Spooky season may be over, but there’s still time for you to delightfully dwell in the paranormal and the bordering-existential at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art’s latest show, Irvin Tepper’s “Evidence of Phantoms Made Real Between Thoughts.”
The Tepper show visually opens with a sort of stylishly sadistic Batmobile – a black vehicle of some undeniably cool make with which this arts author is unfamiliar. Across the car’s black surface sprawls graphic spiderwebs and a glossy sheen. While not outrightly indicated, the inclusion of this object seems to pay tribute to the tradition of art cars in the Houston arts mileu. It’s an interesting piece – not the usual thing seen in galleries or museums – and would be made more interesting if the lighting was arranged to highlight it accordingly.
The digital visual art pieces which follow the introduction of the dark art car, continue this sort of spider-network theme but make it more complex and intelligent. The pieces are fastidiously geometric – with haunting fractal scribbles winding their way into your mind, threatening to encroach upon your very being from their seemingly-innocuous places on the walls. In some images, the vague shape of a humanoid being takes form. Or is it just a trick of your own mind? Although there are no eyes visible in the images, including those which might hold Rorscharchian human figures, one has the distinct feeling that they are being watched by these images. There is a great sense of motion, of energy, of presence pulsating through and activating the room as one walks into and around it.
Tepper is known, I’m told from reading various included biographical snippets, for his ceramics. However, to me, the accompanying porcelain pieces sit centrally among the larger black and white digital drawings like semi-forgotten seashells. Their 3D tessellations move through space with warped color patterns speckling their surfaces. They make sense with the wall pieces as investigations of space and materiality, although they do not necessarily activate anything particularly emotional or philosophical in me.
The accompanying video piece, Dreaming Through a World of Chance, is well done, if bordering on a self-parody of the contemporary art world. Projected onto the large screen in the back room of the gallery is an image of a softly spinning, small, porcelain cup. Where the wall-bound drawings actually capture motion and reflect back the psychic energy of the viewer, this moving image falls somewhat flat. Even the art-interested would have to trick themselves into feeling like this video is particularly worthwhile – With no one else in the room, the film feels silly. With a few other people in the room, the film feels collectively almost-silly. In my opinion, had there been a second film playing simultaneously in the room, the set up would have felt more imaginative and in line with the thought-provoking precedent set by the larger visual pieces on display.
There is an additional room which displays “Sacred Vessels” that is, more ceramics and ceramic-style paintings – this time, in a surprisingly fresh and welcome indigo color-scheme. Although, its addition to the exhibition feels like a separate conversation to be had, it is understandable in terms of the show attempting to add a sense of continuity regarding themes related to ceramics and cups. Perhaps. At the very least, these images are almost universally beautiful and continue, with their flowing abstract duochrome decorations, to provoke the viewer to investigate not only the images themselves but their own psyche.
Overall, “Irvin Tepper: Evidence of Phantoms Made Real Between Thoughts” gets my seal of approval and is undeniably one of the more interesting and cutting-edge shows currently on in Houston. It is up through Jan. 12 at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 1502 Alabama; 713-529-6900, stationmuseum.com.