Penelope Houston Muzzlers
also showing: Miso / Karen Hsiao
Opening Reception: Friday, April 7, 8-11 PM
Artist Talk with Penelope Houston: Friday, April 14th, 7-9PM
La Luz de Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
La Luz De Jesus Gallery proudly presents the first Los Angeles exhibition of paintings by Avengers frontwoman, Penelope Houston with a full room of diptych paintings culled from the muzzlers she found in the mugbooks at the S.F. Public Library. April also brings a full room of new work from the creative mind of Karen Hsiao, working under her namesake to produce hand-altered fetish photographs as well as her Miso creations.
In the late 70s, Penelope Houston moved from her home in the Pacific Northwest to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. Within six months her visual arts education was sidetracked by the formation of her critically acclaimed proto-punk band the Avengers. With such incisive political anthems as “The American in Me” and “We Are the One,” the band achieved international renown, opening for the Sex Pistols in the punk icons’ final show at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1978. Since then, Houston has performed more than a thousand shows with the Avengers and her solo bands throughout the USA and Europe, at venues ranging from CBGB’s, the Whisky a Go Go and Winterland to LA’s MOCA, SFMoMA and the De Young Museum. She has released thirteen albums with independent and major labels in a career documented in publications ranging from Slash to Newsweek. Throughout this time, visual art remained essential and in recent years she returned to painting, receiving a BA in studio art from San Francisco State University.
“The Accused” is a series of oil portraits Houston undertook last year, based on original black and white photographs from police records archived at the San Francisco Public Library, where the artist has long held a day job. She discovered the images in mug books titled “Prostitution” and “Muzzlers” – slang for sex crimes. Each portrait is a diptych – front and side views – with the accused’s name and alleged violation burned into the side panels. Although the series harks to a time when sex workers were “low women” and gay men could be charged with “crimes against nature,” Houston’s light and sensuous impasto treatment performs a kind of literary time travel, drawing these individuals forward to a contemporary sensitivity, revealing and in a sense returning to them what the original arrest documentation took away – their essential humanness. Mixing subtle shadings of emotion – melancholy, remorse, shame, even defiance – with direct looks almost painful to meet, Houston creates a kind of reckoning between subject and viewer: who’s judging whom?
One hundred years before the selfie,” says Houston, “photography was an elaborate proposition and the demeanor of the suspects at that significant but unwelcome moment of the policeman’s shutter click is uniquely unmasking. I was struck by the difference in expressions in the frontal shots – pleading or defiant – and the more withdrawn introspection in the profile shots. I took pleasure in painting them, and in the process of discovering and getting to know these individuals. But more than that, I felt a sense of obligation.
Be sure to attend Penelope’s artist talk on April 14, 7-9 PM at La Luz de Jesus. Here are a few of the pieces, for full preview, follow this link