The Dark Places of the Earth

Blaffer brings back its Window Into Houston series downtown

By Nick Esquer September 4, 2015

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Vincent Valdez's "Till Then"

Blaffer Art Museum’s Window Into Houston series, a quarterly installation featuring works from two artists, returns Wednesday, Sep. 16 to the museum’s satellite location in downtown Houston, and this time the theme of emotionality runs deep—like, bottom-of-the-ocean deep.

In Vincent Valdez’s “Till Then,” the San Antonio artist takes a hyper-realistic approach to painting with a dark and eerie depiction of a broken ship being swallowed by the sea. In the middle of a raging storm, the vessel is gracefully descending into the deep waters. Valdez accentuates the melancholic theme of his Copley-meets-Turner-like painting with a song that streams through speakers set behind the painting.

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Darryl Lauster's “Glory is the Language of the Poet”

“It is a plea by someone, presumably a soldier, to his lover to wait for him until he could return home,” says the artist of the 1944 Mills Brothers song “Till Then.” “I first stumbled across this song as a teenager and it stuck with me. Its melancholic lyrics present a fascinating and stark contrast between its upbeat rhythm and its eerie undertone of infinite loss.”

For Valdez, who regularly shows at David Shelton here in Houston, music has always inspired his works, helping to create a sort of soundtrack for his poignant paintings. “Music continues to play a very important and influential role in my work and has sparked many visions in my mind and in the studio throughout my lifetime.”

Dallas artist Darryl Lauster, an alum of University of Houston’s fine art program, complements Valdez’s depiction of peril and pain with his installation, “Glory is the Language of the Poet.” In it, a Navy pilot’s helmet from Pearl Harbor and a New York firefighter’s helmet from 9/11 are casted and positioned alongside sharp-edged razor wire, depicting sacrifice, death and memory, Lauster says.

The tone for both pieces is sad and somber, with equal parts disturbing and heroic. Valdez's oil painting evokes pain and loss which pairs with the tragedy of Lauster's subjects. Both installations cause you to slow down, possibly signaling emotions from your own heart of the sea.

Sep. 16–Nov. 4. 110 Milam St. 713-743-9521.