If you’re unfamiliar, the 2016 Biennial FotoFest is a celebration of photography and photo-related art from international artists, presented in exhibitions across the city of Houston. This year marks the sixteenth consecutive international biennial of photography in Houston since 1886 which makes the event one of the longest running photography events in the world.
Participating artists and organizations attend from over 35 countries occupying 130 different spaces for FotoFest such as commercial art galleries, universities, non-profits, artist-run spaces and retails spaces. This makes FotoFest one of the worlds largest festivals of photography and with Houston being one of the largest cities in the USA it can make seeing everything quite daunting. To make the most of my visit to FotoFest I had to choose my events wisely. I began my search on the FotoFest calendar so I could quickly narrow down my choices.
For the opening night of FotoFest I chose to visit Silver Street Studios which was mostly featuring work themed in energy which seemed fitting because Houston is an oil town.
What really caught my eye at Silver Street is the work of Mao Li’s, “Preserving the Memoirs” which showed the struggles and triumphs of working class Chinese families. What I liked about Mao’s work was how he assembled the photography into a collage telling complex stories of the impact western religion and industrialization had on his people. Furthermore he assembled some of his work into a complex installation that took up most of his studio space. The work was fresh, deep and well made.
Mao Li is a little hard to find online so I recommend that you start with this Facebook page which seems to be the most up to date resource for his work.
The next day I wanted visit my favorite place for art in Houston, The Menil Collection which is a museum located within a 30 acre neighborhood of art. In the past I’ve seen many masterworks here like Dali, Picasso and Warhol but today I’m here to see the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. I decided to not use my camera with me at Menil much so I could be present to the art, learn from it and enjoy it.
After my visit to the Menil I walked over to Sicardi Gallery which is a collection modernest pieces. The modern work at Sicardi was a nice contrast to what I experienced at Menil, some of which was mixed with photo and video installations, sculpture and illustrations.
The building itself is quite nice too, clean, open with lots of light. My favorite piece was this sculpture crafted from mirrors which I couldn’t help make a selfie with. Maybe that was the intention of the artist or not but the piece was a cause for action, in this case a selfie.
Overall my experience to Houston FotoFest left me wanting more and maybe that’s part of the idea. There’s so much good art to see and I had such little time I want to visit again soon. Luckily I live in Austin and FotoFest runs into the end of April so I might just have another chance to visit!
One last thing, as you may know I’m a huge fan of street art. Like street photography, street art is for the people, by the people. There’s no pretense with street art and it’s free for all to enjoy yet so valuable in establishing a location as open to the arts. On the way out of town I was stopped by this piece by artist Michael Savoie.
Everything was captured on the Lumix GX8 with Leica DG Summilux 15 f/1.7. Both camera and lens are subtle in character which means it took me some time to truly appreciate with a fantastic addition to the Micro 4/3 system they are. For the past 5 months I’ve been in love with the Speedmaster 25 f/0.95 but I think the Summilux has replaced the Speedmaster as my current lens of choice.