Arts+Culture TX: Visual art, social practice, and entrepreneurial spirit

Full article by Alexandra Irrera

On view through February 28, Project Row Houses’ most recent exhibition of visual art and social practice explores the intersection of race and economics. Entitled Small Business/Big Change: Economic Perspectives from Artists and Artrepreneurs, this 43rd Round of art from PRH is exhibited in a row of renovated shotgun-style houses, transforming them into seven small businesses, libraries, learning centers, and installation spaces. Featuring work by both artists and artisans, Small Business/Big Change is an ambitious exhibition, exploring its themes through conceptual, practice-based, and text-based content as often as it does though imagery. Through a diverse and often weighty reflection on history, theory, and contemporary culture, several spaces and individual works resound throughout the exhibition with resonant aesthetic or conceptual voices.

Perhaps the most intimate of the Round 43 installations is that of Houston artist Charisse Weston. Her work The Red Book of Houston: A Compendium of the New Black Metropolis reimagines a 1915 book of a similar name, which sought to document the city’s successful models of Black prosperity. Placed among handcrafted study niches, Weston’s book explores race and economics through samples of historical and academic text, fiction, internal narrative, and poetry. Weston’s installation also offers a focus on African American women that is unique within the round. In a chapter entitled Origins, a sample of academic text notes that, historically, black women have been expected to unite and uplift their communities. While at least one of Weston’s fictional narrators can be characterized as a dedicated breadwinner, others are better identified by their self-described quiet insight—their abilities to observe (and occasionally react to) personal economic or social turmoil. These women write of silence, but, on the page, they (and Weston) have a voice—even if it is one caught up in the midst of gender and racial inequality.