Arts Houston


Contemporary Arts Museum

By Christine Jelson-West


When Russell Crotty moved from LA to Malibu he observed vast differences in the night sky. Never taking projects lightly – he once lashed himself to a tree during a windstorm to examine the forces of nature – Crotty installed a ten-inch reflector telescope in the observatory he built near his home. Using no photography, Crotty transforms his observances into drawings, from memory and imagination, on paper, in beautifully bound oversized journals or onto Lucite globes layered in Japanese paper. He renders celestial events in obsessive hash marks in ballpoint pen. Soft gradients and gaseous formations add dimension. In this, the CAM’s 138th Perspectives Series, perspective, time and space take on new proportions. For finer points of reference, he often shows the glow from Malibu’s light pollution above the horizon line or jots down his personal reactions.

Extinction, a 45-diameter globe, eerily records the night sky while listing Crotty’s concerns about land use. Around the southern hemisphere he fills in text, self-proclaimed “bad poetry”: “land land land, nestled in park like serenity, well priced, quiet elegance, romance in country, private paradise, everything old is new again.”

Other drawings are more abstract. One journal, Jupiter Sketch Book records the stripes and spots on Jupiter, page after page – a striking study in black in white. 

Crotty’s imaginative representations bring the cosmos home and give us permission to us to look up, wonder and form our own musings on the mysteries of the heavens. – Christine Jelson-West 

Through October 12 at the Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, T-W, F-Sa lOam5pm, Th lOam-9pm, Su 12-5pm. Docents will be on hand to turn pages of the giant journals on September 13 and October 4 from 2 -5 pm. 713.284.8250