In The News

Houston museum takes a craft perspective on Surrealism, focuses on work by Michael Crowder

Glass QuarterlyPosted March 1, 2018 in In The News

The above image is not a pipe. It is a representation of a pipe created from cigarette ashes and resin by artist Michael Crowder, inspired by René Magritte’s iconic painting The Treachery of Images (1928-1929)This pipe is one of several of Crowder’s works currently on display in the exhibition Treachery of Material: The Surrealist Impulse in Craft at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC). The exhibition presents a series of “puzzling and beautiful” objects made by Houston-based Michael Crowder and Estonia-based artist Julia Maria Künnap.

On the surface, Crowder and Künnap’s works are composed of seemingly opposed materials: Crowder employs delicate glass and decomposable materials like ash and soap, while Künnap uses apparently more stable and solid gemstones and metals. The combination is intended to evoke reflection on the endurance of surrealist visual strategies among contemporary artists. As curator Sarah Darro explained, “I am not seeking to label the artists or the works in this show ‘Surrealist,’ but I am using Surrealism as a lens with which to understand the visual strategies and processes of these contemporary artists.” Through this lens, we readily see that both artists reference famous surrealist figures or motifs in their work. However, this lens also focuses on the continuing use of materials and techniques in unexpected and thought-provoking ways, a thread that connects contemporary artists like Crowder and Künnap with surrealist artists from the 1920s-1960s. Continue Reading »

Art Daybook: ‘Magic Garden’ by Mundy Hepburn

Houston ChroniclePosted February 28, 2018 in In The News

The piece: “Magic Garden”

The artist: Mundy Hepburn

Where: In the show “Light Charmer: Neon and Plasma in Action,” through May 13 at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Why:The artworks of this exhibition all entice viewers with a colorful glow and some kind of kinetic charge. A few gain their sense of movement from sections of neon lights that blink on and off. One combines light, sound, electricity and toys. Another is designed to be pulled like a toy dog on a leash. And there’s a set of true “light sabers” that were brandished by their creators for an opening-night performance. Continue Reading »

Art Beat – CraftHouston Spring 2018

HCC Stafford TVPosted February 26, 2018 in In The News, Videos

New Neon Exhibition Challenges the Boundaries of a Storied Medium

Free Press HoustonPosted February 9, 2018 in In The News

Light is no stranger to the art world. From old masters like Johannes Vermeer, who captured the purest moments of sunlight on his subjects, to contemporary artists such as James Terrell, who is adept at creating tranquil moments between light and solid form, light has always been a prime focus of art. However, although many artists have captured and interpreted this element through their respective mediums, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that light was truly captured by Thomas Edison. Since then, working with the wonders of science, creatives and inventors alike have challenged their boundaries to travel beyond industry and science and into their own imaginations. As with any craft and its intended purpose, artists twist and mold light to form new craft and new forms in which to express. Continue Reading »

Light It Up: 5 Things You Must Do This Weekend, Feb. 9–11

Houstonia MagazinePosted February 8, 2018 in In The News, Videos

Light Charmer: Neon and Plasma in Action

Feb. 9–May 18 | Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Always here to show Houston the beauty in the banal, HCCC debuts its exploration of the neon aesthetic that goes far beyond the flashing gas station “OPEN” signs we know and love. This group show explores the science behind neon—things like chemistry and electricity—as well as the craft of glass blowing that yields intricate, artisanal designs.

Free. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main St. 713-529-4848. More info at

Must List: Enlightened art, robots in love and Pedro the Lion

Houston ChroniclePosted February 7, 2018 in In The News

Guiding Lights

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft goes for the glow with the new group show in its main gallery, “Light Charmer: Neon and Plasma in Action,” which features works by nine artists from across the U.S. who create spectacles of light, color and movement. We’re not just talking sculpture: James Akers and Lily Reeves perform with their high-voltage pieces at 5:30 and 7 p.m. during Friday’s opening.

Continue Reading »

Art Aglow: Light Charmer Electrifies Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Arts + Culture TexasPosted January 17, 2018 in In The News

A shop owner flips a switch, sending a few thousand volts through glass tubes bent into the shape of the letters O-P-E-N.   As an inert gas within the glass is electrified, the letters begin to glow an orange-red, signaling to potential customers that the shop is officially open for business.

Many store owners, restaurateurs, sign-makers, and other businesses switched from neon to fluorescent or LED signs long ago, but the aesthetic continues to enchant people. The lighted signs have a particular appeal that many people associate with a range of experiences, from small town bars to Route 66 to big cities like Tokyo or New York, bustling with different kinds of activities and aglow with advertisements. Just picture a sign blinking as a noir detective drops his cigarette in front of a shady business. Continue Reading »

Is the Future of Signs Behind Us?

HoustoniaPosted October 4, 2017 in In The News

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft presents an evolving look at a reemerging art form.

At the Houston Center for Contempoary Craft, a new exhibit opens with a rather bold declaration: “Long before the internet, Google, GPS, and more there was hand painted signs defining, describing, directing our culture. The original text message.” This is written in fine print—almost unnoticeable—on the title wall of For Hire: Contemporary Sign Painting in America painted by fourth generation Houston sign painter Israel McCloud. Continue Reading »

Martini Madness Grips Houston with a Costume Fever

Paper CityPosted September 22, 2017 in In The News

By Shelby Hodge

I‘ll take Manhattan but make mine a martini.” That could have been the mantra for the collection of zanily-attired guests who enlivened the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft during the revival of its popular Martini Madness fundraiser. With a Big Apple theme, the crowd channeled everyone from Andy Warhol to Liza Minnelli and everything from Lady Liberty to Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s soup can.

And, of course, the drink of the night was the vodka (make that Deep Eddy) martini. Cosmos were also on the bar menu and in a nod to the theme — Manhattans courtesy of Texas Giant Bourbon Whiskey.

This perennial crowd-pleaser begins with entry through a phalanx of artisan-crafted martini glasses, each waiting to be selected by arriving guests to hold their libations for the night and to be taken home. It’s a playful start to the evening that meanders through the center’s galleries. A video collage of all things Manhattan, compiled by Raincoat Creative, played out as more than 100 guests grazed through the New York-inspired Italian offerings courtesy of Greenhouse Catering.

As sponsor of the costume contest, Anne Kinder got to select her faves in the main competition — Nancy Riviere and Ken Rue, outfitted as Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol, respectively; Heather den Uijl, who painted her own dress to look like one of Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans;” and Helen Lueders, who costumed as “The Big Apple.”

Nyala Wright Nolen and Anthony Sonnenberg judged the late-night costume contest, anointing Sarah Ansell and Alex Mata as winners for their take on the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster from the Ghostbusters film.

DJ Flash Gordon Parks entertained with tunes that escalated the mood as the night progressed. And who didn’t have fun dressing up for the Photobomb photo booth?

The Sound of Things: Alyce Santoro and Bohyun Yoon at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Arts and Culture TexasPosted August 18, 2017 in In The News

The world around us produces sound endlessly, incessantly. We tend not to consider it until it’s something out of the ordinary or a bit disruptive. A floor creaks as you step on a weak board; something thuds as you drop it on the table. We unwittingly use objects to produce sound, are in the presence of sound. We craft instruments to produce specific sounds, of course, but a hollow crate can be an instrument if you hit it with good rhythm. What happens, though, when artists incorporate sound into their craft?

The Sound of Things, curated by Sarah Darro and on view at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft through Oct. 28, showcases two artists who operate at the intersection of craft and music. In this exhibition, Darro presents works by Bohyun Yoon and Alyce Santoro. The two artists exhibit stark differences in their approaches to sound and craft alike, but they share an interest in exploring how the two play off one another. Visually, the styles are distinct.

Placed in HCCC’s Artist Hall, the exhibition is separated into two distinct spaces, each attributed to one of the artists.

Yoon is a glassblower who creates videos of performances remixed to hit the ear like electronica. In the works on view, Yoon has crafted glass objects that produce and react to sound.

Glass Helmet takes the idea of singing glasses—akin to someone playing wine glasses—and develops into a performance about communication. In the accompanying video, Yoon and a partner are adorned with water-filled helmets. HCCC’s Artist Hall doesn’t permit space for 360-degree viewing, which makes this particular display a bit awkward and the projection a bit hard to see. From the proper angle, though, you see the pair play their own helmet and sometimes each others, splashing the water, rubbing the glass, or even pouring water from one helmet to the other. The performance becomes a conversation as the two people express themselves or combine their efforts. In its presentation, the podium is divided in half by a pane of glass where the video is projected. On each side sits one of the helmets.

Texas-based Santoro has found multiple connections between her visual art and sound art through weaving, which bears a similarity to organizing sheet music and its own sort of rhythm. It’s here that the artist dug deep and found a means of amplifying these connections. In her series titled Sonic Fabric, Santoro approaches the aural aspects of her work by collecting sounds, recording them onto cassette tape, and weaving that tape with fabric. Apart from being a durable material and adding a noticeable glimmer to the works, the tape maintains its magnetism, allowing viewers to run a modified cassette player (or tape head) over the works to listen to the fabric. A sample fabric lies at the end of the hallway, available for some experimentation.

Santoro does her own recording and fieldwork, individualizing the conceptual nature of each work while maintaining a common style throughout the series. This, too, is a point of difference between the artists. Santoro records and then manifests objects while Yoon crafts objects and then performs them. It’s a bit odd to look at these objects, so vastly different in their own presence and just similar enough to grouped together without question.

Weaving and glassblowing have long, storied histories in the craft world. Driven by different motivations, distinct in their executions, the two collections on view in The Sound of Things expand our view of aural applications. We rethink the way we interact with objects. We wonder at what a suit could sound like.