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Dollar Days at Art Walk 86

Story by J R Compton

Written in Response to Houston ArtScene editor Ann Roberts' request
for a short story about "What I Liked Best About ArtWalk 86"

The most fun at ArtWalk 86 was walking through opened doors and discovering art, artists and the spaces where they live and work. The least fun was grousing about the annual event's many problems.

Most of the weekend's art treats were on the official map. But there was also enough kitch there to consider renaming it 'SchlockWalk.' Visual treasures and bargains abounded, but they weren't always on the map.

The most memorable images of my ArtWalk were both, appropriately enough, on Commerce Street. A. M. Hudson's multi-media construction, "The Rules Are Unclear But It's Obvious They're Keeping Score with Money," upstairs at the Murray Building was almost entirely white—and serious.
Mark Bartos' "Original Signature of the Unknown Artist" booth at the Mitchell Bldg. was blazing red and blatantly sarcastic.

Hudson's piece was in an installation by William Campbell's gallery in Fort Worth. It comprised a short ladder leaning into a jumble of warning striped objects. The central square had a black and white checkerboard, "64," a plastic disc with red hand outstretched and black scrawled scores (like movie prisoners use to track time) across the bottom.

On top were three hands with palms up, an opened toolbox, three birds, and an obscured box. On the ladder's bottom step, a red volume of Robert's Rules of Order, Revised was stabbed with a compass. A small motor swung a brass plumb back and forth over the words "yes" and "no" on the second step. A black plumb rule hung past an empty white birdcage on the right, down to point at the window of a bathroom scale plastered with black & white one-dollar bills. More dollar-sized Georges spilled into important spaces around the enigmatic piece.

Campbell's temporary space was on the official map. But the Mitchell building, with its many resident artists and musicians, was not. Bands played off the the loading dock in back, and 15 artists showed in and around the green behemoth.

In front was Bartos' signature booth where, as his spiel proclaimed, you could get "the genuine signature of an unknown artist — worth millions — some day" for only $1. The artist, wearing cutoffs and a flowing red mask, sat in the tiny booth with a cash drawer on his lap.

Another dollar deal was at Greg Horndeski's off-map open garage showing in the Alternate Gallery's impromptu "East Wing." For a buck you could win your choice of his unsold paintings.

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