What does Diamond Grill-maker Johnny Dang have in common with neo-rustic husband-and-wife furniture design team Garza Marfa? Besides the fact that both are Texas-based, each is working in a medium that combines art and design into functional, fashionable pieces. And each will have works featured in the upcoming exhibition Texas Design Now, opening at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston this Friday.
Texas Design Now is a collection of 35 Texas-based artists working in mediums as diverse as fashion, interior décor, sculpture, industrial design and more in cities as far-ranging as Dallas to Marfa. The show aims to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of Texas's design community.
The show was guest-organized by Chris Goins and Garrett Hunter, both former buyers for Kuhl-Linscomb. Goins, who in July was hired as the general manager of retail at the Museum of Fine Arts, said she was inspired to look beyond high fashion in co-organizing the exhibit, asking the question “What is fashion?” The exhibit allows her to showcase objects for their artistic intrinsic quality as opposed to marketability.
“Buying may be related to curating in the way that one uses utmost discernment to select objects of the highest quality,” she said. “Of course, in a retail environment, a buyer must always consider the sale-ability of the object. As a buyer, I select objects first and foremost for being the best of their kind, but I always ask the question: will this sell?”
As varied as the works are, having them all together in one gallery allows for some themes to emerge, Goins said.
“Texas is an enormous state, so it is to be expected that designers are working in incredibly diverse ways—aesthetically, conceptually and materially. There are a number of intersections where they meet while maintaining their independence. For example, the elaborate beading and ornamentation of a Sameera Faridi gown is materially related to the bling of Johnny Dang’s Diamond Grillz. As objects, they are quite dissimilar, but you put them together and a really exciting dialogue emerges.”
In addition, the exhibit has allowed artists who knew of or were familiar with one another to come together on collaborative pieces created specifically for this show. Such is the case with fashion designer Kate de Para and painter Shane Tolbert.
“Shane and I have been friends for a long time and I've always wanted to collaborate with him, which is something that would not happen were it not for this show,” de Para said. The pair unmatted Tolbert's painting and had them turned into textile fabrics, which de Para then sewed into garments. “It's funny because he uses a lot of color in his work and I don't.”
De Para said she is also excited about meeting some fellow artists, such as homewares designer Alyson Fox.
“She's been my idol since college,” de Para said.
As far as a unifying theme for the show, de Para said it's less about Texas and more about a compulsion the artists share.
“We are all compelled to make functional objects,” she said. “We design and produce objects that are made to be used. It's such a different kind of show—the breadth is wide and deep. We keep asking 'Why haven't we done this before?'”
Free. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose Blvd. 713-284-8250. camh.org