Similar Differences at Art League in Houston



“Complimentary Relationship” an installation by Kate Petley is half of the two person show “Similar Differences” at the Art League Houston through March 2. Each component is 8 ft. high x 12 inches wide x 12 inches deep. T he entire piece is 26 ft. long.

“Similar Differences” is a collaborative effort between Sheila Klein and Kate Petley who are both known for their site specific work. The title of the exhibition refers to the combination of materials and ideas that the two artists work with, as well as their artistic approach. Thanks to Petley for providing the press release I’ve culled from below.

When Petley first saw Klein’s work several years ago, she noticed a similarity in materials but with a fundamental difference. While Klein used materials such as fabric to create soft forms, Petley took similar materials and hardened them through the use of resin. Furthermore, while there is a decidedly architectural component to Klein’s work and a more conditional or atmospheric approach to Petley’s, both artists are process oriented and technically experimental.

Transparent materials have dominated Petley’s work for over a decade. She first became drawn to light and reflection while working with artist Dave Carpender on his farm in Huntsville. At the time Kate was making large fiberglass “vessels.” One very dark night, Carpender projected light and pattern into Petley’s pieces, resulting in something that Petley describes as “stunning and weird.”

Many Houstonians are familiar with O House, created by Petley and Houston artists Dean Ruck and Dan Havel in 1995. O House was a large- scale installation that transformed a small bungalow in Houston’s Westend. Through the use of an interior circular room, earth floors, and pinhole projections, O House broke down the perceived barriers of reality, creating a fluidity between the inside and outside world, psyche and experience, spirituality and consciousness.

Petley’s latest work is created out of transparent materials such as resin or vinyl, combined with photographic films derived from reflected light patterns, transparent colors, and hand drawn elements. Central to the work is an emphasis on reflections instead of the actual object.

For Similar Differences, Petley has created a site-specific installation and a suspended sculpture. “Complementary Relationship” consists of fifteen 8-ft. high “tubes” that are covered in rich organic imagery, originating from a photographic process Petley uses to capture reflections projected from a handmade scrim. The reflections created by this installation will transform the simple structure of the gallery, as well as beautifully explore our fundamental expectations of objects in space. Nine Mala is created from plastic materials and beaded lace, and was modeled after Navratra Mala used in India to attract beneficial protection by the nine planets. A sacred instrument used for counting repetitive mantras, the mala predates the Catholic rosary as an integral component in spiritual disciplines. Each square of Nine Mala approximates the color of the semi- precious gemstones found in the original.

Sheila Klein lives in Bow, Washington, and has been creating work for 30 years. In the early 80’s, Ms. Klein practiced architecture; since that time she has been involved in creating major, high- profile art installations that defy any single categorization, combining elements of architecture, sculpture, conceptual art and design. She has been awarded over twenty major public art commissions, including Leopard Sky (2005), a dramatic transitional environment at the International Arrivals curbside at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, that has been lauded as one of the best projects of the year by Art In America (2005.) Klein’s “Comfort Zone,” created for Harborview Hospital in Seattle and woven from stainless steel yarn, was chosen for the 2005 Year in Review Award by Americans for the Arts.

Inspired by a trip to Asia in the 1970’s, Klein became interested in the sculptural and architectural aspects of jewelry, and was impressed by the connection between the different ways people adorn themselves and decorate their buildings. In 1983 Klein began creating photomontages which combined architectural landmarks adorned in jewelry. In 1989 she was chosen to participate in Sculpture Chicago with a monumental outdoor piece entitled “Commemorative Ground Ring,” which allowed her to test her ideas on a much larger scale. Since then she has build a gigantic Traffic Necklace as her contribution to Antoni Miralda’s Honeymoon Project, an on-going conceptual piece in which the Statue of Liberty in New York ‘marries’ the statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona; created XX Marks the Spot, a three-dimensional graphic made from 250 runway lights and based on the imagery of air traffic coupled with an abstraction of the endangered El Segundo butterfly, for a F.A.A. air traffic control tower at Los Angeles International Airport; and Bonnet Nave, a nearly room sized ‘rain bonnet” made of polyester organza and nylon mesh over an aluminum armature, to name a few.

For “Similar Differences,” Ms. Klein is creating a number of works designed specifically for the Art League Houston site. These will include a garter belt for the exterior of the gallery/office building, and a series of fabric columns which will hang within the building itself. Known for her urban-based site specific pieces that are both witty and beautiful, Sheila describes her main motivation in creating art as a desire “to dress the world.”

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