Critics’ Picks

View of “Will Boone: The Highway Hex,” 2019–20.

View of “Will Boone: The Highway Hex,” 2019–20.


Will Boone

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
5216 Montrose Boulevard
November 9, 2019–February 16, 2020

Texas is surrounded by legends of violence and bizarre phenomena that are surpassed in strangeness only by the land itself. Will Boone’s site-specific exhibition “The Highway Hex” embraces and tests perceptions of the state's ethos.

With reference to “highway hypnosis”—a sort of trance caused by driving for long distances—the show traces a route from California to the artist’s home state of Texas. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Sweet Perfume (all works 2019), is a fan-fiction video based on Leatherface, the infamous character from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), here played by the artist’s wife, Stephanie Boone. Shot on a VHS camcorder, Boone’s homemade film imagines a future where “Face” has moved to Los Angeles and spends time wandering, fishing in the Los Angeles river, and gazing at flowers, until being summoned back home to Texas by a letter from a concerned neighbor, played by Terry Allen.

Positioned in the middle of the gallery, the projection of Sweet Perfume is surrounded by objects that appear in the video. The Melting Cowboy, the combined sets for scenes where Face visits a pawnshop and a bar, fills a quarter of the room and is replete with true crime memorabilia, including floor tiles from the house of Charles Whitman, the Texas Tower shooter. A group of paintings covered with the bright hue of fake blood flanks the installation; floating on their surfaces, isolated like remnants of a crime scene, are objects from the road trip, encased in resin. Together, the works in the exhibition perform a theatrical sleight of hand: Signifiers for violence are layered into a sentimental portrait of an illimitable land.