PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2022

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Art TOPICS FotoFest Rebounds Top Shows to See as the Global Biennial Roars Back O ne of Houston's shining arts institutions isn't a building; it's a biennial. FotoFest is an international platform for photography and ideas that traverses time periods, continents, aesthetics, media, and messages. Founded in 1983 by pioneering photojournalists Wendy Watriss and the late Fred Baldwin, FotoFest has not only connected the global photographic realm but also birthed the career of talents who went on to renown, including Luis González Palma, Lalla Essaydi, and Kurt Tong. (Collect the best of FotoFest, Thursday, September 29, at the Fine Print Auction.) For the 19th biennial, FotoFest slides into new fall dates: September 24 through November 6. The theme, "If I Had a Hammer," couldn't be more topical. Referencing the 1949 protest song by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, it speaks to our time. FotoFest director Steven Evans and associate curator/director of publishing Max Fields, along with Philadelphia-based guest co-curator Amy Sadao, organize this ambitious topic by addressing image-making at the service of global social movements and political ideologies. Deployed across Sawyer Yards' cavernous Silver Street and Winter Street Studios, this lead exhibition presents works by 23 artists and collectives including the humanist/anthropologically driven practice of University of Houston professor Delilah Montoya, a Mellon Fellow who's long upheld the Latinx banner. Two pendant shows are also noteworthy. "African Cosmologies: Redux," curated by London-based Dr. Mark Sealy, MBE, is a relook at the 2020 biennial truncated by the pandemic, mounted at Spring Street Studios, The Alta Arts, Houston Museum of African American Culture, and The Menil Collection. "Ten by Ten: Ten Reviewers Select Ten Portfolios from the Meeting Place 2020-2021," staged at The Silos at Sawyer Yards, challenges us to look closely at these intriguing portfolios and the artists who created them. Another FotoFest lagniappe is the mounting of exhibitions in the galleries and participating spaces. We recommend two bold takes on feminism: the Baroquely patterned images of turbaned and swathed women by peripatetic artist Alia Ali, whose ancestry has its roots in Yemen and Bosnia, at Foto Relevance (September 9 – November 12) and the unflinching, dark, and captivating portraits by Austin- based Denise Prince, marking the return of gallerist Apama Mackey and the debut of her Gallery AMPS at Bill Arning Exhibitions (September 15 – October 30). Another not-to-be-missed intimate gem, "Speedway 72" at Catherine Couturier Gallery, involves a rediscovered series of black-and-white photographs documenting the racetrack scene in small-town New England, 1972. The DIY cars and the faces in the crowds were captured by a fledgling Henry Horenstein when he was just starting out. These poignant prints reveal much about America 50 years ago that bears deciphering (September 10 – October 15). Finally, the newly minted Assembly at 4411 steps up with the U.S. debut of French photographer Vasantha Yogananthan's "A Myth of Two Souls," a decade-long creative odyssey to interpret the 4th-century BC Sanskrit epic The Ramayana, told via lyrical, dreamlike images that link India of the past with today (September 9 – October 29). FotoFest, September 24 – November 6; Fine Print Auction, Thursday, September 29, 6 pm, at The Whitehall; Catherine D. Anspon Vasantha Yogananthan's Demigod, 2019, at Assembly 20

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