Interior of Antena Books / Libros Antena, photos by Allyn West unless noted
Antena Books / Libros Antena is John Pluecker’s installation open now at Project Row Houses through June 24. Inside, unfinished bookshelves teeter against the walls, where multilingual titles, translations, and experimental writing from small presses in the U.S. and Latin America are available for purchase and perusal. The walls are bare, save for two hanging T-shirts with the face of Trayvon Martin and a few penciled-in poems — a passage from Longfellow and a fragment of verse in Spanish. A reading couch slumps in the corner, draped in baggy fabric, near a computer programmed to create Oulipo-esque etrecissements, or cut-ups, of Shakespeare. Two vintage typewriters—bought for $5—are ready for anyone to come in and bang out something in whatever language she feels like using. Described as a “pop-up bookstore” and “a literary experimentation lab,” Antena Books / Libros Antena functions as both of these things. Though it seems to function best as a symbol.
“The A/C is on the fritz,” Pluecker warns me as I come in. He and his collaborator, Jen Hofer, are sewing on covers for a new anthology, En las maravillas / In Wonder. The row house reminds you of what it must have been like (and how it still is for some) to live in Houston without refrigerated air. Ten minutes go by, and I’m sweating, my jeans sticking to my knees, and I’m starting to smell. This space makes me think that this is good; I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone.
Detail from Ana Serrano's Salon of Beauty, all photos by Nash Baker
“Vibrancy” — the first and too often the last word that comes up when considering Ana Serrano’s Salon of Beauty, installed at Rice University Art Gallery. The brightly-colored buildings that make up the slightly-smaller-than-life-size cityscape are indeed at first glance “playfully vibrant” as one reviewer writes. The installation, a (re)created blue collar neighborhood from Los Angeles, is comprised of a flower shop, strip club, beauty salon, liquor store, bakery, and the like. Each building is made from wooden frames enclosed in painted cardboard that bring to mind a fantastical, “vibrant,” Disneyland-like aesthetic. It is in this contradiction, between the working class roots of this neighborhood and its aestheticization, that I am interested.
In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, Daniel Anguilu, a prolific street artist responsible for some of Houston’s most compelling murals, and Alex Luster, documentary filmmaker of “Stick Em Up,” take us on this tour of art outdoors. Begin at Lawndale Art Center where you’ll see Anguilu’s latest work overtaking one of its walls. From there, both Anguilu and Luster shout out War’Haus at 4715 Main. From there, get the inside scoop on Houston’s street art scene from Luster as you take a light rail trip toward 2618 Main. For the past seven months, Anguilu has been overtaking this former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center with his art. Walking around this building is like walking around inside the mind of the artist: see the evolutions of form, line, and color as you turn each corner, and imagine the layers of history between each coat of paint. Listen by clicking on the link below:
by Daniel Anguilu and Alex Luster
In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, Musician Pete Gordon takes us on a looped walk around Midtown where he has owned and operated The Continental Club for ten years. 3700 Main used to be a general store in the 1920s and is now a thriving music venue and bar run by Pete, who loves preserving the old architecture while importing some of Austin’s quirkiness after the original Continental Club. I personally recommend stopping by on a Monday night to hear the masterful contemporary tango composer and piano man Glover Gill. Sink into a Southern pace and the pats of Pete’s cowboy boots while he recalls the area’s evolution over the past ten years, marvels at his favorite buildings, and hopes for preservation of historic architecture moving forward. Listen by clicking on the link below:
Midtown by Pete Gordon
George Greanias and Lillian Warren
We all are familiar with Houston’s no-zoning tradition and have been cautioned not to romanticize or over-estimate its beneficent influence on our chockablock city. Perhaps, though, we can successfully practice no-zoning for conversations and confrontations that otherwise languish in isolated “discourse communities.” That model seemed to be the impetus behind a series of three conversations hosted at Rudolph Blume Fine Art/ArtScan Gallery which had as their background an exhibit of paintings by Lillian Warren called “Urban Landscapes” (April 30 through June 4, 2011; 1836 Richmond Avenue).
Last Thursday, May 12, about a dozen people gathered to participate in the second of these discussions, called “At the Intersection of Art & Traffic.” Houston METRO President and CEO George Greanias and Warren led the dialogue.
Philip Brown of Smith Opticians shows off some of his eclectic collection.
OffCite presents the twelfth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Sarah Gish. Click here to learn about making your own submission.
It all started with a pair of blue-framed, yellow-lensed sunglasses that I bought in Los Angeles for ten bucks off the street. Buying those glasses was an epiphany moment for me: it was like turning on a little switch making me desire funky eyewear. From then on, I desperately wanted to wear the blue glasses every day. As luck would have it, shortly after that special moment, I happened to be at a party with the Alley Theatre costume designer and she offered that perhaps Philip Brown at Smith Opticians could come to my rescue. He did. Instead of using the too-fragile cheapie frames, I found some other more interesting and sturdier blue frames. They weren’t expensive and I was hooked, line and sinker! Ever since then, I have gone back to get frames in every color imaginable (seven pairs and counting) and Philip and his employee Carlos have become dealers who fuel my addiction to their unique frames.
Photo by Steven Thomson
It was 7:30 p.m. on a brisk Saturday evening in February, and Esther Gutstein rushed to mount the final pieces for the opening of her gallery, the Brayer Room. The first guests had already arrived: a mix of camera-clad young artists and their friends, along with a bevy of older art collectors. The crowd populated the gallery’s one-story, historic 6,000-square-foot building at 214 Fairview Street, seeking a glimpse of the city’s emerging artists, or at the very least, a view on one of Houston’s newest gallery spaces.
Only days later, not a trace of the Brayer Room would remain. That’s because Gutstein mounts a gallery pro tem, arguably the first local incarnation of the international phenomenon of “pop-up” art spaces. In the wake of a global recession, a glut of unoccupied real estate has been reinvigorated as alternative art spaces in the vein of the Brayer Room. While this pattern can be traced to the art nexuses of London, New York, and Chicago, the Brayer Room is a distinctly Houston endeavor.
The Summer issue of Cite (82) is now in the mail and will soon be at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, Issues, Domy, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. Below guest editors Michelangelo Sabatino and Bruce Webb share a letter about the special issue and the Table of Contents.
By the time the Media Center at Rice University opened in February 1970 and Gunnar Birkerts silver-sided Contemporary Arts Museum hosted its ﬁrst exhibit in 1972, the Aquarian generation had already gathered at Woodstock for a festival of peace and music. John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were dead and the ﬁrst public demonstrations against the Vietnam War had taken place in Washington. Both the center and the museum became prominent sites of Houston’s participation in the counterculture that was agitating America. They were the tip of the iceberg, temples for performing rituals of the avant-garde; but all around Houston there was a proliferation of places and activities that belonged to the “youthful opposition” that historian Theodore Roszak identiﬁed in “The Making of Counter Culture.”
August 1970 issue of Space City!, cover image courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center
“The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is watching you.”
An arrow bearing that note was shot into the Space City! office. The incident was one among many threats and acts of violence against progressive and radical institutions in Houston. The KPFT station transmitter was bombed off the air twice. Bullets were shot at and yellow paint thrown on the walls of Margaret Webb Dreyer‘s gallery, which she ran out of her home from 1961 to 1975. The gallery had served as a counterculture hub according to Thorne Dreyer, her son and an editor of Space City!.
Thorne Dreyer shared these stories at an event on alternative media also featuring veteran writers Tom Curtis, Gabrielle Cosgriff, and Michael Berryhill. The Museum of Printing History hosted the panel discussion in conjunction with “Underground in H-Town,” an exhibition that highlights the importance of minority and alternative publications in local history.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, all images by Susan Rogers
While Houston often parallels national trends, it also bucks them. Looking at one slice of the city, — the Bellaire/Holcombe Corridor from the Medical Center to Highway 6 — provides insight into the major shifts that have occurred in the landscape and demographics of our cities over the last 20 years.
First a little history. Immigration to the U.S. spiked in two periods: the first period roughly around 1900 and the second at the turn of the 21st century. Yet the two periods are strikingly dissimilar, in one era assimilation was rewarded and quite seamless as most new residents arrived from Europe, in the second era a transnational approach is more common, where global connections to home countries, cultural traditions, and languages are maintained.