One of the biggest surprises of February’s First Saturday event was Zack Hall’s video installation at 444 Humphreys Street. It was the artist’s very first show in a gallery – sort of. The Humphreys space is a porch with a lot of windows in the same Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood building that houses both the Julia Martin Gallery and Cleft Studios. It’s really more like a dedicated pop-up space that Cleft owner Loney Hutchins consistently curates for the crawl nearly every month.
Hall cuts the trailers for the repertory films at the Belcourt Theatre and for The Light and Sound Machine screenings at Third Man. He creates the inventive, hilarious shorts the Belcourt screens before their midnight weekend shows and also provides the visuals for the Space is the Place events at The Stone Fox.
Having Hall exhibit in a gallery setting at a visual arts event seems like a no-brainer, but Hutchins is the first curator to give Hall a show and there was no guarantee that Hall’s ideas would translate from big screen promos to the small, intimate, funny, intense display that he’s created.
Hall’s videos play simultaneously in a display of vintage television sets that brings a warm, glowing sense of domestic peace and security to the Humphreys space’s porch despite the often frantic, saturated, jarring, hilarious imagery on their screens. One video recalls both 2001: A Space Odyssey’s star gate sequence as well as Malcolm Mcdowell’s rehabilitation scene in A Clockwork Orange. Another borrows NASA footage for a sexy, psychedelic re-telling of America’s race to space. The show’s best sequence features the silhouette of a dancing ballerina pirouetting through a sky filled with fireworks. As the outline of the dancer leaps and prances back and forth across the screen, her form is filled with time lapse images of bursting, blooming flowers. Despite the razzle dazzle, the dancer seems sad and the short video’s contradictory impulses create a melancholic vitality that speaks to exhaustion as much as it does to ecstasy – to boneyards as well as ballet.
Hall’s thrift store television sets are the perfect choice for the Humphrey’s space and his videos are the best I’ve seen in a gallery this year. 2014 is just getting started, but Hall is already the man to beat.
The show will run into next week, but the space only allows for limited access. Your best bet is to pop by this weekend during Julia Martin’s regular hours at the gallery. Stop by Friday or Saturday 12 P.M. – 6 P.M. Pop in on Sunday 1 – 4 P.M. Or take advantage of the porch space’s big windows and simply peek at the show from the deck at 444 Humphreys. Hutchins has assured me that the DVD players will be cranking every night this week from 12 P.M. – 11 P.M. Stop by after dark for the best view.