tribute to the mythical New York of the 1940s, choreographed to the everpopular melodies of George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto and in F. Presented with Christopher Bruce’s Swansong�� George Balanchine’s stunningly romantic Serenade.
March 6 - 16
The story has been a favorite for generations but make no mistake, this is not your childhood Cinderella. More tomboy than princess, Stanton Welch’s title character is a striking woman of substance, determination and spunk. And when she finds true love she grabs it and wisely holds on with both hands.
Call 713.227.2787 www.houstonballet.org
A LBERT AN D M A RG A R E T AL KE K FO UNDATI ON 4 Top Image: Erin Patak with Artists of Houston Ballet in The Core
Official Airline of Houston Ballet Bottom Image: Melody Herrera in Cinderella Photos: Drew Donovan
STEVE MURPHY C
Feburary 1 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 28, 2008
4411 Montrose Blvd. Suite 200 Houston, Texas 77006 toll free: 866.521.8278 p: 713.521.2977 f: 713.521.2975 www.wadewilsonart.com www.artnet.com Not to Worry, 2007, lead over wood, 13 x 15 x 41/8 inches, 33 x 38.1 x 10.5 cm
“Design must always be in service to solving a problem, or it’s not design. I will not, so help me, ever attempt to define what art is.”
Professor Sorbeck in Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys
Features The Art of Design: Two Shows Highlight Art All Around Us
Spirited Ensemble: African American Company Embraces Past and Future
There’s and African word, sankofa, which means looking backward to embrace the past in order to face the future. For more than
30 years, Houston’s Ensemble Theatre has done just that.
Fascinating Rhythms: A Glimpse of Stanton Welch’s New Gershwin Ballet
Tria Wood explores the relationship of art and design through two exhibitions: Design Life Now on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum and Imperative Design at Barbara Davis Gallery.
New York City circa 1940 through the eyes of an Aussie in the form of George Gershwin and a ballet.
Literary Kids: Houston Organizations Help Youngsters Connect with Writing No longer are kids’ options limited to formulaic Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys fare; kid’s literature, in particular that written for young adults, deals with real life issues such as sex, drugs, alcohol and the perennial problem of identity
On Our Cover: Joshua Davis, 022 - Coast of Kanagawa, 2005 6
february 2008 8 10 12
The Art of Collecting Art with Lester Marks
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Graze February Arts Calendar Featured Listings Restaurant Review: Jasper’s
Food adventurers, beware: you might not encounter a single new, different or taste bud-shattering innovation at Danton’s, for such would be unlikely in a restaurant driven by such respect for the past.
Where to Eat Restaurant Listings
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Alley Theatre: Love, Janis Main Street Theatre: Caroline, or Change Hope Stone Dance: See Me McMurtrey Gallery: Howard Sherman: In my mind you’re inflatable DiverseWorks Artspace: Flicker Fusion The Menil Collection Museum: Robert Ryman: Contemporary Conversations, 1976 Artists Alive and Well: Group Show Deborah Colton Gallery: DIGITALIA: Intimacy in the Hyperreal
Publisher’s Note Editor’s Picks Style and Substance with Tom Richards When it comes to antique stores, the funkier the better... And what really gets me going is a store that has a corner full of old magazines. Continuing a look at text-based art through Anselm Keifer’s MERKABA.
artshouston publisher’s note Volume Nine, Number Two Founder Chas Haynes Publisher Frank Rose Associate Publisher Varina Rush Editor in Chief,Visual Arts Tria Wood Editor in Chief, Performing Arts John DeMers Sales Representative Jessica Gordon Intern Amanda Stecker Issue Contributors Holly Beretto Michele Brangwen Sean Carroll R. Eric Davis Kara Duval Garland Fielder Sarah Gajkowski-Hill Victoria Ludwin Lester Marks Tom Richards Nancy Wozny
ArtsHouston is published monthly in Houston, Texas. ISSN 1541-6089. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the expressed written consent of the publisher. Copyright 2007. Individual issues may be purchased for $3.00, a yearly subscription (12 monthly issues) for $28.00. For advertising information, call (713) 589-9472. Letters to the editor may be sent to: ArtsHouston, 3921 Austin Street, Houston, Texas 77004; or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel (713) 589-9472 • Fax (713) 429-4191 Web: artshouston.com 8
At what point does something become art? The qualities that make something art or not art are nebulous to say the least. The “art” (should this word always be in quotations?) that is being made today would not have been considered as such 100 years ago and this trend will most certainly continue. Photography was not accepted as an art until the “gatekeepers” realized that viewpoint does indeed change reality. These kinds of discussions always beg the question, “what is art?” Tolstoy said that bad art is not even art at all: “art, in our society, has been so perverted that not only has bad art come to be considered good, but even the very perception of what art really is has been lost. In order to be able to speak about the art of our society, it is, therefore, first of all necessary to distinguish art from counterfeit art.” He goes on to give three qualities that make something art: individuality of the feeling transmitted, clearness with which the feeling is transmitted and the sincerity of the artist. When we break it down to this, our perceived boundaries are certainly broken. What creations have not the potential to fulfill these ideas? What is known as design is starting to enter these realms and is evident in two shows on view this month, Design Life Now at the Contemporary Arts Museum, and Imperative Design at Barbara Davis Gallery. The image you see above is a rendering of a project by Electroland, a collaborative that “creates interactive environments which use layers of technology to intelligently register the movement of pedestrians through public space. Walkways, entries, and façades come alive in response to simple human actions.” Is this art or design? Well, its in a show called Design Life Now at an art museum. There you will find objects (including the Roomba®) and ideas that have made a cultural impact though intelligently and many times beautifully addressing a problem be it how to vacuum better or how to make one pause and think about the ways in which they interact with an environment. And of course, the magazine you now hold in your hands has undergone somewhat of a design shift. I’ve spent the last month creating the layouts and hope that it will lead you to a more individual, clear and sincere interaction with the arts in Houston.
Publisher, Frank Rose email@example.com
Creativity Inspiration Entertainment Family IRVING ARTS CENTER
february editor’s picks Booking It
Carl Sesto, Ordinary Events, 1995
Before the printing press was introduced in 1440, monks would pump out two or three books a year. At the New York Public library, you can find the Espresso Book Machine, turning anyone into a publisher in fifteen minutes or less. Just type the right code and out pops War and Peace (may take longer than fifteen minutes). Finding a little middle ground is Production not Reproduction at the Museum of Printing History, curated by Tony White, Head of the Fine Arts Library at Indiana University. The complex printing process of offset lithography was developed in the late 19th century, but only refined as a viable print production process after World War II. This exhibition charts the rise (mid-1950’s) and fall (late 1990’s) of offset printed artists’ books. The show includes examples of offset printed books from 44 makers including Dieter Roth, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol. Tony White will give a lecture on the exhibit Friday, February 22 at 6:30 pm. On view through March 22. For more information visit printingmuseum.org.
As much an alternative art space as a gallery, Naü-haus recently joined the burgeoning art scene in the Houston Heights on E. 11th Street in an area that many are starting to refer to as the “New Colquitt”—a reference to the well-established gallery row on Colquitt Street. The idea for Naü-haus is to be alternative at every turn, acting as a conduit to more established galleries, introducing an ever-changing menu of new talent from outside the Houston area as well as showcasing wellknown Houston-area talent with long-standing reputations who have chosen not to join the stable of artists at any particular gallery. The creation of Dan Mitchell Allison, veteran artist and owner of the Texas Collaborative Arts Studio, Naü-haus also provides studio and exhibition space both for visiting artists and artists living in Houston who are completing special projects at the TCA. Naü-haus is located next door to the Texas Collaborative Arts Studio and Redbud Gallery at 223 E. 11th Street, Houston, TX, and is open from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday or by appointment. For more information about Naü-haus and upcoming exhibitions or events, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 832.618.1845. 10
Phi Phi Oanh: Black Box
This artist’s first exhibition in her native Houston, Oahn’s Black Box is an exploration of memories of scenes so commonplace and recurring they are overlooked in our daily lives. Starting with the raw materials and basic utilitarian art forms traditionally found in Asia, such as lacquer coffers, coffins and chests, Oahn has created a series of 16 oversized boxes whose proportions echo those of a burial casket. Rich paintings adorn the lids, combining sensual abstraction with precise figuration. Oahn’s imagery seemingly depicts the mundane until one notices the absence of human life—a riderless motorcycle in motion, a partially eaten dinner with chopsticks laid carefully on top of bowls, a pile of abandoned slippers on the floor. The lustrous physicality of the works juxtaposed with the sobriety of subject matter creates a sense of disquiet, leaving the viewer with the unsettling feeling that something has just happened or is on the verge of transition. Through February 22nd, 1953 Montrose Boulevard, 713.523.9530, artleaguehouston.org; Oanh’s blog: blackboxphiphi.com
On Broadway, six gallons of fake blood were spilled every night that Martin McDonagh’s play The Lieutenant of Inishmore was performed at the Lyceum Theatre. There is no immediate word how much fake blood is being used in the current Alley Theatre production, but based on the Alley’s powerful production of McDonagh’s previous play, The Pillowman, theater-goers should be ready for an intense evening. The play is a bloody comedy about a ruthless and violent Irish National Liberation Army enforcer and the only thing in the world he really loves: his little black cat Wee Thomas. The Lieutenant comments on the hypocrisy of the violence of the main character and others. There is even a reference to some real life terrorist atrocities such as the murder of Australian tourists in Belgium by Irish republican terrorists who mistook them for British army personnel. Described as a black comedy – and sure to be seen as such by Houston audiences – the Alley production is on display until Feb. 24.
One of the reasons Ravi Coltrane isn’t a household name is because he has remained true to himself and his art form: jazz. Being true to jazz has always meant not simply recreating what has come before but continuing to explore and evolve the music. We live in a time where the music industry is plagued by an unbridled commercialism that is prevalent even in what is classified by some as “art music.” Being true to one’s path and vision is not what record labels are interested in. This is why saxophonist Ravi Coltrane started his own record label, RKM Music, and continues to compose and perform in his own unique style. The son of one of the all time greatest heroes of modern music, saxophonist and composer John Coltrane and pianist Alice Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane carries forth the integrity of spirit that made his father so beloved while continuing to be truly his own person, creating music that needs to be heard. Da Camera’s Jazz Series presents the Ravi Coltrane Quartet, with Luis Perdomo on piano, Drew Gress on bass, and E.J. Strickland on drums, Saturday February 9 at 8:00 p.m. at the Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater. Tickets available at 713 524-50509 or online at dacamera.com
Style & Substance with Tom Richards 12
When it comes to antique stores, the funkier the better. The type of shop that has ribbons across the arms of chairs so that a customer is prevented from resting his tuchus on a precious piece of fabric stuffed with horse hair doesn’t do it for me. No, I prefer the shops that feature Formica topped dinette sets from the fifties or vintage cocktail shakers. And what really gets me going is a store that has a corner full of old magazines. These bits of yellowed paper are, in essence, time capsules of their eras. Not just the articles, but the type faces, the graphics, and especially the ads. They all combine to produce an all-encompassing portrait of life and culture at the time of their publication. This point was hammered home for me over the holidays when I purchased a copy of Rolling Stone – Cover to Cover. It’s a hybrid package, combining a large trade paperback and four computer discs containing a scan of every page of every issue of the magazine since its inception in 1967. The early stuff is from the pre-digital era, and one can see the folds in the paper, and even a rip here and there. In its early days, Rolling Stone was, to put it charitably, scruffy. But not without its charm. And boy did they love the Beatles. The premier issue features several photos of John Lennon, along with four separate articles chronicling the latest exploits of the Fab Four. Throughout the magazine’s history, Rolling Stone would put the Beatles on the cover more than any other band or performer. In fact, the story goes that, for a time, publisher Jann Wenner would resort to a Beatles cover any time sales started to lag. Rolling Stone hit its stride in the seventies, garnering notice for its aggressive investigative reporting and its in-depth political coverage. The issue of February 3, 1972 is typical of the period. Readers are warned about secret FAA profiling techniques which might lead to their search and seizure when trying to board an aircraft, and Hunter Thompson checks in from the Eugene McCarthy campaign. Jerry Garcia is profiled over a multi-page spread illustrated with photos by then-rookie Annie Leibowitz, and Jon Landau, who today serves as Bruce Springsteen’s manager, weighs in with a review of the Concert for Bangladesh album, which he calls, “rock reaching for its manhood.” Eh, that’s how they wrote in those days. It might come as a surprise to some, but the arts actually received a fair amount of coverage in Rolling Stone. There are articles on composer Philip Glass and choreographer Twyla Tharp, plus a spectacular account of a tête-à-tête between Salvador Dali and Alice Cooper. Cooper explains to the
interviewer, “That’s how Salvador Dali works. He pulls out a brain – that’s dripping. When people see it they’re going to get different ideas about it.” Andy Warhol made a number of appearances, most memorably as a guest interviewer, chatting up Truman Capote while they listen to a Rod Stewart album. During the conversation, Capote describes Mick Jagger’s performance style, saying, “He moves like a parody between a majorette girl and Fred Astaire.” Perhaps the best of the fine arts articles is an interview with Leonard Bernstein, conducted in 1990, just a few months before the maestro’s death. In what was his last major sit-down with the press, Bernstein ruminated on the need for instant gratification and the quickening pace of society. “Anything of a serious nature isn’t instant,” he says. “You can’t ‘do’ the Sistine Chapel in one hour. And who has time to listen to a Mahler symphony, for God’s sake?” In the late seventies, right around the time of the magazine’s relocation to New York, Rolling Stone provided extensive coverage of the just-emerging disco scene. Editors thoughtfully included illustrations demonstrating the proper way to do the Bump and the Hustle. The rise of punk, in many ways the opposite side of the disco coin, was also written about at great length, exposing middle American readers to artists like the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and Patti Smith, who had written several reviews for Rolling Stone in the early seventies, including a piece on The Lotte Lenya Album. I mentioned the ads earlier. Through them, one can trace changing patterns of consumption. A good example might be the evolution of the audio industry. Records to eight-tracks to cassettes to cd’s to mp3’s. And don’t forget Quadraphonic. And CB radios! There were a lot of full-page ads for cigarettes and booze in the seventies. Now the primary products advertised in the pages of Rolling Stone are computers and other high-tech devices, along with cars and cable television programs. It’s a lot of fun to dig through this digital time capsule, and I’ve spent dozens of hours doing it. The only down side to traversing the years via the pages of Rolling Stone is that one is witness to the decline of the publication. Beginning in the eighties, the magazine began to lose its unique identity, focusing increasingly on movie stars and television, with stories about Hollywood elbowing out articles about music. This trend should really come as no surprise, since Jann Wenner is also the publisher of Us magazine these days. Hey, times change. I’ll just say this: Rolling Stone – it ain’t what it used to be. But then again, nothing is.
Arts Houston February
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Sinners, Saints, and Mystics 7 lean years and 2000 dawns the soldiers rot, their graves are gone the battles past, the world forlorn blue waters call, for all have been scorned Heavenly palaces, seven in all remote and empty, but waiting the call from all of God’s creatures, the large and the small that redemption is coming, despite the great fall 22 airplanes have hung from the sky 22 pilots they bleed and they die 22 saints from temples on high 22 mystics, like sinners, gone by
The Art of Collecting Art with Lester Marks
Merkaba will lead, the crazy insane the ship as the chariot, to heal this great pain this chariot throne, this journey of strife This lover of Psalms, this giver of life
Welcome back, artful travelers! As my regular readers know by now, I attempt to deliver you a combination of technical expertise cloaked gently with soulful feeling. This bonding of artful knowledge and artful wisdom will hopefully lead you along the path to becoming an ever more sophisticated collector, an “artful traveler.” If this column helps you to achieve that one single goal, we will have been successful in our mutual pursuit. This month, we will continue exactly where we left off in January: examining the work of Anselm Kiefer and his painting MERKABA. Anselm Kiefer, born 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany, has been living for the past 20 years in Borjac, France, on a fifty-acre artistic compound he created, and which he is in the process of opening to the public. Respected as one of the most ‘important’ artists of our times, Kiefer, somewhat of a recluse, considers himself a poet and a historian first, an artist second. He takes on big, even epic topics such as the German Holocaust and the resulting generations of German guilt, German culture, mythology, war and the occasional times of peace, while at the same time, attempting to show the significance of the solitary individual. Not an artist for the meek, Kiefer is known for delivering big messages, big paintings, and even bigger sculpture. He’s definitely not the right artist for that little space above your living room sofa! However, I do believe collectors should always be looking for the messages behind the media, so that one’s soul is moved by the interactive process of technique and mystique. Great artists—and there are many—are creating work, like Kiefer, to take you where you haven’t been, and to show you what you haven’t seen. MERKABA, pictured also in the December issue, takes its name from the aircraft carrier you see bolted to the frame of the canvas. In Kiefer’s interpretation, the aircraft carrier
Photo courtesy of Michael Hagan
serves not as a ship, but as a completely different kind of vehicle, in fact, as a chariot (!), and not just a chariot, but a divine chariot. In the ancient pre-Judaic mysticism of Kaballah, MERKABA was the Hebrew word for “Divine Chariot.” Kiefer has chosen this aircraft carrier to represent the chariot, scattered with crashed airplanes, which in turn represent the shattered and lost souls of us mere mortals attempting to ride the chariot to the heavens. It is only the Divine Man that can take this spiritual journey, this Sefar Seckaloth, (written in Hebrew in the painting’s upper left quadrant) to the seven heavenly palaces where God can be found. As you the collector live with your works of art, you will surely want to continue researching the lives of “your” artists and to keep in tune with the current work they are producing. One of my unique qualities as a collector is not only to write and mount on my walls explanations about some of my artists and their works, but also to do the same in a somewhat poetic form. This is not necessarily poetry. What it is, though, is a way to help illustrate and explain the deeper meaning of a piece of art in a less direct form than could be done in straight line prose. These are just my words, sometimes loosely grouped in stanzas... thought-starting catalysts for going beyond the initial visual impression of the work. My interpretation to Anselm Kiefer’s MERKABA is at the top of this page. I hope you enjoy this and will relate it to the painting. Next month we will continue our exploration of Anselm Kiefer’s work, then move to the late great neo-Expressionist, post-post Surrealist, the one and only Jean Michel Basquiat, and conclude with whom I believe to be the greatest living female artist, Louise Bourgeois. Until then, keep those questions and comments coming to me, your artful therapist, at email@example.com
The Art of Design: Two Shows Highlight Art All around Us The worlds of art and design have such similar processes and techniques that it’s often difficult—and at times, downright undesirable—to separate the two. This month, two Houston art spaces turn their focus to the art of design, elucidating the myriad intersections of the two fields. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston presents Design Life Now: National Design Triennial, which originated at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; this triennial exhibit is making its first-ever appearance in Houston. Concurrently, Barbara Davis Gallery offers Imperative Design, a showcase of furniture and industrial design curated by designer Lauren Rottet. When faced with these shows, one feels compelled to ask why we feel compelled to separate art from design. After all, both are about the execution of aesthetic choices, and the creative processes that produce both are almost identical. As ever, we are faced with the problem of utility, whose presence
tends to refute claims to the existence of art as, well, Art. As Chip Kidd, a designer whose work appears in the Design Life Now catalogue, wrote through the voice of the quirky professor Sorbeck in his novel, The Cheese Monkeys, “Design must always be in service to solving a problem, or it’s not Design. I will not, so help me, ever attempt to define what Art is.” Whether or not Kidd shares this ideology with the character he created, this is, perhaps, the most commonly held perspective on the difference between art and design. Art is believed to serve some nebulous inspiration, while design begins and ends with a more tangible and practical need. Many contemporary works of art, however, are virtually indistinguishable from the world of design. One need think only of Andrea Zittel, whose conceptual artwork involves the worlds of architecture, interior design, fashion and ecology; or Stelarc, whose use of robotics, biomedical science and computer
Images Clockwise from Top: Zaha Hadid, Crest Chaise; Processing, Articulate digital drawing generated in Processing, 2005; Herman Miller, Inc., Basket office furnishing system, 2004 16
programs problematize the concept of the body in the digital age. Cassandra C. Jones’s wallpaper series Good Cheer and Rara Avis, or, more locally, Elaine Bradford’s cozied-up versions of crochet-covered taxidermy both serve as artworks that involve a distinctively ironic interior design element. Other artists offer design-based branches of their artwork, such as Houston sculptor Tara Conley’s new line of indoor/outdoor “art furniture.” The lines we’d like to draw between art and design, we find, are quite easily blurred. While purists may seek to maintain art’s rarified status, despite evidence to the contrary, the world of design is more enthusiastically inclusive. The Design Life Now exhibit’s designers and objects were selected Twenty-first Century-style, through nominations via a “blog-style site,” which curators used to generate a list of possible inclusions, according to cocurator Ellen Lupton. As these nominations guided the curatorial team, the exhibit grew to include such diverse entities that the word “objects” hardly seems appropriate to describe them. The show includes everything from robotics, shareware and magazines to sports equipment, as well as the more traditional aspects of architecture, fashion and home furnishings. As Toby Kamps, the CAMH curator whose efforts brought this show to
Houston, showed me a model of the exhibition, he sheepishly apologized for it being an “old-school” 3-D maquette rather than a computerized display. However, I was thrilled to see the painstakingly created miniature, whose form enacted the very concepts celebrated by the upcoming show. Kamps’s enthusiasm for the various designs and designers shown was obvious, never revealing the gargantuan amount of effort that must have gone into designing an appropriate arrangement for work that spans so many genres, purposes, and forms. In fact, part of the joy of Design Life Now is in its acknowledgement of the cultural, economic, and artistic milieu in which these works exist. In the exhibition, just as in real life, we find ourselves surrounded by these works, bouncing from iRobot’s Roomba® vacuum systems to Google analytics, Manga/Hip-hop/Pop-inspired Kidrobot figures, ICT Leaders Project’s Sergeant John Blackwell military training system, ReadyMade magazine and Herman Miller office furnishings. The genius of this exhibition’s installation is that it attempts to organize these varied works in a way that allows the viewer to absorb each in relation to the others without becoming overstimulated. In contrast to Design Life Now, the Imperative Design
Images Clockwise from Top: Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Seattle Central Library, 2004; blik, LLC, Custom blik Karel wall graphics, 2005; Michael Meredith, Softcell, 2005 17
exhibit at Barbara Davis Gallery is more serene, focused on home furnishings that could easily pass for sculpture. Where Design Life Now contemplates the role of design in our everyday lives, elucidating the connections between design and its cultural impact, Imperative Design invites the viewer to enjoy the formal aspects of its beautifully crafted objects, considering furniture as artwork. Six designers, both American and European, are featured, each with a compelling vision. Arik Levy’s Rock Fusion seating, crafted in mirror-polished steel, reflects its surroundings in its facets, creating its own camouflage to make it delightfully indistinguishable from its environment. Like a reenactment of Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar,” the seat seems both to contain and reflect its surroundings. Meanwhile, the arcing resin form of Zaha Hadid’s Crest Chaise is so gorgeous that one would be hesitant to profane the object by actually sitting on it. Greg Lynn’s Duke and Duchess set of chairs and ottomans, however, are comfortably concave forms draped in invitingly furry textures that practically beg the viewer to crawl in and curl up for a nap. More often, however,
the objects here question the notion of “furniture” as we know it. Lauren Rottet, who curated the show, sports an impressive resume as a furniture and interior designer (her work is included in the show as well), certainly has an eye for arrestingly beautiful objects. In terms of the aesthetics, the show is a strong one. As her curatorial statements indicate, her concept of the show revolves around notions of the need for sustainability and accessibility of modern design—thus the title’s focus on the word “imperative.” This, however, is somewhat puzzling given the decidedly high-end content of the show. Behind her concept of sustainability lurks the notion that we are less likely to get rid of objects that are attractive and precious as well as useful. By itself, this idea makes sense. However, when combined with her “imperative” that good design be accessible to all, one must ask: when good design enters the average person’s price range, what happens to its perceived preciousness? Often, the materials used to create these products become less durable and less sustainable, and their real and perceived value
Images Clockwise from Top: Greg Lynn, Duke and Duchess; Abhinand Lath/SensiTile,Scintilla, 2005; Arik Levy, Rock Fusion, 18
“The worlds of art and design have such similar processes and techniques that it’s often difficult— and at times, downright undesirable—to separate the two.” decreases as their accessibility rises—I may be delighted with a Michael Graves toaster from Target, but when it breaks down I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to “deaccession” it just because it’s a Graves piece, nor would any collector be knocking at my door hoping to purchase it from me, working or not. Reflecting on friends and family members who refuse to use the “good” china, try not to drive the “good” car, or who have even encased the “good” couch in plastic, I also wonder about the true utility of such precious design objects. In fact, as I talked with Kamps about Design Life Now, I chuckled as I described the moment I discovered that an inexpensive secondhand Fifties Modern coffee table my husband and I had been eating Ramen noodles over was actually a valuable Carlo Mollino piece (see The Accidental Collector, ArtsHouston, May 2007)—knowing what it was worth, I couldn’t bear the thought of having it in my house: it had suddenly become too precious to be used. Although the Imperative Design show is a strong statement about the current state of the arts in furniture design, it’s hard-pressed to live up to the terms of the sort of imperative that its title claims. If you’d like to appreciate the design work behind something you wouldn’t mind actually using (or perhaps are already using), however, many of the works included in Design Life Now revel in the needs and desires of the average person—in fact, the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement is as widely represented as its high-end pieces. PVC decals created by blik allow you to transform walls, cars, or other surfaces into design statements—and change them as often as you desire; Saul Griffith, Nick Dragotta and Joost Bonsen’s Howtoons free cartoon strips guide kids and adults alike through fun-filled projects that teach aspects of science, design, and creativity. Likewise, Make and Readymade magazines help readers construct hightech and high-design projects, respectively, from inexpensive and recycled materials. Ben Fry and C.E.B. Reas are the authors of Processing (proce55ing.net), a nebulous online project that is best described as programming language and user environment that allows users to create computer animations—and which users may download at no charge. Through this tool, a community has formed that is deeply woven into the design work itself. Wanting to build an awareness of the art of design in our own community, the CAMH has arranged an impressive array of free events that allow Houston a better look into the multifaceted world of design arts. Famed artist/architect/writer Vito Acconci will appear to give a lecture on March 5th, while designers Marsha Ginsberg, Greg Lynn (also featured in the show at Barbara Davis Gallery), Ken Smith and Brooke Hodge
will host a panel discussion as part of the opening festivities on January 26th. Other events will include panel discussions that include several Houston-based designers, a gallery talk with exhibiting designer Hunter Hoffman, the ambitious CAMH City project (which invites children to cooperatively create their own city from recyclables and craft materials), and a character robot demonstration by Matt Fisher of Dallas’s Hanson Robotics. Design is all around you; a visit to either of these design exhibits will offer new insights and appreciation for the aesthetic work—the artistry—behind almost every object you look at, interact with, or touch. You might just be surprised at how immersed and enmeshed you are in art.
From dance to theatre, music to film, visual arts to opera, Fresh Arts is your best link to 22 of the most progressive arts organizations in Houston. 7khehW F_Yjkh[ I^em 887F 8bW\\[h =Wbb[ho" j^[ 7hj Cki[kc e\ j^[ Kd_l[hi_jo e\ >ekijed 8eXX_dZeYjh_d Fkff[j J^[Wjh[ 9ecckd_jo 7hj_iji 9ebb[Yj_l[ 9odj^_W MeeZi C_jY^[bb 9[dj[h \eh j^[ 7hji :_l[hi[Mehai :ec_d_Y MWbi^ :WdY[ J^[Wj[h >ekijed CWij[hmehai 9^ehki ?dfh_dj CW_d Ijh[[j J^[Wj[h C[hYkho 8Whegk[ Cki_gW Ef[hW _d j^[ >[_]^ji EhWd][ I^em 9[dj[h \eh L_i_edWho 7hj EhY^[ijhWN Iekj^m[ij 7bj[hdWj[ C[Z_W Fhe`[Yj IM7CF IjW][i H[f[hjeho J^[Wjh[ IkY^k :WdY[ WdZ 8Whd[l[bZ[h Cel[c[dj%7hji 9ecfb[n JWb[dje 8_b_d]k[ Z[ >ekijed Kd_l[hi_jo e\ >ekijed i 9[dj[h \eh 9^eh[e]hWf^o Kd_l[hi_jo Cki[kc Wj J[nWi Iekj^[hd Kd_l[hi_jo
By Holly Beretto
Spirited Ensemble African-American company embraces past and future 20
“We have to be able to express how we are and what our culture is, not just for the AfricanAmerican community, but for the rest of the world” There’s an African word, sankofa, which means looking backward to embrace the past in order to face the future. For more than 30 years, Houston’s Ensemble Theatre has done just that. Those behind the Ensemble understand they play a special role in Houston’s arts scene: as the city’s only African-American repertory company, they see it as part of their mission to tell the story of the African-American experience, but they know that part of telling that story is to help others understand it. “We have to be able to express how we are and what our culture is, not just for the African-American community, but for the rest of the world,” says Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris. It’s a responsibility she takes seriously. Founded in 1976, the Ensemble Theatre began its life in the back of founder George Hawkins’ car. At the time, he and touring troupe of African-American actors were heading across the Houston area, bringing shows to school children. But Hawkins had unlimited ambition, vision and passion, and he wanted the Ensemble to be one of Houston’s best theater companies. Soon, the Ensemble moved from the trunk of his car to a former pet store at 1010 Tuam. That’s when Morris came to work for the Ensemble for the first time. She’d been working in Illinois after graduating from Northern Illinois University. But her family was from Houston and she and her husband were looking for a way to come to Texas. Her brother-in-law knew Hawkins and arranged for the two of them to meet. Morris was looking for an acting gig, but Hawkins was impressed with her management skills and how she’d put together a program in Illinois that used theater to teach young people about the arts and reinforcing life skills such as working together, goal setting, creative solutions and the importance of a work ethic. So he asked her to be managing director. “And I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ I just wanted to act,” she says. “But I said yes because I’d learned in life you have to be open to adventure and you have to allow things into your life on the journey.” At that time – 1982 – Morris and Hawkins were the only two full-time staff at the Ensemble. She remembers the space at 1010 Tuam was so small that cast members used the public rest rooms as dressing rooms. Hawkins, Morris and the actors would do almost everything: digging through their personal belongings for costumes, props or set piece, building scenery,
keeping the office running. She and Hawkins knew the space was too small for their growing company, so Hawkins spent his free time over the years driving around downtown and midtown looking for a better spot. He found it in an old car dealership, which is where the Ensemble is housed today. “It was going to increase our rent ten-fold to get in here,” Morris remembers. “And I and some of the other staff at that point said, ‘George, you’re crazy.’ But we all came with him.” Hawkins’s vision and passion about building an AfricanAmerican theater company is talked about with pride and affection and respect. Morris recalls him as a great visionary and a dreamer and a charmer. And Everett Evans, theater critic for the Houston Chronicle, credits him with laying the foundation for where they are today. “The Ensemble is the major black acting company in Houston and it provides a forum for some of the city’s best acting talent,” Evans says. “I’d put them right up there – especially in recent years – right behind the Alley Theatre, as a mid-size theatre that’s really hitting their stride.” The Ensemble moved into its current location in 1987, and Morris recalls early on doing some of their own temporary renovations. But a team of the Ensemble’s board members helped secure financing and showed Hawkins and Morris how the Ensemble could put a plan in place to buy the building. Two years later, the Ensemble owned their space and Hawkins and Morris were finally drawing regular salaries. Hawkins died in 1990, but Morris and her team shouldered on, paying off the building loan in 2002 and naming the theater space after Hawkins. For the next nine years, she served as artistic director, selecting plays and working with actors. In 1999, she left to head Pittsburgh’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre on the University of Pittsburgh campus. “I went to Pittsburgh and I re-discovered myself as an artist,” Morris says. “And it made me appreciate my roots here in Houston and I missed it here so much.” So, a little over a year ago, she came back – think of it as the embodiment of sankofa. And her energy and enthusiasm about the Ensemble are palpable. With six mainstage shows per season, along with a touring children’s theater program that brings theater to Harris County schools, an average of 15 workshops each year that allow actors and guest artists to
Images: Opposite Top: Cast of A Raisin in the Sun; Opposite Below: Danielle Imani King and Jonathan Thibeaux as Zonia Loomis and Reuben Scott in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone; photos by David Bray 21
Upcoming at the Ensemble: Gem of the Ocean By August Wilson Through Feb. 25 Sty of the Blind Pig By Phillip Hayes Dean March 15 – April 13 Ashes to Africa By Mark Clayton Southers April 25 – May 5 Ain’t Misbehavin’ Orchestrations and arrangements by Luther Henderson June 21 – July 20 For tickets and information: ensemblehouston.com 713-520-0055
discuss improving their art, and the Young Performers Program, designed to nurture youth talent, there’s no doubt the Ensemble is a busy place. The mainstage season is dedicated to performing works by African-American playwrights – both classic pieces from the repertory and new works by AfricanAmerican playwrights. “They’ve been very good about selecting scripts that are a cut above,” says Evans. “One of the best things about working with contemporary African-American playwrights,” says Morris, “is the oneon-one factor.” She says many of the writers working today represent their own work, so she’s able to talk with them about securing rights to perform their shows, as well as hear their thoughts on characters, plots and settings. She says being able to sit there in the theater with writers such as Ntzoke Shange is a great experience. “I mean on one hand, you’re going, I’m sitting in a theater with Ntzoke Shange,” says Morris. “But on the other, she’s just ‘Zoke and she’s cool with the whole experience.” And the experience matters a lot to Morris. She wants the audience to enjoy the Ensemble’s work, but she wants them to take away a sense of learning about themselves and others. Morris selects the plays based on a variety of factors – what actors are available (open auditions are held each year, and Morris and the rest of the creative team like to have casting for the upcoming season set in mid-summer), what plays are available, and what stories need to be told.
It’s an intricate juggling match, seeking out works that represent the experience of a people, as well as titles that will be of interest to a broader audience. The Ensemble’s core audience is about 70 percent African-American, and Morris says when the groups perform musicals, the audience tends to be more diverse. “But it really depends on the show,” she says, noting that plays by writers such as August Wilson (whose Gem of the Ocean runs at the Ensemble through Feb. 24 – see sidebar) always generate interest. In addition to its programming and its efforts with young performers and helping African-American artists improve their craft though workshop sessions, the Ensemble holds a unique place among American theatres: it’s one of only a handful of companies that owns its space. Morris says that’s an important factor because it offers stability. She and her team know that they have a home from year to year, and that allows them to focus on the future. But she never forgets part of that future comes from embracing the past. Morris and her team recognize that they are the keepers of a culture. The Ensemble’s mission has always been dedicated to producing works that portray the African-American experience. Over the coming years, Morris says she’s going to work to build the Ensemble’s reputation nationally, while further strengthening its community ties here in Houston. “These are our life stories,” she says of the work the Ensemble does. “We have to tell them.”
Image: Davi Jay and Chancellor Johnson as Walter Lee Younger and Travis Younger in A Raisin in the Sun; photo by David Bray 22
Graham Gemoets and Laurie Ellington
Frazier King and Miriam Miller
Anna Wueller and Toni Valle
Glen Guidroz and Michael Guidry Lauren Meyer, Jacey Parke and Monica Danna
Laurie Meister and Alicia Lawyer
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Cassandra Schaffer and Rebecca French
Xsemaj, Cheryl Norris and Matt Adams
Photos from: Hope Stone’s See Me at the Wortham Theater, Brandon González’s New Work at Gallery 1724, Lawndale Art Center, DIGITALIA: Intimacy in the Hyperreal at Deborah Colton Gallery, 2008 Print Auction Exhibition at Houston Center for Photography, The Thames Mudlarks at CTRL Gallery, Probably at Inman Gallery, ROCOco. Music and Wine Tast23 ing at The Tasting Room
A Glimpse of Stanton Welch’s New Gershwin Ballet
by Nancy Wozny
“I actually think New York City is the iconic image of America for just about everybody.”
“Gershwin was always in my world,” says Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch, who grew up in Australia far in time and miles from George Gershwin’s New York. “It’s very child friendly music and so easy to connect to this music. It’s like the Nutcracker in a way. Gershwin is just part of our musical psyche. I remember hearing Gershwin in the background of old Woody Allen movies; his music was always around me.” In fact, Welch’s very first choreographic adventure in 1990, The Three of Us, was set to Gershwin’s Three Preludes for Piano. This month he presents the world premiere of an all new ballet, The Core, set to the American composer’s Concerto in F. Welch selected the piece, a kind of sibling to the better-known Rhapsody in Blue, early in his career. He sees it as a series of overlapping stories of colorful characters from 1940s in New York City. Although the audience will be challenged to follow a multitude of story lines, the characters will be cut from the stuff of legends. Archetypal characters,
such as gangsters, starlets, and soldiers, will tell these stories. The storytelling style will rely largely on the performers. “I finally have the right group of dancer/ actors in front of me to do the piece,” Welch says. Gershwin’s Concerto has an interesting history worth noting. Commissioned by conductor Walter Damrosh in 1925 for the New York Symphony Orchestra, the Concerto represents Gershwin’s early adventures into the classical arena. Gershwin read every book he could on theory and composition in preparation. Then he hired a group of musicians and orchestrated the piece himself while hunkered down in a practice shack at the Chautauqua Institute. Critically, the results were mixed; Stravinsky liked it, while Prokofiev did not. Still, the piece remains a permanent fixture in our musical consciousness. For Welch, Gershwin has always been about the Big Apple, hence the title, The Core. For this Aussie, Manhattan is America, “I actually think New York City is the iconic image of America for just about everybody,” admits Welch.
“It’s the pinnacle of a big city.” Welch drew from his own time living in New York during the 1990s. “I’m always amazed when I go there how the city is still so alive with stories and characters,” says the choreographer. As preparation for crafting the actual ballet, Welch immersed himself in a sea of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies. On the Town and That’s Entertainment! and its sequels also provided inspiration. “The ballet is a tribute to movie musicals of the 40s and 50s in a way,” says Welch, who refers to himself as a lapsed film buff. “I grew up watching all those movies.” He fully realizes that some of his dancers may not be familiar with the dance legends of the past. “Some might have to do some homework,” he says. “Although my movement vocabulary will be based in classical technique there’s some jazz, tap, and even swing dance in the mix.” Costume designer Holly Hynes has been on board with Welch’s Gershwin journey for two years now. “I love working with him, plus, he has such a good eye for fabric,” says
Images: Left: Erin Patak; Above: Artists of Houston Ballet and Erin Patak; photos by Drew Donovan 25
Hynes, who has worked with Welch on six ballets. “This is almost like designing for a play; I am really pulling from my background in theater where I started. The 1940s was a period in flux and our ideas of fashion were largely influenced by films of that era. I played with the border between memory and fantasy and was also influenced by late 1940s cartoons, especially in the elongation of some of the lines.” Hynes finds working with Welch often involves a healthy back and forth process in the way of frequent phone calls. To arrive at the look of New York City circa 1940, Welch enlisted the talents of scenic designer Tom Boyd. With a simple set of instructions to include a skyline, street lamps, and few fire escapes, Boyd went to work crafting his whimsical version of the imagined past. “I’m very proud of the fact that I have a historically correct New York skyline,” remarks Boyd, “It actually doesn’t look
that different today.” Boyd also wanted a feeling of a street, as New Yorkers live more on the pavement than inside interior settings. Several fire escapes line the edges of the stage. “I wanted to show the exoskeleton of the city,” Boyd says. To truly give the feeling of being on the island of Manhattan, Boyd frames the set under the green patina arch of the George Washington Bridge. Realism breaks down quite early in the piece when a big yellow cab arrives on stage. Later on, the buildings move about breaking up the space and creating a movie sound-stage effect. Welch always considers the experience of the whole evening, so he specifically selected two works as the perfect lead up to The Core. Also on the bill are Christopher Bruce’s masterpiece Swan Song (1987), and Balanchine’s first piece created work for American audiences, Serenade (1934). Bruce’s trio for three male dancers deals with political prison-
ers and their interrogators. Serenade, a ballet for women, will lighten the mood considerably in its revealing of life in the ballet, thus setting the stage for the upbeat vibe of The Core. In the spirit of splashy musicals the piece ends in a big show, a kind of show within the show. “It will be like the end of 42nd Street,” says Welch. The starlet gets the part, the loose ends tied up, and all is well as curtain comes down with a bang. A nostalgic look at post-war national unity feels particularly just might be in order for these poised-for-change times. Welch sums up the spirit of the piece: “It’s about hope and optimism.” Houston Ballet presents Gershwin Glam from February 21-March 2 at Brown Theater, Wortham Center. Call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org.
Literary Kids: Houston Organizations Help Youngsters Connect with Writing by Victoria Ludwin Due to the Harry Potter phenomenon, reading for the under eighteen set has been in the spotlight for the past several years, and the changes within the genre have been dramatic. No longer are kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; options limited to formulaic Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys fare; kidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s literature, in particular that is written for young adults, deals with real life issues such as sex, drugs, alcohol and the perennial problem of identity. These new novels donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pander to children with cheery characters or simple language; at the National Book Awards readings in New York, the young adult novel selections were just as compelling to listen to as those written for adults. The residual effects are terrific: more available reading material, better stories, more young readers, and, we might assume, better writing created by the kids who are reading these books. In Houston, two organizations are working hard to bring together young readers and writers: Inprint and Writers in the 28
Schools. For the past twenty five years, Inprint has brought nationally renowned writers to town as part of the Inprint Brown reading series, hosted classes and workshops on writing, and has functioned as the literary heart of Houston. Recently, Inprint created a new reading series called Cool Brains!, bringing excellent writers of children’s and young adult fiction to Houston to read and discuss their work, much to the delight of readers of all ages. Writers in the Schools places Houston area writers into public and private schools to help excite kids about writing and in the process, helping kids learn to be better writers. Professional writers (including ArtsHouston’s own Tria Wood) in 350 classrooms across the city engage kids in creative and analytic writing exercises, helping their students develop valuable skills while teaching, as their website extols, “the pleasure and power of reading and writing.” I recently spoke with Rich Levy, Executive Director of Inprint, and Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools, about what’s happening in the world of reading and writing for young people. Victoria Ludwin: How do you see children’s literature has changed in the past twenty years? What do you think has brought on that change? Rich Levy: I have to admit, I am not an expert in the field. But from the perspective of someone whose oldest child is 18 and who has been obsessed with children’s books since before she was born, it seems to me that the field has been flourishing. It also seems that there is much more daring and provocative work. My heroes in children’s lit—people like William Steig, Maurice Sendak, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, even H.A. Rey (the Curious George author) and Laura Ingalls Wilder—their books are still out there, but there’s an enormous marketplace of new names, and especially many more YA [young adult] novels, it seems to me. I consulted a friend who is an expert in the field, and she tells me that she and her colleagues have observed an amazing number of novels for children being published today. But even for the scholars, it’s hard to know if there are more YA novels than picture books. It seems that the YA market is expanding, but this hunch isn’t based on real numbers - it may be a factor of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Speaking of which, we personally owe a great debt to J.K. Rowling. Our oldest child wasn’t a reader, despite being read to every night, until Harry Potter. My dad had bought her a hardcover copy of the first volume in the series, then the second. We went on vacation, and Rose had book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, because we always bring books with us when we travel, and she started reading it in the car. When we got to where we were going, she refused to go anywhere until she finished the book - or she brought it with her, nose in her book, no matter what we did. She was ten at the time. She read every Harry Potter book obsessively, over and over again, as if it were a kind of religion, even listening to the CDs when she was in the bathtub or falling asleep. Ever since then she has been a reader. Her tastes are not terribly diverse, but she is very passionate about what she reads. Thank you, Ms. Rowling.
VL: Do you think kids are reading more? RL: According to our expert acquaintance, there is evidence that kids are reading a great deal. The 2004 NEA study, Reading at Risk, seemed to make the opposite case, but it was based on adults (18 and older), and it focused entirely on books. Kids are reading all sorts of things—magazines, webzines, websites, even MySpace and Facebook. If you count all of that, which I am inclined to do, kids are interacting with text more than ever. But it’s probably a more superficial kind of reading. And with the birth and expansion of cable TV, and now the easy availability of movies on DVD and TV, and the lure of the Internet, it’s getting harder for reading to compete. After all, reading is a quiet, private experience. It’s not terribly sexy, and outside of Harry Potter and related fads, kids just don’t seem to be getting excited about it. We live in a society that is glutted with media information, and I think it’s hard for books and the written word to compete. The NEA reading study that came out this fall, To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence—which was a follow-up to Reading at Risk—is pretty depressing. According to the study, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading. And the numbers of daily readers in every age group is declining. It’s a depressing business. VL: Robin, what connection do you find between reading and writing or storytelling? Robin Reagler: There is a strong intrinsic link between them. Avid readers tend to enjoy writing, and writers usually are enthusiastic readers. The Writers in the Schools (WITS) teaching approach strengthens a student’s pleasure in the reading/writing connection. One important aspect of the WITS program is that the activity of telling one’s own personal story is empowering. Everyone has a story to tell. The fact that the WITS writer is interested in the details of each student’s story means a great deal to kids who may not get a great deal of personal attention. The joy that a student finds in writing a story often comes from the response of his or her audience. Moments of such joy happen in every WITS class, and those moments can kindle a lifelong love of reading and writing. That, ultimately, is our goal at WITS. VL: Rich, what has attendance been like at the Cool Brains! series so far? Do you mostly draw kids that are age appropriate to the reading, or many ages? RL: It’s on the increase. Cool Brains! is only in its second season, and the Nick Hornby reading attracted about 350 people on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in late October, which was terrific. That crowd was about 70% teens, which was the best teen turnout by far that Nick had on his U.S. book tour for Slam. We energetically marketed this event to schools and libraries, and publicized the reading as essentially a teen event. But we still had a decent showing of the hardcore Nick Hornby fans, because this was his first-ever appearance in Houston. And he was terrific. According to one teacher, after the read-
Image: Left Top: Marc Brown reading from his work at a Cool Brains! Inprint Readings for Young People event on April 1, 2007; photo by Jessica Kourkounis; Left Bottom: photo by Jack McBride 29
For more information, visit: inprinthouston.org witshouston.org witsblog.org
“we live in a society glutted with media information, and I think it’s hard for books and the written word to compete.” ing, several of the fifteen- and sixteen-year-old boys in her classes asked if they could read Slam for class credit, they were so thrilled with the experience of seeing Hornby live. This was a first—according to her, it’s almost impossible to get teenage boys to read, or to admit it. We started presenting kids’ writers as an aspect of the Inprint Margaret Root Brown Reading Series about four years ago. Our first was Chris Van Allsburg, when he toured to accompany the release of The Polar Express, and the response to that was amazing—we had requests for twice as many tickets as there were seats at the Alley. That reading attracted all ages, although the crowd was primarily families. And when we brought Isabel Allende to town later that season to read from Forest of the Pygmies, the third volume in her YA trilogy, she attracted far more adults than teens—about 400 altogether. She was very pleased with that, I think. Of course, there are so many factors—when you present Image: 30
Rich Levy; photo by Frank Rose
the author, for example. Allende’s reading was on a Monday evening, not a great time for teens. We presented the YA writer Lois Lowry (author of The Giver) on a Saturday morning, which is an awful time for kids, because it competes with all sorts of sports and activities. So we’ve decided to stick to Sunday afternoons, which seems a time when families and teens might come downtown to see a beloved author, and, we hope, in the process, become passionate about books and writing. Of course, the readings are free, so we’ve eliminated that obstacle. Next month we’re presenting Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, which has become a kind of middle school classic. I think we’ll probably get at least a few young adults in the crowd who read and loved the book ten years ago and would like to meet the author. VL: Thanks to you both, and to everyone at Inprint and WITS, for making Houston a more literary place for kids.
Alley Theatre Love, Janis It’s nearly impossible not to like Love, Janis, the bio-play-cum-rock-concert raising the Alley Theatre’s roof till February 10. Based on Laura Joplin’s (Janis’ sister) book of the same title and adapted by Randal Myler, Love, Janis takes on identity, loneliness and soul in a two-hour jam session that’s equal parts therapy and theater. Love, Janis mixes excerpts of Joplin’s letters written between 1966 and 1970, and performances of 16 hit songs. Holding them together are segments with an off-stage interviewer. Janis is played by two people: Katrina Chester, who supplies the singing, and Marisa Ryan, who delivers the rock star’s spoken lines. Chester and Mary Bridget Davies alternate the singing performances. They’re backed by a seven-piece band, and enhanced by strobes, background projections and ever-changing lights. Chester shines as a singer, belting out Joplin’s tunes with deep-throated power. From the opening notes of “Piece of My Heart,” the first song in the show, you know you’re in for an emotional roller coaster ride, plunging into the deepest misery before being swept up Image: Katrina Chester as Janis Joplin (singing), Photo by Michal Daniel 32
into utter euphoria. Joplin sang with every fiber of her being and became a voice of a generation, and Chester’s homage to the legend is mostly spot-on, from the way she grips the mic to the way she allows the music to move her on stage, moving seamlessly through “Women is Losers,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and others in the Joplin songbook. But it’s Marisa Ryan who captures the essence of Joplin’s soul. She’s tentative, seeking approval from her family for her misfit musical ways. She exudes the sheer joy of discovering she’s “somebody important.” She offers introspection, commentary on culture and a battle within herself to find who she is and walk the path to her own personal happiness. Love, Janis isn’t quiet very often, but it’s at its best when it slows down so you can see its sadness and soul. Behind Joplin’s raw, screaming rock and blues was a keen and observant intellectual, and the letters in Love, Janis reveal the depths of her inner turmoil. While Love, Janis doesn’t quite capture the dark, churning maelstrom that was Joplin, it offers a window on the pain and isolation she felt being someone who didn’t want the house and picket fence and “the cashmere sweater shit” handed out to women of her generation. Love, Janis is done with affection – and respect. It’s a lesson in music history and sharp social commentary. And the music is fantastic. – Holly Beretto
Main Street Theatre Caroline, or Change Change is in the air. It’s the buzz word so far for the 2008 political campaigns and the theme of Main Street’s production of Caroline, or Change, with book and lyrics by Tony Kushner and music by Jeanine Tesori. This is a musical for people that prefer operas and serious theater that address hard hitting social issues. Kushner’s play takes place in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a southern city poised at the brink of the civil rights movement. The
“change” in the title not only concerns all that is in flux during the 1960s, but actual change left in the pockets of young Noah Gellman, a child more attached to his stern but principled maid, Caroline, than his new stepmother, Rose. Tamara Siler, as Caroline Thibodeaux, gave the performance of a lifetime as the proud, stoic maid of the Gellman household. Siler excelled in the bottled-up restraint that makes Caroline a believable character. Lori “Ladi” Dansby imbued Emmie Thibodeaux with an undeniable spark, and a sparkling vocal quality. Other outstanding performances included Julian Brashears as Noah, Constance Washington as the sassy friend Dotty Moffett, Alice M. Gatling as a soulful Washing Machine, and Laura Nanes as the meddling stepmother. Rebecca Greene Udden’s direction stayed true to the pared down element in Kushner’s script, and allowed the music and drama come full force. Glenn Sharp’s musical direction was spot-on through and through. Sensational, true-to-period costumes by Toni Whitaker gave the production an authentic feel. Liz Freeman’s utilitarian set proved a bit too busy, especially with a noisy set of curtains to reveal a projected moon. The other play on the word “change” points to Caroline’s inner turmoil of wanting to transcend her circumstances and continue to feed her children. In the end, it’s her children who have the last word, in a house-rocking ballad that shakes one to the core. The show is a weeper all right, not just because the music and performances are stunning, but because the struggles that the play depicts are still very much with us. – Nancy Wozny
Image: Tamara Siler as Caroline; Melanie R. Finley, Roenia Thompson and Courtney Clark as The Radio 33
Hope Stone Dance See Me The sound of a blind man’s cane taps in the darkness. Lights come up to reveal assorted groupings of televisions sets, mostly displaying static. A young boy sits in a makeshift living room staring into his own private TV. A fashionista in red spiky boots struts across the stage making a look- atme entrance. Swarms of dancers come and go in athletic crossings in wild struts and exuberant lifts. Such is the strange and unworldly landscape of Jane Weiner’s newest work, aptly titled See Me. Weiner and her troupe Hope Stone Dance have been on the scene for ten years now, all the while creating thoughtprovoking dances, often with a good dash of humor often along with a heavy hitting social message. In See Me, the humor proved
scant, while the message loomed large. The order, “turn the damn box off,” came through loud and clear, in what looks to be Weiner’s most somber work thus far. The pure dance sections packed a wallop of full-throttle motion and showed off the troupe’s fearless skills. Lindsey McGill, Joe Modlin, JoDee Engle and Reyie Delgado tangoed their hearts out in the most intricate portion of the choreography. Kelly Myernick, on loan from the Houston Ballet, finally got to do more than strut in a riveting solo. Hope Stone veteran Penny Tschirhart charmed in her solo with a stack of three televisions sets. Videography by Shawn Hove worked well during this section, while scale was a problem for the small images scattering the stage. Roma Flowers’
white light design added to the austere atmosphere. Despite a cast of strong characters and arresting visuals, the whole effect felt somewhat unfinished. Dead spaces in the middle of the dance interrupted the momentum. The fits and starts of dancing versus more theatrical passages needed tighter transitions. Although further honing may be in order, Weiner’s social statement did not go unsaid. In fact, Michael Garrett, the so-called blind man, seemed to say it all in his warm and knowing smile. Seeing is more than you think, know, or actually see. – Nancy Wozny
Image: Kelly Myernick and Hope Stone Dance, rehearsal photo from See Me; photo by Simon Gentry 34
visual art review
McMurtrey Gallery Howard Sherman: In my mind, you’re inflatable For his second solo exhibition at McMurtrey Gallery, Howard Sherman returns with large, aggressive paintings that take his previous work a step further along the path of success. Not so much gone as hidden in a cacophony of paint are Sherman’s iconic cartoon figures, a departure from his last exhibition in which his quite capable drawing abilities were highly evident. In my mind, you’re inflatable is much more about his ability to lay down layer upon layer of paint with the precision of a shotgun blast and still have it all come together in a cohesive fashion. This progression toward a fuller abstraction somewhat dislodges Sherman from his apparent fondness for Carroll Dunham and 1980s graffiti art. The small Dunham fetish is evidenced in the displaced cartoonish sexual motifs seen throughout the exhibition: gaping mouths, tongues, vibrators, mons pubis and other, more obvious hunks of meat. While these shapes permeate his work, they are not present for merely salacious means. Sherman has a socially minded attraction to ubiquitous bits of contemporary visual culture and art that doesn’t just depict pears in a bowl. Sex, gold cards and gold teeth, graffiti chic and the need to “improve sex appeal” are all signifiers of a culture wanting to kick everything up a notch and wanting so much more of more to indicate its liveliness. He then mixes all of this in a successful explosion of paint and mark making. This can most honestly be seen in such works as Gold Rolex for a Strong Pimp Hand, Gold Cards Buy Gold Crowns and Titanium Dildo, wherein these things have become theoretical standards for society.
A slight throwback to his earlier work is found in Donkey Punching Bastards, a large blast of whirling dervish energy. Perhaps recalling his comic strip days, Donkey features all the disembodied parts seen in the best of cartoon fights including floating boxing gloves, detached heads and great clouds of color determining a great deal of action, but still less violent than any UFC bout. The one thing that momentarily upsets complete success for Sherman’s show is the titling of his work. Apparently taken aback at the easy success of his first two solo exhibitions, he wanted his work to be less immediately accessible. So, in addition hiding the more easily decodable iconography under layers of paint, he apparently amped up the titles of his paintings in an effort to force the viewer into more of a quandary over their content and subject matter. This raises the question, then, of which is more important – the image or the title? The obvious answer is, of course, the image. Titanium Dildo is simply an inept title for what is the best painting in the exhibition, although it clearly has nothing on Invisible Nipple Clamp and Paralytic Hooker (the weakest of the show). This sophomoric titling, reminiscent of “Beavis and Butthead”type ramblings, distracts from rather than adding to serious discourse about the work. The painting – the idea – is already there; it already does this with no need for such frivolity. Sherman, a graduate of the University of Texas and University of North Texas, is already achieving what many artists wait years for: sold-out exhibitions to good collections, good media coverage, important artist residencies, and, this fall, a solo museum show. Once he figures out the dilemma of titles, his visually dynamic work will pass its only hurdle. These paintings are not the grist for quiet meditation. They are loud and sometimes a bit outré, but they will keep you coming back, laying new surprises in your lap each time – a mark of good work no matter what you call it. -R. Eric Davis Through February 16th, 3508 Lake Street, 713.523.8238, mcmurtreygallery.com
Image: Howard Sherman, Donkey Punching Bastards, 2007 35
visual art review
DiverseWorks Artspace Flicker Fusion: Wendy Wagner, Lars Arrhenius, Brent Green, Zhou Xiaohu and Federico Solmi Nothing to watch because of the writers’ strike? Head to DiverseWorks’ instant multi-plex to see Flicker Fusion, an international gathering of animation artists. Equal parts entertaining and disturbing, the work runs the gamut from artists pushing the limits of technology to more familiar handdrawn techniques. It’s no wonder that Houston artist Wendy Wagner branched out into animation; her invented species of hose-nosed creatures has always been begging for a larger, moving canvas. In her wall-sized short subject, The Eternity of a Second, Wagner’s über-perky world takes off with some mighty odd adventures of the snouted folk and their various travels, all punctuated with the kind of bizarre commentary that stays true to Wagner’s logic of no-logic. Wagner’s harmless-on-the-surface work is wonderfully unsettling. With a pulsing, slightly sinister soundtrack combined with sugary visuals,
the effect is mysteriously menacing. The piece is best viewed while reclining on one of the comfy snout pillows Wagner has provided. Stockholm-based Lars Arrhenius’s The Street utilizes iconic functional symbols that inhabit our public spaces to create his blatantly funny and austere world. The Street marches through a day in the life of robotic sign people as they go through their daily motions, from work to sex. Routine, habit and mindless action play out in a sped-up scenario. It’s a black-for-night, white-for-day world, divided into neat little boxes where life plods onward, driven by an ever-ticking clock. Brent Green, the most curious of the lot, makes work that begs the question, “How ever do you do that?” Hand drawn people quiver about against backgrounds that look like cave paintings and other unlikely locales. Eerie and enticing, Green’s
Image: Wendy Wagner, Still from Eternity of a Second, 2007 36
strange narratives draw the viewer in deeply, casting a nearly hypnotic spell. Zhou Xiaohu pushes claymation to new disturbing heights in Crowd Around, which includes a birth scene and other rather grotesque but clever clay accomplishments. On a more subversive note, Italian-born Federico Solmi’s biting satire, King Kong & The End of the World, takes direct aim at the art world, with King Kong crashing the Guggenheim. Judging from this provocative collection of work, animation is alive, well, and subversive as ever. -Nancy Wozny Through February 23rd, 1117 E. Freeway, 713.223.8346, diverseworks.org
visual art review
The Menil Collection Museum Contemporary Conversations: Robert Ryman, 1976 Robert Ryman is a rare example of an artist equally at home in both the realms of conceptual and formalist art. It could be said that his formalism is the conceptualism in which he continues to gesticulate subtle yet challenging work. At the Menil Collection through February 17th, three of his pieces from 1976 are presented as part of the Contemporary Conversations series. At first glance, it may seem that only three paintings, all in monochromatic white, come off as a bit anemic, but by spending only a little more time with them, one can begin to understand the understated nuances Ryman explores through his poetic art. In Midland II, Ryman presents a surface of white texture on Acrylivin with four cadmium plated steel bolts. The surface of the painting is virtually flush with the wall. There is no imagery present save the mounting apparatus. The relationship of the mounting hardware and the work of art are seamless in that very relationship is the crux of the art. By eliminating all representational components in his paintings, Ryman uniquely hones in on the physical apparatus that literally make a painting what it is. This approach surpasses other minimalists such as Judd or Andre in that his concern is not tied up with some sort of metaphysical “presence,” but rather in the humble origins of the structure itself. This Zen-like approach takes some getting used to, and it would not be unfair to label his work as art for art’s sake. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to imagine a group of viewers getting really pumped up about a Ryman show other than people who actually make paintings themselves. But this is not necessarily a criticism of the work; it is only to say that there is a certain aptitude of patience he brings to the table, and that he expects the viewer to bring as well. In Untitled Drawing, he presents a penciled grid of 144 squares overlaying a textured surface in white. The effect is a sort of austere Agnes Martin (if is possible to be any more austere than Martin). The Plexiglas surface is again mounted directly onto the wall with black oxide steel fasteners (painted silver). The grid, although measured, gives evidence of chance as discernible on the edges and around the mounting apparatus. His underlying paint treatment
is not exactly haphazard, but incomplete enough to give rise to a dialog between intent and application. There is a sort of derelict grid formed in the upper right-hand corner that achieves the same effect. One questions whether or not some damage has occurred to the piece since its creation in 1976, or if those marks were a part of the original conception. This line of thinking continues, as it were, to the periphery of the work and beyond. I found myself staring at the small gallery in the Menil where the works are hung and discriminating on the walls, ceiling, lighting and any other physical apparatus present. In essence, I literally became more present myself in the space, and more aware of my presence in it. This is no small feat to pull off—and this from an artist that originally went to New York to become a jazz musician and who has never had any formal training in the visual arts. Perhaps this lack of training adds to Ryman’s ability to approach his art with an almost naïvelike sentiment that could not otherwise be accomplished. A musical parallel is often referenced when speaking of Ryman’s work; John Cage’s 4‘33”, a “composition” from 1952 in which Cage plays not a single note, the recording’s point being that the ambient noise we filter out during performances is actually a sort of composition in and of itself, or can be if we are brought to an awareness of it. I think this likening is pretty fair, and I have only more admiration for Ryman in that he has built a solid career out of his “silent” paintings, continuing to investigate the implications of the formal aspects, the truly formal nuts and bolts of painting, without succumbing to the guise of gimmickry. -Garland Fielder Through February 17th, 1515 Sul Ross, 713.525.9400, menil.org Image: Robert Ryman, Midland II, 1976 37
visual art review
Artists Alive and Well (AAW) is a new nonprofit organization in Houston fostering a community of local artists by providing suitable venues in which to show their work and by supplying free marketing advice to both amateur and professional alike. Since Linda Summers Posey founded the organization this past July, many local artists with origins in places as diverse as Turkey, Germany, and Egypt and of course, Baytown and Clear Lake as well, are meeting every other Tuesday to support each other and learn how to show their work confidently and sell their work for profit. Their hope is that viewers who are exposed to their art through a series of downtown exhibitions will find a favorite local artist to purchase among their lot. Posey describes the organization’s mission as a tool to instill confidence in artists, whether aspiring or experienced. She is determined to change the mentality of the “starving artist” to that of the more appropriate “abundant artist.” The January show at the Continental Airlines Building, impressively juried by Sara Kellner, the former artistic director of DiverseWorks ArtSpace, showcased works including photography, oil and acrylic paint, ceramics and wood. While some of the landscapes and representational pieces were a tad amateurish and uninspired, the majority of even these pieces by emerging artists had moments of clarity and precision of detail. Particularly impressive was the work of John L. Gay, a woodworker who is an engineer by trade. His wooden Flying Bowl was accompanied by an explanatory text that chronicled some of the forty-odd hours it took to construct the figure-eight shaped bowl fashioned out of myriad pieces of scrap wood. The fastidious craftsmanship and the theorems Gay extrapolates in his vision statement are the sign of a patient and talented mathematician, while his attention to the concepts and beliefs that surround the figure-eight shape, an infinity symbol in mathematics and a sign of prosperity in certain ancient cultures, is
Artists Alive and Well Group Show representative of an artist’s sensitivity to the more subtle conventions of his craft. Realistic renderings of dilapidated Americana by J.W. Sharp, two quite abstract Chinese ink and color paintings by Sandi Gardner and the labor-intensive gelatin print photography of Nan Stombaugh were also highlights of the downtown exhibit. The most arresting works, however, were the red impasto abstract paintings by Carrie Lee Allbritton. Particularly, Miner’s Gold was a visually dynamic field of layered paint that created dimension and texture. The color palette gradated from a dark mahogany to a deep red and eventually, a scorching orange.
The left of the painting was dramatically interrupted with a single and shockingly bright-yellow linear splatter. The show will travel to One Allen Center early this month and is scheduled to move to another downtown destination the following month. While the galleries of Houston are often filled with internationally acclaimed exhibits, AAW reminds us that our city is teeming with talented artists, who are very much alive. -Sarah Gajkowski-Hill February 4th through March 1st, 500 Dallas Street, 281.282.0241 artistsaliveandwell.com.
Image: J.W. Sharp, A Glimpse Beyond the Reflection, acrylic on canvas, 30” w x 40” h 38
visual art review
Deborah Colton Gallery DIGITALIA: Intimacy in the Hyperreal Meant for lovers and confidants, intimacy is a function of the human condition. With all the wires and waves connecting us today, many wonder if it can survive in the face of tantalizing distractions and superficial replacements for physical and emotional contact. There is a great debate ranging across philosophy, psychology and politics, but the battles are being fought with every text message and online video. In an effort to fight the pessimistic tide of those who believe we are less able to connect with others today more than ever, DIGITALIA has gathered different views of our new world which address intimacy as either facile pandering or a true and deep connection. Through the spoken word, writing and mass media communication has successively moved away from personal touch. Steven Miller channels the disconnect that successive layers of technology bring to relationships in a series of surreal photographs. Wrapping his subjects in a vacuumous black void, Miller presents everyday figures- not models or actors- as tied in knots, their heads or bodies wrapped in thick white ropes that carry connotations of bondage, enslavement and subservience while the ropes’ ends trail off the edge of the image or between figures, linking them in a torpid stupor. In a denial of media’s ability to carry weight, Martin Creed’s FEELINGS is a neon sign of rigid sans-serif letters that fails to carry a hint of meaning in its content- with tongue firmly in cheek. The march of technology has pushed into a new world with the advent of the internet, and common sense dictated that in this new evolution even less intimacy was to be found. Charles Cohen takes this assumption to its logical conclusion by manipulating pornographic images, removing the object of desire with surgical precision, and leaving only an evocative white hole where the phantom of sexual desire once stood. Taking the essential absurdity of instant gratification to its bitter end, Graham Guerra used CGI technology to create monsters out of breasts and legs to maximize the insatiable sexual desire that pornography fails to placate. In the last decades of the Twentieth Century the theories of the hyperreal explained that we were moving so far away from intimacy that we cannot tell the difference between reality and its fake. Today we have begun to see these theories fall to pieces in the face of ever more real consequences for actions in hyperspace. Sexual encounters have a firm
place in the business of popular classified advertisement website Craigslist, and the story of one teenager driven to suicide over a mean-spirited farce on MySpace has led to calls for jail time in response to online harassment. Breaking through the challenge of intimacy in the hyperreal is Sean M. Johnson’s Beard Love video, which is a tantalizingly disturbing look at the digital age. Johnson spent months searching online for partners for his work, where he sits on a bed with an anonymous man that he contacted through the internet. In a charming reversal of the intent of pornography the men engage in slow and sensual mutual beard-rubbing; their vulnerability is a shock to viewers, torn between an innocuous reality and the charged emotional connotations. For the oversaturated industry of sex and fulfillment the work is a devastating rebuttal, tackling the ways we can be intimate through technology, transcending the pessimism of the hyperreal and discovering that we are still the same fleshy bodies that desire nothing more than the presence that intimacy brings. -Sean Carroll Through March 1st, 2500 Summer Street, 713.869.5151, deborahcoltongallery.com
Image: Sean M. Johnson, Beard Love (video still), 2007, DVD, 23 min 39
Februar y Arts Calendar
February 1 Da Camera 713.524.5050 dacamera.com Keller String Quartet, 8pm, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center. Stages Repertory Theatre 713-527-0123 stagestheatre.com The Unseen, thru 2/17. Houston Poetry Fest First Fridays 713.521.3519 houstonpoetryfest.net Eze Amushie, 8:30pm, Inprint House. Society for the Performing Arts 731.227.4SPA spahouston.org St Petersburg Ballet Theatre: Bizet’s Carmen, thru 2/2, 8pm, Jones Hall. Wade Wilson Art 713.521.2977 wadewilsonart.com Steve Murphy, thru 2/28. February 2 MFAH 713.639.7300 mfah.org Photographs by Bill Brandt: A Sense of Wonder, thru 4/27. G Gallery 713.869.4770 ggalleryhouston.com Jefferey Wheeler: Now Even Fresher, thru 2/25. Documentary Alliance 713.666.2504 documentaryalliance.org The Self-Made Man, 8pm, Aurora Picture Show. Aurora Picture Show 713.868.2101 aurorapictureshow.org Aurora Video Library Open House and Menil Bookstore Deck Party, 5pm, Aurora Video Library. River Oaks Chamber Orchestra 713.665.2700 rocohouston.org Conductorless Concert, 5pm, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church. February 3 Redbud Gallery 713.862.2532 redbudgallery.com Basilios Poulos / Houston / New Works, thru 2/25. River Oaks Chamber Orchestra 713.665.2700 rocohouston.org Conductorless Concert, 6:30pm, St. Philip Presbyterian Church. February 6 Da Camera 713.524.5050 dacamera.com Gypsy Anthems, noon, Wortham Theater Center. Texas Repertory Theatre 281.583.7573 texreptheatre.org Illyria, thru 2/24. Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Bich Minh Nguyen - Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir, 6pm. Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Gary Keith - Eckhardt: There Once Was a Congressman from Texas, 6pm. February 7 Contemporary Arts Museum Houston 713.284.8250 camh.org Musiqa: Loft Concert Series, 6:30pm. Houston Symphony 713.224.7575 houstonsymphony. org PDQ Bach: The Vegas Years, 8pm, Jones Hall. Dominic Walsh Dance Theater 713.652.DWDT dwdt.org Moving Bodies ~ Moving Minds, thru 2/9, Hobby Center, Zilkha Hall. February 8 Bering & James 713.529.0351 beringjamesgallery. com, The Modest Minotaur: Small Scale Mixed Media, thru 2/10. A.D. Players 713.526.2721 adplayers.org The Importance of Being Earnest, thru 3/16. Houston Symphony 713.224.7575 houstonsymphony.org Love Songs with Ann Hampton
Callaway, thru 2/10, Jones Hall. Talento Bilingue de Houston 713.222.1213 tbhcenter.com Alma y Fuego (Soul & Fire) Concert, thru 2/10. January 9 Aurora Picture Show 713.868.2101 aurorapictureshow.org Analyzing While Waiting (For Time to Pass): Contemporary Art in Tehran, 8pm, and 2/10, 3pm. Elder Street Gallery 713.659.5424 elderstreetartist. com Dune-Micheli Patten: Icons & Hieroglyphs, thru 3/7. koelsch gallery 713.862.5722 koelschgallery.com Sally S. Bennett and Sasha Milby, thru 3/1. Da Camera 713.524.5050 dacamera.com Ravi Coltrane Quartet, 8pm, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center. Buffalo Bayou Art Park 713.502.9454 bbap-houston. org Kathy Kelley: Suckling is Continuous, thru February 2009, Freed Art and Nature Park. Houston Symphony 713.224.7575 houstonsymphony. org Sleeping Beauty Waltz and Bernstein Dances, 10am and 11:30am, Jones Hall. February 10 MFAH 713.639.7300 mfah.org Miwa Yanagi—Deutsche Bank Collection, thru 5/4. Rothko Chapel 713.524.9839 rothkochapel.org A Joyous Sound: Unity Peacemakers 6th annual Interfaith Peace Celebration, 1:30pm. February 11 Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Mike Lieberman: Far-From-Equilibrium Conditions, 7pm. February 12 Houston Friends of Music 713.348.5400 houstonfriendsofmusic.org Cantus, 8pm, Stude Concert Hall, Rice University. February 13 Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Classical Theatre Company Reading Love’s Last Shift by Colley Cibber, 7pm. February 14 Arts Alliance Center at Clear Lake 281.335.7777 taaccl.org Opposites Attract: National Art Competition, thru 3/20. February 15 DiverseWorks 713.223.8346 diverseworks.org Cabaret Unkempt: Jennylin Duany, thru 2/16, 8pm. February 16 Fourth International Guitar Festival at Round Top 979.249.3129 festivalhill.org Society for the Performing Arts 731.227.4SPA spahouston.org Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 8pm, Jones Hall. February 17 Inprint Brown Reading Series 713.521.2026 inprinthouston.org Dave Eggers and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 7:30pm, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center. February 19 Society for the Performing Arts 731.227.4SPA spahouston.org The Pipes, Drums and Dancers of
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and The Band of the Coldstream Guards, 7:30pm, Jones Hall. February 20 Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Chitra Divakaruni: The Palace of Illusions, 7pm. February 21 Houston Ballet 713.227.ARTS houstonballet.org Gershwin Glam, thru 2/24, Wortham Center, Brown Theater. Talento Bilingue de Houston 713.222.1213 tbhcenter. com Volvió Una Noche (She Returned One Night), thru 3/1. Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Peter Brown: West of Last Chance, 7pm. February 22 Houston Symphony 713.224.7575 houstonsymphony. org Carmina Burana Plus Bernstein, thru 2/24, Jones Hall. Sandra Organ Dance Company 713.284.8352 organdance.org SODC’s Tenth Anniversary Black History Month Retrospective, thru 2/24, Barnevelder Theater. February 23 Moody Gallery 713.526.9911 moodygallery.com William Christenberry, thru 3/29. New Gallery/Thom Andriola 713.520.7053 newgallery.net FotoFest 2008: Various artists, thru 3/22. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft 713.529.4848 crafthouston.org Craft in America— Expanding Traditions, thru 5/4. Main Street Theater 713.524.6706 mainstreettheater. com Translations, thru 3/23. Da Camera 713.524.5050 dacamera.com Houston Chamber Choir Quartet, 3pm, 3:30pm, and 4pm, Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum. February 24 Inprint Cool Brains! Reading Series 713.521.2026 inprinthouston.org Readings for Young People: Katherine Paterson, 4pm, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center. Society for the Performing Arts 731.227.4SPA spahouston.org The African Children’s Choir, 8pm, Wortham Center’s Brown Theater. February 25 Brazos Bookstore 713.523.0701 brazosbookstore. com Steve Almond - (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, 7:30pm. February 28 Houston Symphony 713.224.7575 houstonsymphony. org Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, thru 3/2, Jones Hall. The Progressive Forum 713.664.0020 progressiveforumhouston.org George Lakoff, 7:30pm, Wortham Center, Cullen Theater. February 29 CTRL Gallery 713.523.2875 ctrlgallery.com Jane South and John Sparagana, thru 4/5. Stages Repertory Theatre 713-527-0123 stagestheatre.com Lady, thru 3/16. Houston Grand Opera 713.546.0200 houstongrandopera.com Jake Heggie: Last Acts, thru 3/15, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center.
40 Do you have March event that you would like to see listed here? Send all pertinent info to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 10th
Sally Bennet and Sasha Milby Opening February 9 koelsch gallery 703 Yale Street, 713-862-5744 koelschgallery.com
Ravi Coltrane Quartet
Saturday February 9, 8pm presented by Da Camera Cullen Theater, Wortham Center dacamera.com
Through February 23 CTRL Gallery 3907 Main Street, 713-523-CTRL ctrlgallery.com MurphyAH.ai
Xnihilo Gallery FotoFest : Stations of the Cross
Through February 29 Station Museum 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900 stationmuseum.com
Orinoco Gallery Currently displaying works by renowned, as well as emerging young artists fromVenezuela. Our collection includes a variety of paintings, drawings, and other work on paper as well as sculptures covering figurative, abstract, geometric and surrealistic art. We are conveniently located inside The Galleria Mall, (Galleria III) between Saks and Macy’s.
A contemporary Feburary Interpreta1 – 28, 2008 tion of Christ’s Journey to the cross, from 14 Contr ibuting Photographers. 2115 Taft Street; Gallery Hours: 8 am - 10 pm weekdays, 9 am - 9 pm weekends
563376 01.17.08 13:39
4411 Montrose Blvd. Suite 200 Houston, Texas 77006 toll free: 866.521.8278 p: 713.521.2977 f: 713.521.2975 www.wadewilsonart.com www.artnet.com
Not to Worry, 2007, lead over wood, 13 x 15 x 41/8 inches, 33 x 38.1 x 10.5 cm
Opening February 1; thru February 28 Wade Wilson Art 44411 Montrose; 713.521.2977 wadewilsonart.com
Peel Gallery Shop is the evolution of the traditional gallery space, mixing art and retail with aplomb, going beyond the usual home décor store by focusing on individual artistry rather than mass-marketed consumption. 4411 Montrose. peelgallery.org
John Palmer is represented by fine art galleries in cities such as New York, London, Seattle and New Orleans. Palmer’s art can also be seen in Tony’s Restaurant and the Ritz Carlton in Dallas. Palmer’s studio is currently located at Winter Street Studios. His new residence and studio on Heights Blvd will be completed in April 2008. JohnPalmerArt.com 41
Danton’s Serves Local Seafood With Side Order of Nostalgia Upon entering the new Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood in the Chelsea Market on Montrose, you might think you’ve been here before. Truth is, you might have been here before, since the location has housed a series of restaurants popular enough to make it onto our radar even if not quite popular enough to make it. Tony Vallone’s original Anthony’s opened here and, most recently, O’Rourke’s dished up some pretty serious red meat. Still, the main reason for deja vu, especially if you’re from around here, might be the enlarged photos covering the walls of the bar to your left and the comfortable dining room that stretches off to your right. You might think you recognize several of your relatives. Far from the “corporate” approach chef Danton Nix mastered working for Tillman Fertitta of Landry’s and Willie G’s fame, or for Jim Goode when the local barbecue master launched Goode Co. Seafood, Nix didn’t decorate his long-awaited namesake with generic scenes full of sailboats in the sunset or rustics from Central Casting strolling along the sand at sunset. He decorated with photos, many old and blackand-white, of his own relatives fishing, crabbing and oystering along the Texas Gulf Coast. On the one hand, many of these folks (including Nix and business partner Kyle Teas as young fishing-camp buddies) look the part completely enough to be archival images. Yet the simple fact that these are (or at least were) living, breathing people who loved this area and its seafood says a mouthful, literally, about what’s served at Danton’s. Food adventurers, beware: you might not encounter a single new, different or taste bud-shattering innovation at Danton’s, for such would be unlikely in a restaurant driven by such respect for the past – or, you might even say, such shameless nostalgia. And the odds of any “fusion” happening on a plate here are low, except for the fusion that took place over the past 100 to 200 years as French, Spanish, Sicilian, Greek and African-American settlers worked out, one recipe at a time, what we love to eat along this coast. You’ll have to excuse their heirs if the result here in Texas tastes a lot like the result a few miles to the east in south Louisiana. Nobody at Danton’s calls this food specifically “Cajun,” since that would mean a specific cooking style imported from somewhere else. The cuisine at Danton’s is “our food,” what our parents and grandparents caught, cooked and served here for generations, the kind of food many of us who grew up in cities 42
experienced only when we went to visit camps without creature comforts for vacations. Loving relatives long passed-on, shimmering summers on waters that never seem as lovely as we remember them, life-defining foods we were served but can’t quite remember where or when – is it any wonder that a meal at Danton’s in the here and now isn’t only about the here and now? As at those fishing camps, an appetizer at Danton’s can be as simple as large boiled shrimp with sprightly, horseradishy cocktail sauce, or perhaps traditional oysters of the sort we know from New Orleans as Rockefeller or Bienville. Here, as oysters Kyle, the salty Gulf bivalves are sautéed in butter and spices and served with plenty of garlic bread for the program we call No Sauce Left Behind. The crab cakes are wonderful, clearly belonging to the current school of using almost all crabmeat with no breadcrumb filler; but we also love the Crab Danton (a kind of mayonnaise-kissed spin on crabmeat ravigote) and especially the cool, cleansing shrimp Campechana. The latter is what happens when we ponder how this part of the United States and that part of Mexico share the same seafood-rich Gulf waters. Roads from this point are wild and varied on Danton’s menu, from a simple fried shrimp, oyster or catfish po-boy to a seafood gumbo with one of the darkest, lushest rouxs we’ve ever laid eyes on this side of the Sabine River. If you want to move past “Texas fried,” as we do from time to time but far from always, there’s a section called Gulf Coast Classics – and these may represent the warmest memories of all. Before restaurants made such dishes readily available, they were the things our grandparents made for us, even if our mothers and fathers never quite learned how. The stuffed redfish, for instance, is a wonder here, the flaky white fillet covered with lump crabmeat and juiced up with something Danton’s dubs “etouffee onions.” This undeniable blast from the past might be paired among your table partners with shrimp etouffee and the even more rare shrimp Creole, a reminder of those days before this coast started pretending that heavy cream was traditional. To really make your Texas Gulf Coast childhood live again, along with one or more dearly departed relatives, order Danton’s red beans and rice – and be sure to add the optional strips of fried catfish on top. It’s just the touch no class-act chef would ever think of, even if everybody’s grandma surely would have. And probably did.
RESTAURANT IN TOWN ( LITERALLY! )
706 MAIN ST @ CAPITOL, DOWNTOWN. HOUSTON, TX 77002 | 713.224.6700
Where to Eat
“Purely Indian, Purely Good” -Allison Cook, Houston Chronicle
Yatra Brasserie 706 Main, 713.224.6700 yatrausa.com
Flemings Steakhouse 2405 W. Alabama 713.520.5959
Max’s Wine Dive 4720 Washington 713.880.8737 maxswinedive.com “our favorite joke-becomes-dinner of all time, the Texas Haute Dog. This one makes the weiner from grass-fed gourmet beef, wraps it in an artisan bun, covers it in what may be the best “Texas red” chili anywhere (venison or otherwise) and sprinkles it with cotija cheese, crispy fried onions and pickled jalapenos. As young IMers love to put it... OMG!” -John DeMers, ArtsHouston
Ouisie’s Table 3939 San Felipe 713.528.2264 ouisiestable.com
Salud! Winery 3939 Montrose 713.522.8282 saludwinery.com Salud! Winery caters to all your wine needs. Try before you buy! Sit and enjoy some cheeses or fine chocolates on the patio with your selection, or bring it home. We’re big on education, so talk with our trained staff and taste any of the wines before taking a bottle home.
Ibiza 2450 Louisana 713.520.7300 ibizaloungenextdoor.com 44
Want to make your own? You’ll be guided through the steps of making wine. 45 days later when the batch is ready, you return to bottle the wine and put on labels designed specifically for you.
THERE’S A NEW GALLERY IN TOWN. Come see Houston’s newest and most extraordinary collection of rugs, artifacts and accents for the home.
5910 SW Fwy. (59 South) Between Fountainview and Chimney Rock, Houston TX 77057 | 713-706-4406
Restaurant Listings Armando’s 2630 Westheimer Rd (713) 520-1738 riveroaksgrill.com
The Daily Grind 4115 Washington Ave (713) 861-4558 dailygrindunwind.com
Onion Creek 3106 White Oak Dr (713) 880-0706 onioncreekcafe.com
Arturos Uptown 1180 Uptown Park Blvd # 1 (713) 621-1180 arturosuptown.com
Dry Creek 544 Yale St (713) 426-2313 drycreekcafe.com
Picnic 1928 Bissonnet St (713) 524-0201 picnicboxlunches.com
Azuma 5600 Kirby Dr (713) 432-9649 azumajapanese.com
El Meson 2425 University Blvd (713) 522-9306 elmeson.com
The Raven Grill 1916 Bissonnet St (713) 521-2027 theravengrill.com
Berryhill Baja Grill 702 E. 11st 713-225-2252 berryhilltamales.com
Empire Cafe 1732 Westheimer 713.528.5282 empirecafe.net
Shade 250 W 19th St (713) 863-7500 shadeheights.com
Café Botticelli 318 W Gray St 713.533.1140
Farrago 318 Gray St (713) 523-6404 farrago.tv
Star Pizza 77 Harvard (713)-869-1241 starpizza.net
Gen. Joe’s Chopstix 3939 Montrose Blvd 713.521.9393
Tacos a Go-Go 3704 Main Street 713.8078226 tacosagogo.com
Catalan 5555 Washington Ave, (713) 426-4260 catalanfoodandwine.com Catalina Coffee 2201 Washington Ave (713) 861-8448 The Chocolate Bar 1835 W Alabama St (713) 520-8599 Cova 5555 Washington Ave. 713.868.3366 covawines.com Crapittos 2400 Midlane St (713) 961-1161 crapittos.com Crescent City Beignets 3260 Westheimer Rd (713) 520-8291 Crickets Creamery 315 W 19th St (713) 869-9450 46
Hungry’s Bistro 2356 Rice Blvd (713) 523-8652 hungryscafe.com Inversion Coffee House 1953 Montrose Blvd (713) 523-4866 inversioncoffee.com Julia’s Bistro 3722 Main St (713) 807-0090 juliasbistro.com Kenny and Ziggy’s 2327 Post Oak Blvd (713) 871-8883 kennyandziggys.com Mi Luna 2441 University Blvd (713) 520-5025 mi-luna.com
T’Afia 3701 Travis St (713) 524-6922 tafia.com Tart Cafe 4411 Montrose Blvd (713) 526-8278 tartcafe.com The Tasting Room Lounge 114 Gray 713-528-6402 tastingroomwines.com The Wine Bucket 2311 W Alabama St # A (713) 942-9463 thewinebucket.com
Stockholm Krystal Vodka
How Swede it is...The original family recipe of this Swedish vodka dates back over 100 years, and modern technology has only improved on the clean, clear taste. The finest premium wheat is distilled 3 times through a high-rise column still, then filtered twice through charcoal which adds the "polish". The pride of the people who make Krystal is reflected in each and every cork, and "Stoldt", or "pride" is hand signed on every single cap by the bottle's tapper. 80° 1.75L $28.99 w/Key*
Find your Fetish at Spec’s!
Levata Montepulciano d’Abruzzo This traditional red wine from Italy is indeed a bargain find. Bright, warm and ruby red in color, it has a broad bouquet of almonds and wild berries. With a smooth flavor and full body it can pair well with heartier Italian dishes of pizza and stuffed ravioli with tomato sauce. This is a good choice for an everyday red wine. 750ml $5.99
Miceli’s Scamorza Cheese
Scamorza cheese is of Italian origin and is of the pasta filata type similar to mozzarella and provolone. Miceli’s Dairy is from Cleveland, Ohio and their Scamorza bears the typical pear-shaped body. More importantly, it has the full milky, buttery flavor and excellent melting qualities of the original. This cheese can be substituted anytime mozzarella or provolone is called for, be it for pizzas, casseroles, lasagna or sandwiches. It is especially well-used as part of an antipasto plate. $5.57lb.
Not all items available in all stores. Prices include 5% Cash Discount, and may be subject to change.
If you haven't been to Spec's Superstore lately, you're in for a true treat! A world of wines, foods and liquors all under one roof. With over 40,000 items in our Deli alone, it would be impossible to list 'em all, so here's just a little sampler:
Phillip’s White Wine Shrimp Risotto Gourmet Soup Collection White Cheddar Asparagus Duerr Lemon Curd Blessac Rainbow Salt with Truffles Richard's Rainwater Drinking Water Al Dente Wild Mushroom Fettuccine Ben & Jerry's Creme Brulee Ice Cream And so much more! Visit us here, or visit us online at www.specsonline.com, but you just gotta come see us! With friendly help, Just Flat Cheap Prices and 5% Discount for Cash or Debit Cards, you'd be wasting your money going anywhere else!
713-526-8787 • www.specsonline.com 2410 Smith Street • Houston, TX 77006 Fetish Playmates GSM Blend 750ml around $20 cash