A R T   L E T T E R

The Timely Magazine of Art

#30 <previous/ next> Artletter index January 2, 1996

Sculpture on the Green at the Omni Hotel	6/30

IF you accept the premise that the purpose of art is decoration, about half
the show succeeds. The topiary swans  which dot the grounds set the lower
standard: is the art at least as good as the banal landscaping?  Mckay Otto's
lava string is unobtrusively natural. Moroles' granite grid makes a swell
room divider in the cafe, but his larger outdoor piece is awkwardly sited
and inexplicable. Unable to justify itself in terms of function, it lacks the
punch to justify itself artistically, and fails. Michael Manjarris' stone
pieces are good benches, but bad art.  Elizabeth Akamatsu's seesaw is too
small: gallery art placed outdoors. It can't compete with the topiary swans.
Best of show: Joe Mancuso's brick and concrete straw effectively
integrates itself into its poolside setting; it could be part of the water
filtration system. It appears to belong there, neither functional, nor
decorative, but interesting.-B.D.

Preview: Jim Rizkalla at Diverseworks' Subspace    open 6/8-6/21

Trash haiku. Rizkalla plays with ideas and objects, juggling a few simple
bits of nothing much with an ad-hoc dynamism, evoking his low-rent
environment of dumpsters and thriftstores. Thouroughly contemporary in
their ambivalence, Rizkalla's works combine anti-art cynicism and poetic
tenderness without insisting on a reconciliation of the two.  Duct tape, the
icon of temporariness, holds it all together (for now) in an unconcealed
attempt to repair an essentially fragmented, meaningless world.-B.D.

Sharon Engelstein at Texas Gallery	6/29

Actually two different shows: 1. the four standing animal mannequins and
2. all the rest. The small sequin objects, the hanging leg, and the tiger tail
are formally interesting but bland, but the mannequins add a huge new field
for expression  by referring to fashion, luxury, anthropomorphic cartoons,
and the entire figurative tradition. The polished execution, subtle and
precise poses of the animal figures, and rich evocative power of clothing
make the ambiguity of Engelstein's viewpoint on these issues fascinating.
Anthropomorphic animals have a universality they couldn't possibly achieve
if they were human. The figures are sexless, ageless, raceless, classless,
allowing Engelstein to shift the focus squarely on the idea of clothing
itself. The contrast of glittering sequins, velvet, fur, and  tulle with the
distended,  putty-like bodies implies that our finery, for all its cultural
significance, is as ridiculous as dressing a cat for a tea party.-B.D.

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

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