ON THE HEELS OF ITS POPULAR 2021 EXHIBITION, From Houston, With Love, Prauper Studios is back with another local artist showcase.
The Memorial Park-based creative agency has a knack for transforming old and abandoned spaces into new and refreshing destinations. The team’s last exhibit took over the defunct Forever 21 retail store on Main St. and revamped it into a temporary gallery that was one of the summer’s most talked-about local events.
As a follow-up to FHWL, Prauper opened The MAG (short for Modern Art Gallery), a permanent art gallery located Downtown in a two-story building that once housed corporate offices for Texaco. The raw and industrial building has a footprint of 18,000 square feet and has been unoccupied for the past 80 years. The updated venue aims to merge fine art with entertainment.
Houston Forever celebrates local artists and is a herculean effort brought forth with help from Art Houston Magazine and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. The exhibition features a multigenerational roster of over 30, Houston-based artists and collectives working in various mediums. In addition to the art, The MAG has three lounge areas and a cash bar where visitors can take a load off and socialize.
When entering the space on the gallery’s first floor, an interactive installation by art collective Street Dreams invites visitors to pose for selfies amidst a nostalgic arrangement of old TV monitors that play a recorded image of the viewer. In the left corner of the gallery facing San Jacinto St. is a light projection by Input-Output, the duo behind the experiential art museum Seismique. The projection winds and climbs the gallery’s towering interior pillars and compliments the building’s architecture. Several sculptures are peppered through the gallery’s ground level, including works by Tara Conley and set designer Tricia Jane. There’s a wealth of paintings, from Mitchell Reece’s family mementos to LaMonté French’s still lifes and Josh Allen’s sweeping abstractions.
Also on the first floor is a black-box installation filled with information on Larry Hoover—a political prisoner who has been in solitary confinement since 1997. Co-organizer Maya Jae (and daughter of Rap-A-Lot Records CEO J. Prince) teamed up with The Larry Hoover Project to raise awareness about inhumane treatment in the prison system. The fight for Hoover’s release has been a hot-button issue in the rap world and was commemorated through a concert fundraiser with a performance by Drake and Kanye.
On the second floor is a collaborative installation between Houston-based dance educator Stacey Allen, Saida Carter, and Ashley Hoskins of the Free Black Women's Library—a pop-up library and social art project highlighting literature by Black femmes. The project is entitled Single Thread Weaves Future and reimagines the warm interior of a Black grandmother's living room filled with photographs, monochromatic coral-colored furniture, plants, and a selection of free books. A section dedicated to Houston music culture is on the opposite end of the second floor. Candy-colored photographs of slab lines by photographer Kolby Delce shine near Kaima Marie's glossy, painted portraits of rap pioneers Bun B and Pimp C. Plaques and posters hang in memory of the Screwed Up Click's hay day on behalf of Houston record label SoSouth Music Distribution.
Throughout the show's run, Prauper will host events, including the return of its "Currently Creating" artist talk series, along with programs that engage local art administrators and cultural workers. Mounting an extensive group exhibition and reinvigorating an abandoned space is no small feat, Prauper director Emmanuel Alia tells Houstonia. "It's pretty surreal. We've had the idea for an art gallery for a while, and despite the challenges, we managed to pull it off. We have the opportunity to experiment, and we're just excited overall." Houston Forever is a great warm-up for this small and mighty team of innovators.
Houston Forever is on view at The MAG through April 10. Hours are Wed-Sun, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information on tickets and programs, visit here.