Natilee Harren

  • diary May 27, 2020

    Lights On

    FOR ALL ITS STRIVING, Houston has long struggled to make claims for art-world preeminence. That changed last Saturday, when the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, became the first major American museum to reopen its doors to the general public after closing in mid-March to help stem the spread of Covid-19. The MFAH was positioned to make this leap due to a combination—magical or nefarious, depending on one’s view—of the state’s gung ho Republican governor, the city’s hygiene-friendly sprawl and competent Democratic leadership, and museum director Gary Tinterow’s unflagging ambition to keep up

  • picks April 02, 2020

    Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin

    An immersive, abstract video landscape shows droplets of indigo dye periodically dispersing in water, blossoming into hypnotically morphing, pendulous chandeliers. They model the osmotic way viewers absorb this exhibition’s central narrative, delivered by Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin via an audio recording that permeates the gallery, which is otherwise filled with additional aquatic vignettes filmed off the Gulf Coast of New Orleans and on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Throughout “50 States: Louisiana,” the sixth iteration of the artists’ ongoing endeavor to create multimedia installations that

  • picks December 20, 2019

    Jamal Cyrus

    In 2018, Jamal Cyrus embarked on an ambitious research trip to a number of culturally hybrid locales across Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The visually compelling works he made upon return to Houston, presented in this exhibition, pack dense knots of referents to multiple generations and geographies of black history into spare, carefully altered objects and materials. Often structured by vectorial lines and flows, Cyrus’s sculptures and textile-based works elevate scavenged materials into provisional memorials to diasporic lineages. The textiles in particular compellingly weave together the

  • picks March 29, 2019

    Katrina Moorhead

    Katrina Moorhead’s latest body of work employs the wayward range of materials and sensibilities that one might expect of a group show. Pleated Japanese paper blushing with pink dye hangs from a mason’s line slung across the room. A 3-D printed reconstruction of the floral still life by Henri Fantin-Latour that graces the cover of New Order’s 1983 album Power, Corruption & Lies is a twenty-first-century centerpiece. Standing guard nearby is a Twombly-esque sculpture—part maternal totem, part children’s craft project—built up from gypsum cement and chicken wire and adorned with showy feathers.

  • picks November 16, 2018

    Jasper Johns

    This tight survey of drawings by Jasper Johns, spanning from 1954 to 2016, handily overturns several longstanding presumptions about the relation of drawing to an artist’s broader practice. Curated by David Breslin with the assistance of Kelly Montana, the exhibition inaugurates the new Johnston Marklee designed Menil Drawing Institute and coincides with the publication of a six-volume catalogue raisonné of Johns’s drawings. Both are testaments to the significance of Johns’s works on paper, as much of his iconic subject matter—flags, targets, letters, numbers—is lifted from a two-dimensional,

  • books November 16, 2018

    No One Else

    INTERMEDIA, FLUXUS AND THE SOMETHING ELSE PRESS: SELECTED WRITINGS BY DICK HIGGINS, EDITED BY STEVE CLAY AND KEN FRIEDMAN. Siglio Press, 2018. 364 pages.

    DICK HIGGINS, Fluxus affiliate and founder of the Something Else Press, once described the books he published as a series of “love letters to the future.” A new volume of writings by the artist, composed between 1962 and 1997 and selected by Steve Clay and Ken Friedman, delivers on this promise, making Higgins’s underappreciated contributions as publisher, editor, patron, theorist, and historian of the 1960s neo-avant-gardes legible to today’s

  • picks January 04, 2018

    Moyra Davey

    In a sublime yet humble installation, almost five hundred images from Moyra Davey’s “Copperheads” series from 1990 to 2017 are tacked up in vast, tightly arranged grids. These microphotographic prints showing Abraham Lincoln’s profile on US pennies—fascinatingly worn, scratched, gouged, abraded, rusted, calcified—themselves show wear. Folded into quarters, sealed with fluorescent tape, addressed, stamped, and sent through the mail, the prints are irrevocably marked. The photo paper, whose gloss repels the impressions of postmarks, suppresses official indications of time and circulation in favor

  • picks September 05, 2017

    Dave Muller

    At first glance, the striking white band that skirts Dave Muller’s vast, colorful murals in this exhibition gives the impression of an orderly timeline. But one soon realizes that all of art’s history and geography is disarranged in his mixtape of a show, “Now Where Were We?,” in which objects from the museum’s permanent collection are paired with the artist’s renderings of items from the pop-cultural everyday: among them, a disco ball, hockey pucks, a smiley face, and a rainbow flag. The painted text provides the viewer only the barest of bearings within three galleries organized around the

  • picks July 14, 2017

    David Scanavino

    Brooklyn-based artist David Scanavino’s site-specific installation Repeater, 2017, only the second exhibition to appear in the soaring atrium gallery of this new center, is made up of a massive tessellation of industrially produced vinyl composite tiles, the kind one typically finds covering the floors of school lunchrooms, fitness centers, and hospitals. The viewer is discouraged from such associations, however, by the work’s decorative arrangement of bold candy colors, approximating an aimless labyrinth or Tetris game with no symmetry or center. Abutting hues vibrate before the eyes like an

  • picks May 18, 2017

    “Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip”

    Coenties Slip is a tiny street in Lower Manhattan, situated halfway between Battery Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, and a few blocks southeast of Wall Street, abutting a park that connects it to the water’s edge. It’s hard to imagine a time when artists would have pursued that location “to seek a barer life, closer to reality, without all the things that clutter and fill our lives,” as Lenore Tawney once said. But in the 1950s and 1960s that is precisely what she, along with Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, Jack Youngerman, and Chryssa, did. There they lived and worked in former

  • interviews October 11, 2016

    Elana Mann

    Elana Mann is a Los Angeles–based artist whose interdisciplinary performance, sculpture, video work, and collaborative organizing practice address the radical political potential and material aesthetics of listening and speaking. With Robby Herbst, Mann recently organized “Chats About Change,” a series of grassroots conversations with artists involved in creative social change. Here she discusses her public mural Talk Through the Hand, which is on view at Baik Art, in the La Cienega Boulevard art corridor, through December 16, 2016, and her solo exhibition, “The Assonant Armory,” which is at

  • Stephen Lapthisophon

    “Coffee, seasonal fruit, spaghetti and rope”—this seemingly random list of items, which constituted the title of Dallas-based artist Stephen Lapthisophon’s first solo exhibition in Houston, flagged just some of the matter suggested by the heavily worked surfaces of the twelve recent abstract compositions on paper and canvas included in the show. There was evidence of disparate conventional media, including pencil, ink, charcoal, chalk, oil pastel, oil stick, and spray paint. But more enthralling (and at times grotesquely fascinating) were the traces—along with the scents and tastes,