Gallery Show Curated by Robert Hodge is ‘Alright,’ Alright!
By Chris Becker
There’s a feeling that hits you upon entering Everything’s Gonna Be Alright Now, on view through Aug. 17 at David Shelton Gallery. Organized by Houston artist Robert Hodge, and titled after the chanted refrain in the Bob Marley song “No Woman No Cry,” the five-artist exhibit is a tour-de-force of curatorial vision, where colorful, figurative paintings (Alexis Pye and Brandon Thompson), Anime-styled digital prints (Tyler Deauvea), dyed and threaded fabrics (Amada Claire Miller), and amorphous canvases of abstract minutiae (Kate Mulholland) engage and complement each other, like tracks on a perfectly programmed mixtape.
“I wanted the show to feel like it encompasses my life,” says Hodge, who discovered Deauvea, Pye and Thompson’s work on Instagram, the platform-of-choice for many young, emerging artists. “I thought these artists complemented each other,” says Hodge, who selected works by Miller and Mulholland to provide moments of repose between the more directly personal, and in the case of Deauvea and Thompson, politically charged prints and paintings. “It’s about artists of color,” says Hodge of his concept behind the exhibit, “but it’s also about my comrades who are making great art who are not of color. We’re fighting the same struggle; they just happen to not be black.”
The first work you see upon entering the gallery is Mulholland’s “Big Miasma.” The title comes from an ancient theory that unpleasant smells cause life-threatening diseases, including bubonic plague, and is reinforced by the gaseous shape of the canvas. Next to “Big Miasma” hangs 25-year-old Deauvea’s “THE AMERICAN WORKFORCE,” in which two stern, identically dressed white men with Beatle-esque haircuts — like Paul and John reimagined via The Matrix— flank a stunned, hollow-eyed black youth dressed for success in a jacket and tie. Turn the corner, and you’re greeted by recent UH grad Alexis Pye’s oil painting “Bre,” a portrait of one of her best friends standing against a bountiful, impressionistic backdrop of patterns, frames and flowers. Across the gallery hangs Pye’s “Three Feet,” a portrait of her sisters that pays homage to artist Carrie Mae Weems’ famous photograph “May Flowers.” “These are people in her life,” says Hodge of Pye’s work. “I love that she pulls from art history, and subjects that are really close to her.”
Like Pye and Deauvea, Thompson’s art is autobiographical, inspired by his formative years growing up in South Dallas, as well as his experiences as an adult. “I highly respect painters who can do this loose, figurative painting really well,” says Hodge of the raw immediacy of Thompson’s brushwork. “I love paintings look like it took 15 minutes to make, but you know probably took six months to paint.” Thompson also balances heavy, emotional content with a street-smart sense of caricature and word play, as in “African American Readings,” where a young man seated beneath a spinning ceiling fan warily, and maybe wearily, reads a book titled How To Stop Coonin by “The Negros With All The Answers.” Meanwhile, two soft sculptures by Miller, one dyed in indigo, the other in turmeric and marigold, hang on separate walls, like prayer flags, perhaps signifying the camaraderie Hodge feels for this diverse group of art makers.
“I wanted it to feel like a summer show,” says Hodge of Everything’s Gonna Be Alright Now. “Like you’re getting some information you need, but you’re also on vacation too. I’m into heavy shows, but I also like to use art as an escape.”