March 26 (Saturday) 3 pm – Please join us for coffee and wine; Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin will discuss the current exhibition in the context of their 50 States Project and lend fascinating insight into the rare and little-known nineteenth century novel Norma Trist.
Central to their current exhibition, Where the Ranch Actually Was, is a installation by Nick Vaughan and Jake Marolin entitled Spiritus: Norma Trist as a Volume of Captured Breath. The components of this work include a modest and dated desk, chair and microform reader displaying text, spools of yellow and white thread, and a cluster of translucent plastic bags prominently suspended from the gallery ceiling. More bags are loosely assembled into a pile in a nearby corner , a gathering place for those which have been similarly inflated but not yet been added to the suspended mass. Clues point to a logical order of assembly, but some explanation is necessary.
The installation is an ongoing performance; the components ultimately remain as the relics of the relatively simple act of reading aloud and thus exhaling into the bags, filling them as the title states with “captured breath.” The microform displays scans of pages of a nineteenth century novel which bears the unwieldy name Norma Trist; or Pure Carbon: A Story of an Inversion of the Sexes. Written by John Wesley Carhart and published in 1895, the book is recognized for this early portrayal of a central protagonist who is without ambiguity or reservation same-sex oriented. With unflinching directness she declares, “My love…is according to my nature; therefore, God-given and right.” And make no bones about it, Norma Trist has acted upon her desires. Equally stunning is that these words were written in the cultural backwater of La Grange, Texas, perhaps best known as the location of the infamous Chicken Ranch bordello, but also squarely within the Victorian era.
Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin have made a series of such Spiritus works during the past few years, including Spiritus: John Wayne, in which his complete dialogue from eighty-four films has been similarly captured. As part of an ambitious opus called the 50 States Project, Where the Ranch Actually Was is the partial unveiling of the Texas portion of the greater work which will be exhibited in New York this fall. It follows closely 50 States: Wyoming exhibited earlier this year at Art League Houston. Readings from Norma Trist will continue throughout exhibition, which also features Spiritus: Lawrence v. Texas, the fifty-odd pages of oral arguments in the landmark Supreme Court case, and a series of mesmerizing found road maps which the artists cut by hand to reveal hidden images. At 3 pm (following the exhibition walkthrough of Casey William’s exhibition at Art Palace) join us as Vaughan and Margolin lend intriguing insight into the place of Norma Trist in GLBT and Texas literary history.
Please join us February 26 (Friday) from 6 – 8 pm for an artists’ reception.
Where the Ranch Actually Was
image: Nick Vaughan & Jake Margolin “The Wagon Wheel” found road map 2015
Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin are interdisciplinary artists and a married couple. Currently they split their time between Houston and Tulsa, Oklahoma where Vaughan is an inaugural fellow in the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. They are developing a series of distinct installations, one for each American state, in response to recently uncovered and not well-known nineteenth century lesbian and gay historical figures, events and cultural artifacts.
Where The Ranch Actually Was includes a series of maps overlaid with images of what now stands at the site of historic LGBT bars and nightclubs across the state of Texas. These elaborately hand-cut road maps evoke cardiovascular systems and provide frameworks connecting geography to lost histories which created them.
The exhibition will also include sculptural remnants of performance actions in which the artists read aloud into inflatable bags, capturing their breath as a physical abstraction of the words they are reciting. For this show they are creating breath abstractions of the landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decision making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory, and the little-known 1895 novel Norma Trist; or, Pure Carbon: A Story of The Inversion of the Sexes. Written in La Grange, Texas by a medical doctor and published in Austin, Norma Trist features astonishingly progressive views and an unabashed lesbian protagonist. Several performances will occur during the run of the exhibition including a recitation from this novel during the artists’ reception.
50 States: Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma will be exhibited in New York in September 2016 at the Invisible Dog Art Center. Vaughan & Margolin received a 2014 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for their works on paper, and were resident artists at New York’s HERE Art Center (HARP) from 2010-2013. 50 States: Wyoming is on view at Art League Houston through February 27, 2016.
Through April 30, 2016
Please join us January 8 (Friday) from 6 to 8 pm for an artist’s reception
image: Clark Derbes “Dracula’s Wedding” carved polychrome silver maple 2015
Clark Derbes (b. 1978) is an emerging artist who lives in Burlington, Vermont. He is known for painting and his sculptures created from found wood. Initially carved using a chainsaw into a form known as a hypercube (a twelve-sided rectangular solid which Derbes stumbled upon in his quest for shaped surfaces on which to paint), these forms are further refined using a succession of mechanical and hand sanding to differing degrees of smoothness. Layers of synthetic gouache in freehand checkerboard patterns are applied with an improvisational spirit with a range of outcomes, some restrained and others vibrant and chaotic. The current exhibition combines a series of free-standing works, wall mounted reliefs and paintings on canvas. Derbes studied at Louisiana State University (BFA) and has had solo exhibitions in Massachusetts, Texas, Louisiana, Vermont and Georgia and was recently included in a group exhibition at the Fleming Museum in Burlington, Vermont.
Through February 22, 2016
Please join us January 8 (Friday) from 6 to 8 pm for an artist’s reception
Image : Paul Kittelson “Falling Skies”
Paul Kittelson (b. 1959 South Dakota) has called Houston home for thirty years. He received his BFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1982) and his MFA from The University of Houston (1985). His work is in the permanent collections of The New Museum, New York, the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He has served on the faculty of the University of Houston since 1992. His varied conceptions range from the storied life-sized Stegosaurus which once lurked near Montrose Boulevard, the lighted Beacons marking the passage of Buffalo Bayou near Sam Houston Park, and a recently opened Metro station on Houston’s eastside. Two hallmarks distinguish his work: a boundless variety of materials and good humor. Kittelson gathers traditional and unusual media for his current exhibition. Alongside pencil and paper drawings, free-standing and wall-dependent sculptures include concrete, aluminum Con-tact paper, vinyl, charcoal briquettes and even a rubber chicken. Easy wit informs each piece, reflected in guileless depictions of suburban yards and Home Depot displays. With titles which are wry but rarely biting, Kittelson’s work simultaneously critiques consumer culture (and ensuing environmental destruction) and moribund traditions of still life and landscape.
Through February 22, 2016
Holiday Open House December 5 (Saturday) 5 to 7 pm
Please join us for an exhibition of works on paper – including monoprints, drawings and watercolors – plus a few surprises. Artists include Jillian Conrad, Laura Lark, Bryan Miller, Melissa Thorne and more. Continuing on view is Hilary Wilder A Lake Turned Inside Out.
Below: A selection of new works on paper by Melissa Thorne
A Lake Turned Inside Out
November 7 through December 22, 2015
Opening reception November 7 (Saturday) from 5 to 7 pm; artist’s walk-through with Hilary Wilder at 5:30 pm. We will be serving iced coffee and island-inspired cocktails. Please join us.
Prior to her dual Visual Artist and Critical Studies Fellowships with the Core Program at the Museum of FIne Arts, Houston, Hilary Wilder received her M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, including grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Wilder currently serves on the faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. First and foremost a painter, Wilder employs an arsenal of techniques and media to blur the boundaries between landscape, trompe l’oeil and abstraction.
Although she’s originally from New Hampshire and currently lives in Virginia, artist Hilary Wilder’s heart is in Texas. “I’ve been trying to get back ever since I left,” she says. Wilder’s Lone Star State love started in 2003 when she began a three-year tenure as a lecturer at the MFA’s Glassell School. Last year, she returned as an artist-in-residence for a Galveston arts program, and the paintings in her new show are a response to her year on the Island…”The pieces are talking about water, space and land in a way that’s not a literal seascape. There is an uncertain sense of space, almost like something is floating in the shallow water. There’s definitely a sense of menacing.” – Ray Dennison, Houston Magazine November 2015
Her work will also be featured in Island Time: Galveston Artist Residency – The First Four Years opening at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston on November 20 through February 14, 2016.
What is cosier than the shore
Of a lake turned inside out?
How do all these other people
Dare to be about?
- W.H. Auden Islands
The sculpture and paintings of Matt Messinger are created from the meticulous joining of found objects, collage and appropriated images. Please join us for an artist’s reception October 16 (Friday) from 6 to 8 pm. On view through November 28.
Devin Borden Gallery is pleased to announce a solo presentation of new works by Bryan Miller at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair October 1 – 4.
Bryan Miller studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (MFA) and the University of Leipzig, Germany. His work has been exhibited in Berlin, Birmingham and Philadelphia. Prior to his return to studio practice, he staged fifty solo and group exhibitions by a varied roster of accomplished and visionary artists at his eponymous gallery and numerous art fairs, including NEXT (Chicago), Volta (New York), Aqua and Pulse (Miami) and Untitled (London). His recent paintings exude tenderness and gentle humor. Quizzical interactions relate nude figures to each other and the viewer through subtle gesture and touch in vague watery landscapes.
The Texas Contemporary Art Fair returns to the Geo. R. Brown convention center in Downtown Houston, October 1-4, exhibiting over 50 galleries from the US and abroad. I look forward to seeing you there. – DB
The Misuses of Enchantment
In a new series of vibrantly colored paintings and drawings, Laura Lark very loosely and subjectively explores concepts presented in Bruno Bettelheim‘s 1976 The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. Join us for an artist’s reception on September 11 (Friday) from 6 to 8 pm.
Opening September 11 (Friday) 6 to 8 pm
Bettelheim’s work suggests that there is a darkness in fairy tales that behooves the emotional development of a child. Here I examine in contrast the fairy tales that don’t: the promises of Prince Charming, Happily-Ever-After and the big diamond from Tiffany’s in the vapid pages of Brides and Vogue. Source images are translated into female portraits of thwarted desire, resulting in a gallery populated with blank, cynical and accusatory stares. These pop culture fairy tales exemplify existential angst, uncertainty and unfulfilled expectation. — LL
On view through October 24, 2015
Opening September 11 (Friday) 6-8 pm
Featuring sculpture and paintings by Jillian Conrad, Clark Derbes, Sharon Engelstein, Geoff Hippenstiel, Nicholas Kersulis, Paul Kittelson, Darryl Lauster, Matt Messinger, Kaneem Smith and Margaret Smithers-Crump. Through October 14, 2015