Monday, May 4, 2009

Every Way but the Right Way

It’s a mess out there, and nothing demonstrates the relentless and grinding change and upheaval in Houston every few years than the fate of the Human Tour.

Every Way but the Right Way
No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston

Opening Friday, May 8, 7–10 pm

On view May 9 through October 4, 2009

Dan Havel and Dean Ruck by Chuy Benitez
Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, Give and Take, 2009
pic by Chuy Benitez

Land Art in an urban setting, Michael Galbreth’s Human Tour, 1987, mapped the inner city of Houston, marking limbs with bronze plaques from Frost Town in the 5th Ward through downtown south to the Astrodome. His attempted anthropomorphization of the city streets was an attempt to reach the public in a new way. At first the dozens of markers spelled a clear path through the city’s core, but the city’s relentless growth has overgrown the map drawn onto it. Streets have changed; plaques were removed by construction workers and vandals. A few markers remain, giving curious pedestrians strange proclamations, like “You Are at the Right Hand of The City” along with directions to seek Human Tour maps at your local library. Today Galbreth’s project is a relic, a ruin only two decades after its creation.

A member of The Art Guys, Galbreth came to Houston from Tennessee. Open to the laissez-faire culture and open source urban planning dominated by developers with enough money to grease the wheels, he came to treat the glorified bayou of Houston as a landscape to by pushed and prodded, legally or illegally. Free from the zoning ordinances that shape other large American cities by separating residential, commercial, and industrial areas, Houston allows an approach where bizarre juxtapositions of architecture and sweeping concrete and steel overpasses multiply every year. In this chaotic urbanity, many Houston artists have been able to take to the streets, abandoned and unused lots and their own properties to transform banality into sustainable creativity. No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston considers the efforts of diverse artists working in this unique environment to grow mutated vines in the concrete soil of this toxic town.

Project Row Houses

Participants include The Art Guys, who will marry a tree; Mary Ellen Carroll, who is reconfiguring an abandoned tract house in Sharpstown; and Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses, who will celebrate residents of the Third Ward in billboards. Also included is work by curator and artist Bill Davenport, Houston Chronicle muckraker photographer Ben Tecumseh DeSoto, sculptor Sharon Engelstein, outsider artist Cleveland Turner, aka The Flower Man, The Fundred Dollar Bill Project by Mel Chin, Andrea Grover, collaborators Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, photographer and art car documenter George Hixson, CORE member Lauren Kelley, graffiti crew Knitta Please, Eric Leshinsky, Lee Littlefield, avid boaters and bikers Benjy Mason and Zach Moser, Notsuoh proprietor and performance artist Jim Pirtle and utopian designer Nestor Topchy.

The catalogue for No Zoning will include examples and documentation of city interventions and visionary structures from the punk rock days of the budding art car movement and the Lawndale Annex in the 1980s, 90s experimental art spaces like CSAW, Templo, Sharon Engelstein’s mini-gallery and The Artery as well as current alternative spaces like Bill’s Junk, Westheimer Block Party, The Aurora Picture Show and The Flower Man’s house. The exhibition will incorporate performances, lectures and video screenings during the museum's extended Thursday evening hours to enliven the exhibition throughout its run. Throughout the city, the CAMH will sponsor educational, historical and artistic events—seriously, this is a call to anyone who’s been to those parties in underground warehouses, Montrose bungalows, parks, streets and festivals—you’re the blood that makes this artworld flow.