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 Mail subscriptions $15/year. Look for Artletter 31 on June 15.