A R T   L E T T E R

The Timely Magazine of Art

#25 <previous/ next> Artletter index March 15, 1996

Artletter is available the 1st and 15th of every month at Brazos Books,
Lawndale, Glassell, Inman Gallery, Menil Store, CAM Store, Brazil Cafe.

Photographs by Core Fellows at the Glassell School	3/17

Mark Allen's Exquisite Bliss of Love  floats a set of diseased siamese
twins, feverish and hazy, in the center of a cerulean void. Allen uses the icy
distance of ultra-slick computer generated photography to isolate his
specimens as if on a microscope slide or sterile incubator. The large scale
and bright synthetic color underline the chilling afectlessness of the
medium. Andrea Grover uses computer technology to update Surrealist
collage. Monkey looks real, but it can't be. A famished ghoul with slimy
fingers, a mod hairstyle, and huge limpid eyes could be titled "supermodel";
it's claustrophobic close-up detail and dark background recall sleazy flash
photos of celebrities taken outside trendy nightclubs. Joe Allen's
Millennium Tremens can't compete with Marvel Comics' superlative
integration of narrative and graphics. It's vaguely anti-establishment blend
of paranoia and silliness is ill suited to its mass media wanna-be style.
Amy Blakemore offers fragments of life blurred at the edges like memory.
Her images remind you of a story without actually telling it.-B.D.

Brilliant! at the CAM	4/14

Brilliant? "I'm desperate" to find any redeeming social or cultural issues
raised by this sophomoric art, though this overhyped show does have a few
interesting pieces: Chris Ofili's dung paintings and sculpture live up to
their unusual medium. Rachel Whiteread's banal castings further the
Duchamp-Beuys art object lineage.  Angus Fairhurst's hypnotic animations
and Georgina Starr's innovative CD-ROM with touchscreen are both lost in
self-indulgent installations. The highlight of the show is the zine/catalog
which documents the london art scene much better than the art in the
exhibition.- Greg Tramel

Jack Livingston at Sally Sprout	3/30

Formulaic. Decorative gold frames surround panels of birch plywood, each
with a smaller frayed rectangle of grimy linen pinned to it. Simulated
antiquity is the vehicle for simulated spirituality. Derived from a
mishmash of Far Eastern painting;  as if Livingston is basing his work on a
small photo in a brochure of the Asian art section of a museum, faithfully
copying the style without any of the substance. Like a live Gratedul Dead
song, these incoherent mumblings can be mistaken for transcendent
spirituality if you don't look too closely.- B.D.

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Amy Blakemore at Inman Gallery	3/30

Blakemore makes a virtue of quirky low-fidelity photography. As if seen
through a viewmaster, the three farm pictures peer into a far away world
of wholesome blandness. Fallen apples rot in the green grass, scratchy
branches reach into a wispy sky, a rosebush screens a red barn in a picture
postcard retelling of the nostalgic farm myth of childhood. The coldness of
cibachrome color and the blurred edges insinuate a disquieting falseness
and desolation to these icons, just as the red red lipstick, pinpoint eye
sparkles and overpowering golden light on Steph  give her wide eyed
innocence a disturbing, unnatural intensity.-B.D. 

Jasper Johns Sculptures at the Menil Collection	3/30

Which is the one, original, true lightbulb, flag or flashlight? The Menil
democratically displays plaster and paper mache originals alongside the
bronze copies, gleefully ignoring the enormous social distinction between
them. Johns' disregard for the niceties of sculptural tradition is casual
rather than antagonistic; owing as much to apathy as to Picasso or
Duchamp. You get the sense that he made these objects for fun, in between
paintings; the subject matter is commonplace, the ambition level low.
Small and unassuming, these doo-dads look wonderfully ridiculous in the
airy halls of the Menil collection.-B.D.

Heidi Kumao at Houston Center for Photography	3/31

Kumao's pieces have a nice balance between the awkward machines which
project her very short, jerky films and the films themselves. Well crafted
with a touch of the theatrical: darkness hides obtrusive cords, screws, wall
oulets, etc. leaving the presentation uncluttered and well focused. Content
is thin: Kumao "recalls charged encounters from the workplace, family or
school"  which are so vague that, like a horoscope, they can be related to
anyone's life.  Only in Kept, where a tiny image of a woman sweeps aside
scraps of real letters, and Adore where the viewer is invited to share in
the voyeurism of the cinema is there a more solid, necessary connection
between image and installation.-B.D.

Address letters to: Bill Davenport, 801 Tulane St., Houston TX 77007

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