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Lee and Liza Littlefield

Randall Reid



Seth Mittag


William Steen




Lee and Liza Littlefield

Husband-wife artist duo present works in conversation


By DOUGLAS BRITT Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

June 11, 2010


Artist Lee Littlefield is known for installing his colorful “Pop-Ups” — painted bayou-inspired sculptures made from natural materials like vines, bald cypress wood and bamboo — alongside Houston highways, first on a renegade basis, then with the permission of the Texas Department of Transportation and Harris County Flood Control.


His approach made him a natural for last summer's No Zoning: Artists Engage Houstonn at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Littlefield's New World Bamboo Flowers and Rings on Bissonnet helped spruce up the CAMH grounds and proved his wild art thrives in captivity — more so than many of the other do-it-yourself public art projects, which felt tamed by the institutional setting. [Read more...]


Seth Mittag: Gun Play 
Poissant gallery February 10- March 4, 2006
by Bill Davenport

Seth Mittag

Despite the sculpture, the video, the radio controlled car, the diorama, and the coloring book, Seth Mittag's Gun Play at Poissant Gallery is a drawing show with trimmings. That's good: the best thing about the show is Mittag's dab hand with a mouse. It's rare to see computer drawings this fluid and precise, capturing nuances with miraculous wit.  

The drawings are cropped like snapshot photographs, scenes from the homey, everyday world of animal slaughter. Time and again, with only a couple of deft strokes, Mittag gets just the right little shape to suggest the eager but awkward squint of a toddler sighting a rifle or the complex curve of a truck wheel well. The drawing is still clunky, encumbered with all the tell-tale gaucheries of computer paint programs, yet Mittag uses the computer's harsh, flat style with the mechanical forthrightness one might admire in a big rig, and it's perfectly suited to portray the stumbling, rough-edged love of beer, guns, trucks, and barbeque. 


The drawings are presented two ways: as poster-sized digital prints and collected in a coloring book. It's as if pages from the book have been blown up, hand-colored with crayons, and pinned to the walls. Mittag colors in a businesslike but not over-fussy way.  

Whenever you show guns in art, you've got to take a stand. Mittag portrays a rural, masculine, blue-collar hunting culture with tolerant irony. He's against it, but he's sympathetic. There's the initial blood-and-guts shock of seeing pictures of dead, gutted animals, but it's just a reflex, quickly replaced by envy. Wouldn't it be great fun to rove the countryside in a big truck, hunting down tricky, beautiful animals, then washing them down with cold longnecks at the backyard grill? If only it weren't for the load of citified guilt you'd have to deal with afterwards. 

First Beer works the same way. A shirtless man holds an infant on his knee, offering it a can of beer for a taste, like a hillbilly Madonna. It's shocking first, then funny, then touching. The guy wants to share his pleasures with his son. The reflexive oh, no! reaction is quickly replaced with humor and sympathy. Who's he hurting, anyway?  


The show is all about teaching boys to hunt and shoot, drive big trucks, cook outdoors, and drink in divey bars; in short to become socialized into a culture with ethically problematic elements. In the best drawings Mittag presents the good with the bad, creating thought-provoking dilemmas. InJavalina , a shy boy poses with proprietary pride next to a dead pig which slumps like a sack of feed corn over the tailgate of a pickup. In Learn'n to Shoot a toddler and a balding man share a monent of quality time as they sight a rifle together.  

Two life-sized stuffed animals, or rather plush toy versions of dead animal carcasses, are clever and well made, but less thought provoking. The javelina has convincingly variegated fake fur, leatherette hoofs and a satiny polyester pool of blood pouring from its stomach. The hanging deer carcass unzips to spill out pearly satin intestines. But contrasting plush toys and gutted animals is like clubbing a baby seal. It misses the nuanced irony of the drawings.  

A child-sized barbeque grill and hunting blind show the innocent side of hunting culture. They are playground equipment, training kids for a life outdoors. Hide in a camo-covered treehouse, shoot at the jumping deer on the video; it seems wholesome compared with contemporary videogames.  


The floor of the rear room is occupied by Hunt'n , a miniature dirt track with a radio-controlled hunting truck and plastic game animals. The dirt track tableau has a forlorn, make-believe quality; using piles of bare sand as hills and dead twigs for trees. The plastic animals are all different scales, making the rabbit nearly as big as the hog. It's set up a child might make in a sandbox, it might have been fun to play with (no batteries), but not much to look at.  

There's a mouse-sized doorway in the gallery wall nearby. By crouching down you can see the inside of a cute dollhouse-scale bar, a windowless hideout with dark plywood paneling, posters of busty girls with beers and a miniature pool table. Playing at hunting and playing at drinking are two sides of the same cultural coin.




Bill Davenport is an artist and writer and was one of the first contributors to Glasstire.

Images courtesy Poissant Gallery



William Steen



William Steen shot portraits of Houston-based artist Rachel Cook, left, and Nan Rosenthal of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in their own environments.





Dec. 4, 2005, 7:56AM


Images through an evolving door

Exhibits show how photography has become art

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Photography is unique. Other media, such as painting and drawing, are divvied up in curatorial departments by age or culture (medieval, contemporary, European, etc.) and exhibited alongside sculpture and prints. But photography, which came into being less than 200 years ago, stands by itself in institutions, art fairs and festivals.

How it has come into its own in the Bayou City ! is a story partly told in an exhibit organized by Houston FotoFest. (The fact that there is such an organization, now in its second decade, is only part of it.)

Professional photographers had been composing formal portraits in their studios and shooting images for Houston papers and magazines throughout the 20th century. But in the arena of "art photography" there was little to behold until 1970. That year, Geoff Winningham opened Latent Image Gallery to exhibit work by photographers such as Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind.

When Winningham closed the gallery in 1971, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, acquired four photographs for the permanent collection. The tentative beginning snowballed: The museum established a department of photography and named Anne Wilkes Tucker its curator in 1976; almost simultaneously, two commercial galleries, Cronin and Mancini, picked up the ball and ran with it. (Both have long since closed.)

That's the background for Photography in Houston Galleries, which spotlights work by 41 artists represented by a dozen contemporary galleries. Three galleries specialize in the medium — John Cleary, DeSantos and Watermark. Nine others — Deborah Colton, Harris, McMurtrey, McClain, Moody, Poissant, Rudolph Projects, Sicardi and Anya Tish — exhibit photography regularly.

The roster of photographers is mostly familiar, as are many of the images — MANUAL's composites from the On the Edge series so prominently displayed in 2004 at the MFAH; George! Krause's Stairs, Columbia, S.C. (1961) of a young girl seen from behind walking up the stairs; Peter Brown's straightforward portraits in color of rural America and its citizens; Keith Carter's gauzy black-and-white interiors.

Techniques range from classic gelatin silver to C-prints and digital manipulation. Images, too, range from classic landscapes to "modern" abstractions.

But it's disappointing overall. The exhibit is installed on both floors of the huge Vine Street Studios building where HFF has its offices, with works clustered according to the gallery that shows them. Though that organization makes sense given the theme of the show, it makes for spotty looking. A silver gelatin landscape, intimate in scale and tonal subtlety, makes large C-prints look like billboards by comparison.

Issues of presentation could be dismissed if the images contained were powerful. Few are — Anderson Wrangle's black-and-white landscapes and Kate Breakey's giant hand-toned carnation, for instance. Our eyes are so overloaded with pictures every day, it is difficult to capture something fresh. A! nd sometimes, freshness of appearance — Katsuhiro Saiki's Place #7, a C-print-on-Plexiglas view of a huge sky that is shown flat on the floor — is all there is.

William Steen portraits

At Poissant Gallery, meanwhile, William Steen shows his series of photographic portraits. All but one (James Reaban, who died in 1988) are dated 2005; all but one, taken in Princeton, have a Houston or New York dateline. The subjects are artists and writers — from painter Agnes Martin and sculptor Richard! Serra to art historian Leo Steinberg, and 28 others both younger and "local" — Rachel Cook, a former Core Fellow, and sculptor Ben Woitena, writer Richard Howard, art conservation star Carol Mancusi-Ungaro and art historian William Camfield.

The format is traditional head and shoulders. However, Steen shot his sitters in available light and in their own environment. Most are squarely in the center, and only a few look directly back. A few are exceptional: Painter Robert Goodnough appears on the lower left corner against a diffused background that appears like shimmering water but is, in fact, a section of one of his paintings. Steinberg's head is in near profile, filling the entire frame, his eyes downcast and totally lost ! in thought. Sassy Rachel Cook wears a Gilley's T-shirt and stands almost defiant, hands on hips and facing front. Houston sculptor Gertrude Barnstone leans forward a bit and looks squarely back at us, seemingly intent on hearing what we may have to say.

All are interesting, both because of who the subjects are and also, and critically, for how the individual presents him- or herself and is thus revealed.

Randall Reid [Read the original source]

Randall Reid is both an accomplished and productive working artist. With his first accolades won in 1978, he has since swept prizes and cash awards as well as given many solo and group shows each year. Across the country and internationally, this artist is heralded as both seasoned and contemporary. He earned his Master’s degree in painting, but his interesting choice of media is what sets his work apart: most of his pieces are comprised using paint on wood and steel. The construction of the paintings lends itself more to the strength and endurance of a sculpture, but thickness and resonance is what this artist’s subject is all about—a connection with the elements and symptoms of the Earth. This depth and the muted color palette is all about the regeneration, renewal, and timelessness of the Earth’s features. 

With an eye for antiquity in a world of industrial materials, Reid makes the steel of his palette warm as he layers paint and wood, leaving a small cut-out window, usually layered transparent papers or inlaid copper, brass, or steel, as the only portal into the meaning of his ambiguous titles. 

While most of his subject matter is obscure and intangible in title, with neatly shaped cut-outs and constructionist canvases called things like, Subdivisons, and Past Time, other works are mainly concrete. For instance, inRed Sea, the image of the Red Sea parting is represented as a tiny square within which stands a white steel bar separated by two red rectangles on either side. The steel is built up with planks of wood painted a dark desert brown. This same nearly literal sentiment is taken away from Shifted Sands, in which an off-center window reveals steel bars of yellow in a sea of olive-yellow paint. And what would a show entitled Of the Earth be without the sentiment of seasonality? Works like Thru Winter’s Snow relate the purest form of weather on the cold of a metallic background, reflective of water, snow, crystal and other earthly geographic concoctions. Think Cy Twombley without the canvas—the trees, the bark, all brought to shimmering life on the background of neatly hand-cut steel. 

As a painting instructor, Reid equips a new generation of artists with the tools and the permission to seek out new ways of using some of the oldest materials known to mankind. Living in Austin, his work tends to take on a Southwestern feel, especially with the Spanish titles he chooses for many beautiful interpretations, such as La Luz de la Vida and La Luz Del Dia

Reid describes his own vision as an attempt to “establish windows or portholes of time.” Indeed, each painting within a painting makes itself a tiny peep-hole into the subject matter of his carefully chosen title, that of the decay and the strength of the features of la tierra

– Sarah Gajkowski-Hill 

Through June 24th, 5102 Center Street, 713.868.9337, www.poissantgallery.com.