East Meets West

Houston As the market for contemporary Asian art enjoys an unprecedented boom—$190 million worth was auctioned off at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in 2006, compared with $22 million in 2004—museums around the country are devoting more gallery space to the genre that everyone is talking about. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston adds to the dialogue this month with “Red Hot: Asian Art Today From the Chaney Family Collection,” a survey of about a hundred works from 66 artists who hail from Japan, China, Vietnam, and beyond. Loosely organized by theme and by country, it offers a comprehensive introduction to the major players and movements of the past decade. And it starts off strong with established fan favorites: colorful Pop Art—inspired pieces like Takashi Murakami’s larger-than-life Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume, which looks like the mascot for some intergalactic sports team; Feng Zhengjie’s Chinese Portrait L Series no. 1, an oil painting of a woman who evokes the kitschy glamour of Warhol’s celebrities; and Yue Minjun’s Postmodern Garden, a depiction of his signature laughing men (here they’re wearing Speedos and have horns coming out of their heads). As you make your way farther into the galleries, you’ll be pleasantly shocked to see Korean artist Do-Ho Suh’s Karma installation: two enormous legs coming out of the ceiling with small armies of black figures literally underfoot. Alison de Lima Greene, the MFAH’s curator of contemporary art, rattles off a list of other highlights: a new sculpture from Fang Lijun titled 2005-2006 that is “a truly scary political allegory”; several outdoor installations, like Sui Jianguo’s Jurassic Age, a big, red T. rex in a giant cage; and psychedelic offerings from the Luo Brothers, three siblings from Beijing whose sculptures and lacquer-on-wood paintings commingle traditional Chinese symbols and cherubic babies with famous U.S. products. What’s most striking is the plurality of the offerings that have been streaming out of the world’s largest continent. And it’s because of prolific private collectors like Robert and Jereann Chaney that contemporary Asian art is flourishing in the U.S. The Houston couple, along with their eleven-year-old daughter, Holland, have acquired more than 170 works in the past year alone. (Interestingly, they’ve developed an elaborate evaluation system based on Warren Buffet’s investment strategies, as well as their own five-part analysis, to guide their collecting decisions, and they make many of their purchases via the Internet.) For those who don’t know a Murakami from an Aoshima, taking in all the Chaneys’ generous loans will be a rousing education. “When describing a show, we tend to stick to the old-fashioned rhetoric of ‘It’s educational’ or ‘It’s profound,’” says Greene. “All of those things are here, but there’s an immediacy, an energy to this exhibit. It’s really going to jazz people up.” And as the contemporary Asian art market continues to sizzle, it comes not a moment too soon. (Read an interview with Alison de Lima Greene, the MFAH’s curator of contemporary art.) Jul 22–Oct 21. 5601 Main, 713-639-7300, mfah.org

Bright Lights, Big Lake

Graham Fourth of July get-togethers run the gamut from intimate family barbecues to citywide celebrations. Somewhere in the middle is the Night of Music and Fire, a medium-sized shindig on scenic Possum Kingdom Lake that is as refreshingly simple as its name implies. Held the Sunday before Independence Day at Possum Hollow Camp, a cabin-rental property and RV park, the evening’s concerts—this year starring the Randy Rogers Band, the Eli Young Band, and Southern Heritage—will set a raucous yet informal mood. (The music doesn’t start till five o’clock, but you should come early to take advantage of the lake’s pristine blue waters and go boating and scuba diving.) Of the grand finale fireworks display, organizers say it “will give you a goose bump where you have never, ever had one.” We’ll just take their word for it. Of course, this is the sort of event that regulars probably don’t want publicized, lest it be overrun by the masses. But we can’t help it. This picturesque gathering is exactly where we’d want to be. Jul 1. Head south from Graham on FM 1287 for 15 miles, then turn right on FM 1148 and travel 3 miles; 940-549-1873; possumhollowcamp.com

Fly the Friendly Skies

Colorado City The Texas Fly-In Breakfast takes place on the Fourth of July, but that has less to do with patriotism than it does with the elements. In 1962 a volunteer group started the event as a way to promote the town’s new landing strip; to reduce the chances that the Fly-In would be derailed by rocky weather, Independence Day was chosen as the permanent date because of its generally favorable conditions. Today, organizers serve up some 550 early-bird breakfasts—the $4 spread, which is free to pilots and their passengers, starts at seven o’clock—and host a whopping 1,500 spectators who come to ogle the hundred or so planes that line up at the airport. As per tradition, awards are given to the oldest and youngest pilots (the record ages so far are 88 and 15, respectively), as well as for the longest distance flown (no one’s beaten the pilot who came from Anchorage, Alaska … yet), the oldest aircraft (usually a plane that dates back to the forties), and the most unusual aircraft (such entries have included a Consolidated Catalina flying boat, an amphibious Grumman G-21 Goose, a Lockheed C-130 turboprop cargo plane, and several homemade contraptions). Mostly it’s a chance to meet and mingle and an excuse for aviation lovers to show off their winged babies. We end every Fourth of July by looking up at the wonders in the sky; there’s a beautiful symmetry in starting the day the same way. Jul 4. Colorado City Airport, about 3 miles west of Tx Hwy 208 off FM 1808; 325-728-2542

Novel Ideas

San Antonio, Grapevine If you’ve seen all the mindless blockbusters at the local multiplex and all your vapid beach reads are dog-eared, consider attending one of this month’s literary events to bolster your cultural repertoire. The Gemini Ink

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