Houston keeps it 100 during the summer. Not only with its heat but also with its summer art shows. As much as it’s “great” be outside and enjoy the sunshine during the dogs days of summer, it’s very natural for Houstonians to want to cool off. We all know it gets pretty brutal. Our glasses fog up as soon as we step outside, the leather of our car seats burn our skin and we can never escape the steamy heat. It is everywhere. Naturally most of us are pretty good about finding a pool or staying inside with air conditioning. We all find a way to cool down. For me, nothing beats a refreshing chilled drink. This can be an iced cold cocktail after work with coworkers, Sunday morning mimosas, or a tasty juice after yoga.
This summer, Capsule Gallery presents THIRST, a craft exhibition dedicated to the enjoyment of summertime libations and containers, reminding us of our familiar summertime beverage consumption. The show features a variety of artists from Houston, across the state and around the country. Displaying vessels and objects that are both functional and decorative, audiences are encouraged to support the thoroughness in the craft and design of these objects. When I first walked throughout the gallery, one of the first things I noticed was that the building’s front windows were the only ones on the block that were not tinted. I found this interesting because looking into the space from the outside provided a more inviting feel, not to mention that this observation also revealed the uniqueness and complexity of the gallery.
Capsule Gallery is the newest gallery at midtown Houston’s Isabella Court committed to exhibiting “contemporary photography and craft from emerging, mid-career and established artists.” This combination is rare in Houston and isn’t necessarily something I see a lot of. Many other galleries tend to focus on painting, sculpture, mixed media, installation or photography. “The pairing of photography and craft is influenced by the partnership between owner/director Sarah Sudhoff— artist, photographer and curator — and Gary Schott [Sudhoff’s husband], a metalsmith who is best known for his whimsical jewelry and mechanical playthings.”
Walking through the gallery space felt as if I was strolling through a very tasteful kitchen section of a high-end home store. Artwork, displayed in both the front gallery and main gallery, was organized in specific groups based on size, function and material. Each of the 24 artists individually created work that focused on their own unique techniques, functions and designs.
The two copper drink sets — Detroit-owned and operated Smith Shop metalsmith Adam Whitney’s Moscow Mule Mug Set and Austin collaborative Sertodo Copper’s Satini Martini Set — were placed together in the center of the main gallery along with other drink sets like pewter shot glasses and a corresponding pewter carafe. The copper pieces supplied a beautiful shiny contrast against the white walls and many similar ceramic objects. In a way the copper objects captivated me the most and took my imagination back to a different era of fancy cocktail office parties and icy martinis.
The wall committed to ceramics showcased many different kinds of coffee mugs as well as potentially multifunctional objects. San Antonio design collaboration Dim and Sum’s Indigo Daze wheel-thrown porcelain cup set made me consider that the cups could also serve as wonderful planters for small succulents.
In person, you are able to get a glimpse of the delicate details of each of the glassworks. New York artists Rebecca Arday and David Schnuckel’s fun slurpee cup set, Swig and Swallow, are venetian-inspired hand-blown flameworked glass sculptures.
The smallest objects in the show were hand tools. Smith Shop Owner Gabriel Craig’s Bottle Openers were elegantly created with forged steel and shaped as church keys. These were lightweight and simply designed. Houston-based artist Corey Ackelmire’s thin Cocktail Picks are made of original sterling silver and come with a wooden holder. They would perfectly compliment your bar stand at home.
The most spectacular object sits alone in the left corner of the room. California artist Benjamin Cowden’s Classic Juice Press was created in 2014 in San Francisco and is made of steel, aluminum, brass and rubber. The vintage object looks like it is from the 1920s and is intended to have “an old-world feel.” Here I was again, feeling a sense of nostalgia looking at this piece, reminded of a time where I worked in a local juice bar. With this prior knowledge, I immediately realized that this piece could only effectively juice citrus fruits.
THIRST not only raises how impactful single use beverage containers are but also showcases a distinctive grouping of artists who solely focus on the craft of these devices, all of which were uniquely impressive. Even though I felt like I might have been a high-end commercial kitchen supply store, I could still see and feel how much thought and effort was put into crafting each object. The gallery offered me a space to think about my own kitchen’s needs while at the same time introduced me to a world of emerging, mid-career and established designers, metalsmiths and ceramicists.
Learn more about some of the artist’s individual processes at one of the two upcoming artist talks. On Wednesday, August 24 at 6 pm, Capsule Gallery presents a conversation with Kathryn Hall, curator at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and artists Jan Harrell, Jessica Phillips, Heidi Gerstacker, Susan Budge, and Corey Ackelmire. On Wednesday, August 31 at 6 pm, Capsule Gallery will host a second conversation with Anna Walker, Windgate Foundation Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Craft at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and artists Terry Fromm, Sandie Zilker, Denise Greenwood Loveless, Abbie Preston, Katherine Poeppel and Richard Moiel.