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Eye Candy — Mel Chin Weekend

Eye Candy — Mel Chin Weekend
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Mel Chin, Shape of a Lie (detail, front view), 2005.
Bronze, iron, catlinite (pipestone). 70 x 29 x 54 inches.
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne.

By Megan McIlwain

 

It’s another big weekend for art in Houston, and Houston art, in particular, as the homegrown, hometown hero Mel Chin finally gets his due with a sprawling retrospective of a career spanning four decades (and counting) in five different spaces — the Blaffer Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Asia Society Texas Center, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, and Art League Houston. Finally, a Chin retrospective in the city of his birth! (Even if it took the New Orleans Museum of Art to organize the exhibition.)

Chin’s full day of openings at four different venues kicks off with his artist talk at the Blaffer at noon on Saturday. There’s two more talks scheduled for 2 pm at the Asia Society and 4 pm at the CAMH, followed by a party at the Station Museum from 6-9 pm, but let’s back up for a minute and talk about Friday’s openings, first.

 

Production still from Can’t Find My Way Home, Janet Biggs, 2015. Four-channel video, high-definition video installation with sound, approximately 8:35 minutes. Courtesy of the artist, CONNERSMITH, and Galerie Analix Forever

Production still from Can’t Find My Way Home, Janet Biggs, 2015.
Four-channel video, high-definition video installation with sound, approximately 8:35 minutes.
Courtesy of the artist, CONNERSMITH, and Galerie Analix Forever

 

FRIDAY

Janet Biggs surveys the notion of losing the sense of self in Echo of the Unknown at Blaffer Art Museum. Combining video, sound, and objects, she explores how memory contributes to identity and questions why and how we become the person we are. The exhibition interconnects a motely of narratives ranging from scientific exploration to her personal experience of the effects of Alzheimer’s on family members. As part of Science Spring, the exhibition opens with a reception from 7-9 and will be on view until March 21.


Art League Houston offers three openings: Migrating Identities by Preetika Rajgariah, Ed Wilson: A Survey, and Paper Trail and Unauthorized Collaborations by Mel Chin. Featuring a large-scale watercolor painting on paper that wraps around the entire hallway gallery, Rajgariah attempts to understand themes of migration, diaspora, and cultural identity. Follow her abstract figures on their journey to a land where people and cultures converge and unify. For the first time, Ed Wilson: A Survey brings together an incredible selection of brilliant craftsmanship in metal fabrication that spans over a twenty year period of the sculptor’s career. Wilson is currently at the center of a dramatic controversy involving the Houston Arts Alliance, renovations at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and allocation of public funds. Paper Trail and Unauthorized Collaborations by Mel Chin offers a selection of forty years of drawings, diagrams and paraphernalia accompanied by new (unauthorized) physical alterations of oil portraits.  The exhibition features many studies and artifacts relating to artwork in the Houston presentation of Mel Chin: Rematch. The receptions are from 6-9. Friday, with Rajgariah giving a talk at 6, Wilson at 6:30, and Chin at 7pm.

Lynne McCabe has curatorially taken over the physical space of The Brandon and now brings you She Works Flexible. The new space will feature a program of two-person exhibitions, each one featuring one regional and one international artist. That being said, the first opening at She Works Flexible brings you Sensational Landscape featuring the work of Texas educated artist Cat Clifford and Arizona based artist Erika Lynne Hanson with an accompanying text by Egyptian artist Malak Helmy. The conversation will be enriched by contributions from New York chef Colleen Stillwell and Houston based philosopher Joshua Lawrence. Join us for the reception at 6pm.

 

The Funk & Wag from A to Z (installation view), Mel Chin, 2012. Excised printed pages from The Universal Standard Encyclopedia, 1953–56, by Wilfred Funk, Inc., archival water-based glue, paper, 524 collages. Courtesy of the artist.

The Funk & Wag from A to Z (installation view), Mel Chin, 2012.
Excised printed pages from The Universal Standard Encyclopedia, 1953–56, by Wilfred Funk, Inc., archival water-based glue, paper, 524 collages.
Courtesy of the artist.

 

SATURDAY

Mel Chin is back in Houston with the most expansive survey of his work to date in Rematch. Organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art, this exciting retrospective will open at four different venues: Blaffer Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Asia Society Texas Center, and The Station Museum of Contemporary Art with a plethora of artist talks.

Beginning with a talk at noon at Blaffer, 31 works will be on view including In the Name of the Place: GALA Committee (1995-97), where Chin collaborated with the TV series Melrose Place to insert socially-engaged artworks into the show’s sets and props, selections from Chin’s Erased Currency (1997) and Drawn Currency (2006-08) series, key assemblages introducing recurring themes and materials in Chin’s oeuvre, and the large-scale installation The Funk and Wag from A to Z (2012) a surrealist arrangement of collages culled from the Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia.

With a talk at 2 at Asia Society Texas Center, six works on view examine his connection to the culture, history and aesthetics of Asia. KNOWMAD (1999) is an installation with interactive experiences centered on mapping, borders, nomadism and the encroachment of technology. The complicated political histories across both western and eastern Asia, and America’s role in them, frame Geometry of Wrath (2005) and Our Strange Flower of Democracy (2005). Scholar’s Nightmare (2001) and Wheel of Death (2002) draws on Confucian and Buddhist philosophies, and their ability to both order and blur reality, while Magnolias in the Moonlight (1976) draw out the yin and yang principles in nature, and its ongoing influence on artists.

His 4 o’clock talk at CAMH focuses on 19 of Chin’s discrete works from the early 1970s as well as his iconic animation 9/11-9/11 (2007) and the documentary S.O.S Straight Off the Streets (2004). Among the discrete objects featured are the early work Bird in a Cage (1976) and the most recent series of jewelry works entitled Cluster (2005-06). Bird in a Cage serves as both a tribute to Marcel Duchamp as well as a comment on the extinction of a species. The image is actually a portrait of Martha, the last known carrier pigeon who died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. The more recent work, Cluster, bridges the disparate social and political conflicts of the U.S. Civil War with the civil war of Angola and the vast resources that hung in the balance in each instance of conflict. The series, comprised of four intricate pieces, looks at how the greed for material–whether human beings or precious minerals–has had the capacity to decimate both human life and the land from which it emerges.

Rear: Safehouse [door], a facet of Operation Paydirt and The Fundred Dollar Bill Project, Mel Chin, 2008.  Painted wood, metal hardware. Front: Presentation Pallet for the Fundreds of America, Mel Chin. 2013.  White oak, bronze, silk, brass, pigment, patina, 6,000 lbs. of hand-drawn currency by the people of America. Courtesy of the artist.

Rear: Safehouse [door], a facet of Operation Paydirt and The Fundred Dollar Bill Project, Mel Chin, 2008.
Painted wood, metal hardware.
Front: Presentation Pallet for the Fundreds of America, Mel Chin. 2013.
White oak, bronze, silk, brass, pigment, patina, 6,000 lbs. of hand-drawn currency by the people of America.
Courtesy of the artist.

Wrap up your Chin-athon with a party at the Station from 7-10 with Degrees of Separation, an homage to Chin that includes the works of Wayne Gilbert, Mike Hollis, Mary Jenewein, and Sin Huellas (and featuring the street art of Empire) along side his instillation Degrees of Paradise (1991), a study for the proposed State of Heaven, where an immense, floating, hand-knotted carpet, serving as a symbolic and sacrificial sky, will be placed under a directive that parallels the actual destruction of the ozone layer.

Don’t miss this legendary homecoming and awesome presentation of 60 artworks that highlight Chin’s broad range of subject matter and materials as he revisits and battles his previous conceptions.

Mel Chin: Rematch continues through March 21 at Blaffer, and through April 19 at CAMH and Asia Society Texas Center.

 

BOX 13 ArtSpace is pleased to present four exhibition openings. In OK These Five Artists Walk Into BOX13 with a Piano Christie Blizard, Jimmy Canales, Mat Kubo, Ken Little and Mark McCoin dismantle a piano and what it represents, transforming it into something that more fully expresses who they are individually and collectively. Candace Hicks transforms the Downstairs Back BOX into a puzzle box through a combination of interactive kinetic sculptures, puzzles and wall texts in Napoleon’s Wallpaper. In Don’t let the sun go down on me… Lindsay Palmer presents work focusing on the life and career of Alice Guy Blanche and her 1912 film, “Falling Leaves.” Janet Morrow fills the Window BOX with a wintry installation of cast sugar, exploring ideas of isolation, brokenness, silence and dependency in Snow Garden. The reception is from 7-9 and is on view until February 21.