stARTup in Houston: Part One

In preparation for the debut of stARTup Houston October 11-13, Fair Director Ray Beldner took a trip to the 4th largest art market in the US to meet with members of the stARTup Houston Selection Committee and preview a few of their cultural offerings in advance of the fair.

* Artists should note that artist applications are open through July 28th.


The first stop was Houston Center for Photography (HCP) which features some of the finest works of contemporary photography. Its mission is to promote the art and practice of photography in all its forms. HCP also has a digital darkroom, a lighting studio, a comprehensive library of more than 3,800 books on photography, and it offers over 300 photography classes and workshops year-round.


Their current exhibition, which is on view until July 7, is Motherward by Elbert Howze. These vintage photos from the early to mid 1980’s are historic documents of the homes and residents of Houston’s Fourth Ward, the so-called “Freedmen’s Town,” an area Elbert described as “a place of neglect and decay, which appears to be deliberate by plan.” As he wrote, this work is not about the physical place of the Fourth Ward; it’s about the spirit and persistence of its residents facing gentrification in that period, and—to this day—still fighting to hold onto their history.


Elbert Howze (1951-2015) was born in Detroit, joined the Army and served in Vietnam, came to Houston in 1973 and continued his education at the University of Houston, receiving a BFA in Fine Art, a BS in Technology and Business Technology, and an MFA in Photography.

Howze’s work came to HCP by way of his wife, who soon after his death, brought a portfolio case and several carefully-labeled boxes of photographs and drawings to the gallery at his bequest. Amidst hundreds of images of Houston and various veteran parades, war demonstrations, and travels around the country, were the photos that came to be this amazing and heartfelt exhibition.


The next arts non-profit Beldner visited was the Lawndale Art Center which is located within the Houston Museum District, just north of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Lawndale is a multidisciplinary contemporary art center that has a nine month Artist Studio Program, a performance and reading series, and exhibitions and programs that explore the aesthetic, critical, and social issues of our time.

On display was the exhibition, Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., a traveling exhibition that explored the intersections among a network of over fifty artists. This historical exhibition was the first of its kind to excavate histories of experimental art practice, collaboration, and exchange by a group of Los Angeles based queer Chicanx artists between the late 1960s and early 1990s. While the exhibition’s heart looks at the work of Chicanx artists in Los Angeles, it reveals extensive new research into the collaborative networks that connected these artists to one another and to artists from many different communities, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and international urban centers, including Houston.


While at Lawndale, Beldner had an opportunity to meet with artist and stARTup juror, Robert Hodge, who is a current Studio Artist and was preparing for an exhibition at Lawndale opening June 21.


Hodge is a Houston-based interdisciplinary artist whose practice explores themes of memory and commemoration. Born in Houston, Texas and raised in the City’s Third Ward district, he studied visual art at the Pratt Institute in New York and the Atlanta College of Art before returning to Houston. Hodge has exhibited his work in numerous national and international institutions. Hodge’s current projects include an album he executive produced called “Two and 1⁄2 years: A Musical Celebration to the Spirit of Juneteenth” and his traveling installation called “The Beauty Box.”

A Houston visit wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the galleries of Cindy Lisica and Jonathan Hopson, both of whom are stARTup Houston jurors. For brevity’s sake, we’ll just show you a bit about Jonathan Hopson, whose eponymous gallery is Houston’s only contemporary art gallery exhibiting in a historic American Craftsman bungalow. He has exhibited both local and international artists and participated in several international art fairs, including New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) New York and Miami Beach. 


His current exhibition, smother by Emily Peacock, is up until June 16th. The artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, Peacock's new works are comprised of works in multiple media: hermetic mixed media sculptures combining soap, hair, fingernail clippings, marble and flocking as well as self-portrait and still life photography. These works aim to divulge truths about Peacock’s life: artist, stand up comic, postpartum survivor, contemporary photographer, daughter, mother, imperfect human. In this domestic space, the work took on an even more poignant feeling.


There is, of course, much more to report from this creative, generous and busy art scene. As we near the fair this October 11-13, we will be highlighting more about the Houston art scene and the other cultural spaces we encounter on the road to stARTup Houston 2019. Stay tuned!


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