If you were lucky enough to attend the Krewe of Red Beans Mardi Gras House Float pop-up exhibition or his “Manifest Everything” exhibition at the CAC this spring, you’ve already experienced the vibrant and colorful artwork of artist and musician Brent Houzenga. If not, chances are you’ve seen his work around town possibly in the form of a “Feed the Front Line” or “Feed the Second Line” mural or poster; or as a car speeding by transformed by his stencils and paint into a vibrant pop-art mobile mural; or it might have been on your Zony Mash beer can.
The Shop at the CAC is thrilled to be able to exhibit a selection of his works for a limited time giving Shop members, guests and friends a closer look at his signature bold, stenciled paintings and assemblages. Watch for an artist meet & greet coming soon. In the meantime, read on to learn about the artist, his inspirations and the connections between the pieces on display.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: BRENT HOUZENGA
The New Orleans-based painter and musician, originally from Fulton, IL., earned his B.A. in printmaking from Western Illinois University and his MFA at the University of New Orleans in 2017. Houzenga’s art has graced the walls of galleries in Warsaw, Chicago, Kansas City, Washington D.C., Portland, Los Angeles, Austin, Miami, and New Orleans. His show “Fire Department” at the Dubuque Museum of Art in Dubuque, Iowa, was exhibited beside one of America’s most treasured artists, Grant Wood. In 2012 he was commissioned to paint a portrait for Matthew McConaughey’s personal collection.
Houzenga’s work has been featured in publications such as Time Out Chicago, Art and Art Galleries of the South, Art+Design New Orleans, as well as the Rizzoli book Stickers: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art. He is the subject of the independent documentary film Brent Houzenga: Hybrid Pioneer. Visit www.houzenga.com to Learn/See More.
BRENT HOUZENGA ART CURRENTLY ON DISPLAY AT THE SHOP CAC
Queen Tahj (Piece 13 above, Color Print)
Portrait of Queen Tahj of the Golden Eagles Black Masking Indian tribe was commissioned by Feed the Second Line, the Krewe of Red Beans’ nonprofit organization which provides meals and support for musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid & Pleasure Club members, artists and other cultural figures throughout New Orleans. Based on a photograph by Lanitrah Hansen, the image has been featured on posters, Dirty Coast t-shirts, and NOLA Brewing’s Zony Mash beer cans – all proceeds supporting Feed the Second Line.
Sweet Dreams (Pieces 2, 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 23 above, Mixed Media on Canvas)
Over a decade ago, Houzenga found two antique photograph albums from the 1890’s in someone’s trash. Since then they’ve been his constant subjects. Originally, he was drawn to painting them simply because of the stark contrast between these antique people mixed with his very contemporary street pop style of painting. His idea was always to bring them back to life using the pop aesthetic. The paint passes through the stencil as they pass through time and space. Subjects get a new lease on life through their paintings. They’re brought forward to this contemporary world in contemporary colors and patterns.
Passing through time brings us to the next collection of works on display…
Somewhere in Time (Pieces 5, 6, 14, 21 above, Mixed Media on Canvas)
Commissioned to paint a piano in Iowa, Houzenga sought out a famous local pianist for his subject and discovered Roger Williams, the only performer to have a US number one hit with a piano instrumental. Researching Williams, he learned he’d composed music for the film “Somewhere In Time” about a man who falls in love with a photo of a woman and goes back in time to have a love affair with her. Enticingly familiar, Houzenga was already hooked but knew he had to see the film when he learned it starred Christopher Reeve whose portrait he’d just painted for the annual Superman Fest in Metropolis, IL.
Watching the film’s special features revealed another coincidence; it was based on a book written after the author had seen and fallen in love with an old photo of Maude Adams, famed theater actress of the 1890’s, the same era as the salvaged photo albums (See Sweet Dreams above). Serendipitously, Houzenga found his new muse: “When her photograph came on the screen I got crazy chills,” he recalled. “Like the author, I too fell in love and had to paint her.”
And, speaking of Superman…
Access The Excess (Pieces 4, 12, 20 above, Assemblages)
Yes, that is Superman peering out at you from the piece top and center on display at The Shop. One of a series of coincidences which led to Houzenga’s ”Somewhere in Time” series, Christopher Reeves as Superman is a frequent subject of the artist. Here, his portrait is incorporated into an assemblage.
A collector by nature, Houzenga saves items others might (and have) have tossed. Parts cut out of his stencils, tape used for patterns, bent nails, screws, guitar strings, buttons, razors used in his painting process are saved for re-use or incorporation into new assemblage works. He explains his process:
“The placement of the objects into the assemblage is what’s important. The process is not that different from painting….The placement of the first object can be seen as the first mark and then we react and work from there. I view my assemblage making process as an integrative process, not only according to the materials, but also a mind integration process.
Access the excess. Not just the excess in the world or in my studio but the excess in my mind. The assemblage process can be a playful process for me and in letting myself “play” with these objects I begin to access parts of my psychology that may have been suppressed. I am very interested in psychology, brain, and dream work. My work strays away from Pop and becomes kin to the surrealists.”
The creative process remains the focus, with the excess as medium in the next pair on display…
Cesarian (Pieces 3, 24 above, Assemblages)
Objects salvaged from past works become subjects of new works. Here, deconstructed spray-paint cans are transformed into canvases. Into the cavities of the paint cans, saved materials and found objects – stencil cut-outs, ball bearings from the spray-cans, blades, and more – are recombined, altered and positioned. What results are unique, surreal dissections exposing you the artist’s creative process.
Combining exploration of process with his signature pop-art inspired portraiture leads us to the next grouping
of works on display…
Dreamwork (Pieces 10, 11, 15, 16 above, Mixed Media/Assemblage/Collage on Canvas, Made with Excess Tape from the Barbara Series)
Using stencils created from photographs, the artist layers paint, spray paint, and tape to create boldly colored portraits often spotlighting pop culture influences such as musicians and comic book heroes.
Here he’s created mixed media collages constructed from excess tape from a series of such portraits which featured Yvonne Craig as Barbara Gordon (AKA Batgirl) from the 1960’s Batman television series.
“I’ve been pretty much obsessed with Batman since I was six years old,” Houzenga says. “I wanted to be a comic book artist growing up. For a long time I rejected any direct use of that world in my work. My work has always been graphic but it wasn’t until around the same time as the Left Handed For a A Year project started that I embraced this as probably the most critical influence on me becoming an artist.”
On display, you will recognize some other faces regularly featured in the artist’s work…
Tesla (Piece 1 above, Mixed Media on Canvas)
Nicolai Tesla was an inventor, engineer, and futurist known for developing the alternating-current (AC) electric system which is the predominant electrical system used across the world today. He also created the “Tesla coil,” which is still used in radio technology. developed the alternating-current power system that provides electricity for homes and buildings. He also pioneered the field of radio communication and was granted more than 100 U.S. patents.
Frederick (Piece 22 above, Mixed Media on Canvas)
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings.
Learn more about the artist, see more works, shop at www.houzenga.com