Visual Vernacular: Gallerist and Artist Mel Dewees
Tucked away in the Colquitt Gallery Row scene in Upper Kirby lies a peaceful and contemplative space that is the Gray Contemporary. The silence space of white is the majority. It allows for the small collection of pieces shown at a given time to resonate with what presence and color they provide. This minimalist approach is quite different from many of the galleries in Houston and so is the mind set of gallery owner Mel Dewees. Pulling artists from around the globe that speak on a greater artistic plane, Dewees selects artist who truly have a grasp of their craft and display it in a solid statement.
“Conceptually, my idea of the gallery is to focus on the importance and integrity of the exhibitions that is aesthetically being honest to the work and how its presented,” states Dewees. “Instead of focusing on representing artists, I am more interested in working with an artist and focusing on particular bodies of work. I don’t necessarily look at types of work, but more of the relationship between the artists and the materials in which they work with.”
Staying away from the constant cogs of the contemporary trends, Dewees persistently and elegantly presents art that can stand the test of time and is not swayed by popular opinion. A sigh of silent space and reverberation of color is something you feel when in his gallery. Upon closer inspection, it is apparent that each piece is carefully selected to be explored with time. These pieces are not a justification of some elaborate concept that is far more vast than the actual paint on the canvas. These pieces are meditations of the hand. Vignettes of quiet vibrancy. Recollections of the modest movement of materials on their final resting place. It is a refreshing approach to a gallery atmosphere and the focus is truly on the artist and their collection of work. The pomp and circumstance that is usually included in flashy spaces is removed and the careful selection of work is the main attraction. Although this gallery is young, the direction and presentation is one that mirrors the long standing institutions here in Houston and beyond. Overall, Dewees approach is simple: He finds artist that he likes and he shows them. It’s not a matrix, a method, or a make up of the popular movements. The work stands alone and the art breathes in the space.
Mary Bucci McCoy, “Terra Incognita,” 2016
“Though we have many local galleries, I believe there are limited options for artists to exhibit their work,” he says. “As a gallery, I would like to provide a platform in which to give many opportunities for these artists locally and abroad to exhibit their pieces.”
In the latest show, Dewees selected two artist who distinctly display their own interpretation of their style of painting. Mary Bucci McCoy is featured in the main gallery while Aimée Terburg’s work is in the second gallery. McCoy’s second solo exhibition with the gallery is a collection of intimate acrylic paintings that speak in subtle nuances while retaining a rich topography. Using vertical rectangular and oval panels that speak to the viewer in a focused tone. Rectangular gray and silver paintings resemble the reference of mirrors, while oval paintings harken back to those of historical cameo portraits. The materials and color used resemble those found on ceramics, colors morph with the texture and vibrate inwards and outwards. McCoy’s background in ceramic sculpture is seen through these works while her dialogue between the spontaneous and the restraint is strong. The sense of time seals the use of color and texture together to make a natural yet ethereal piece.
Aimée Terburg, “Untitled,” 2015
Through color, marks and materiality the work references the body and the forms and processes of the natural landscape; though small in scale, each painting points to the enormity of the human being and the universe. Bucci McCoy’s distinctive and varied handling of acrylic paint is influenced by her background in ceramic sculpture. Acceptance of chance, negotiation between spontaneity and restraint, somatic and physical awareness, presence, and a sense of time and timing are critical to the realization of each work. Terburg’s three pieces in the second space serves as a preview for her solo exhibition at Gray Contemporary in September 2016. The series, Divisibility, displays the sublime yellow juxtaposed with the atmospheric black and white fades above. A dance between static and ambient, her work is that of perspective and poise allowing for your eye to move along the white smoke like lines that draw the painting upwards and out. The conditional colors and abstract pairings will be something to be explored in the fall when more work is revealed.
The two exhibitions at Gray Contemporary (3508 Lake) run through August 20. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm, as well as by appointment.