Sunday, June 10, 2007

Red Velvet

an excerpt from a draft for the catalogue of RED VELVET: Making a case for domestic tranquility.

The first and last portions are from the essay, but the central parts about Bill, Kelly and Donna are from the original draft- longer and a little disjointed but I really wanted to compare Davenport to a Lord of the Rings character and put it out somewhere. It seemed too good!

Opening Friday June 23, 6 - 8pm and on view June 24 through August 18, 2007 at Vine Street Studios.

Featuring Matthew Bourbon, Thedra Culler-Ledford, Bill Davenport, John Hartley, Donna Huanca, Kelly Klaasmeyer, Nancy Lamb, Nancy O'Connor, Whitney Riley, Tim Stokes, Anderson Wrangle and organized and curated by the kids at Rudolph Projects Artscan Gallery.

The blood red of a velvet cloth is an accomplice to arousal, never an inert companion to one waiting, watching or wanting. Red Velvet embodies a reevaluation of tranquility from a notoriously fleeting state into an internal harmony in the face of superficial strife. We are not afraid of sex and violence, loneliness and fear. Our most familiar and universal environment- the home- brings a vibrant reality to these paintings and installations while maintaining a façade of populism, and comfortable with it. Fragmented everyday references are expressed through images and materials; the inverse of Blue Velvet, which sought to insert a new, horrific image into the world of the white picket fence. The 1986 film by David Lynch takes the cleanliness of the American dream as nothing but a cover for violence and vulgar eroticism. He breaks down his characters, emotionally and physically beaten into submission. No one here desires to lay themselves naked; they are in complete control of their opportunities as artists.


Feeling the disparity of post-modernism’s flaws deeply, several artists in Red Velvet attack the tradition of materials and images at once, simulating the real world and the art world. Houston’s Tom Bombadil, Bill Davenport has focused his conceptual work of late upon fake stone and wood. In installations referencing the Disneyfication of our environment Davenport constructs interior spaces out of foamcore, these contrived walls, supports and structures juxtaposing the cleanliness of the white gallery with a clean imitation of dirty, gritty, authentic reality. As J.R.R. Tolkien said of his characterization of Tom, “if you have… renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless…” The same lightness of being resides in Davenport’s sporting take on life and art.

A new mother and artist and writer to boot, Kelly Klaasmeyer’s proximity to the materiel of childcare has intensely altered her view on the world. She presents Huggies and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, hand painted oversized cardboard boxes of consumer products. Klaasmeyer dryly twists humor out of these amusing titled and images; the transformative process of rearing a child compliments the artist’s Pop sensibilities with easy targets for manipulation. [...] Klaasmeyer dryly invokes a surreal twist on the overwhelming accoutrements of modern life, referencing both famous hand-painted Brillo boxes and feminist documentation of a woman’s trials and tribulations.

Working with felt, fabric and found objects, Donna Huanca can hardly step back from her collage murals without stepping back from her own life; she balances her creations between family portraits and characters of her own imagination. Her scenes of familial bliss are so jarring to the viewer these fractured figures are nearly abstract, save for detailed and recognizable faces. Their personal meanings cohabitate with her father’s role in the Bolivian military pursuing Che Guevara through the Andes and Huanca’s identification with the heroic struggle between the two contextualized in the epic search for meaning in the 20 century. These narratives and the scraps of culture that become live materials in her hands are proper fuel for her rash, bursting compositions.


The case for domestic tranquility’s existence is a precarious one, as these and many other artists demonstrate, perhaps the solution is in the admittance of discord into the expected solution. The artists exhibiting here at Vine Street are aware of their distance from reality; they find worth in their materials and images regardless of their purity in morality and tradition. Reversing a comment about Blue Velvet, perhaps here in Red Velvet we have a pragmatic reconciliation; harmony without quiet, serenity sans silence. “This is not American darkness; --- this is lightness without a happy ending.”