Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Havel, Texas artist paradigm

Joseph Havel is an artist from Houston, Texas but he's also an avid amateur botanist. I found that out one day walking through the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I can't remember latin names to save my life and even common names escape me but Joe just seemed to riffle off a name for every plant he pointed at. I wouldn't have known the difference, whether he was wrong or right; he spoke common and latin I felt, just so I would conceal my doubt and not ruin it for the other company.

A good memory can serve you well, especially when it comes to playing songs. I worked with Joe installing his solo exhibition at Laumeier Sculpture Park. The two of us completed the exhibition in three days. While working with him we talked about stuff. I usually keep to myself and simply manage installations and stay out of an artist's way - but Joe is from Houston.

Houston's where I bounced and confiscated drugs at a club called Energy, where I worked as a palate maker for a shipping company - being one of two english speakers. I lived in Galveston for a couple years playing pool with Russian and Chinese sailers at a prostitution bar called the Pink Lady, just down I-45 from Houston. You could say I know my way around those parts - the best places to find psilocybe coprophila under the moonlight, an isolated fishing beach or in my opinion, one of the best cities for art - Houston. My first proprioreceptive response happened while visiting the Jean - Michel Basquiat retrospective at the Menil. Something never forgotten and only twice replicated since.

Joseph Havel is Director of the Glassell School, a successful artist and just like all my favorite Texas artists, he writes songs and plucks the guitar. Joe and I talked about making songs, poets and how poetry and song writing relates to art, how a string of words can become sculpture, the nearness of words and objects, the use of space in music and sculpture and the stifling heat of a Houston summer.

After installing the show I gave him a CD of demos and said I'd like to hear his work. Two months later I received two CD's in the mail. Here's Galveston from the 3 song demo. I asked him what he thought of my work and he said he liked it because it was honest. You can't get any more honest than an acoustic guitar, an unfiltered close mic'd vocal and a heartfelt list of words strung together.

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