Artists from all over come to Houston for new gallery show

When Houston native Vincent Nguyen started to miss all his friends from art school in New York City, he came up with an idea: Why not have a gallery show and bring them all to Houston?

That show, called Friend of a Friend, will open May 12 at Reeves Art & Design in Montrose. It has two purposes: to bring a group of up-and-coming and established artists to Houston, where viewers can see their work firsthand, and to introduce Houston as a Southern cultural hub to those artists. The exhibit will feature 21 contemporary artists from across the country, working in mediums that include sculpture, paint, digital art, and more. The idea, Nguyen says, is to show that the old ways of networking, which required living on the coasts or getting formal arts training, no longer apply.

Nguyen, who was born and raised in the Klein area, has spent the past 20 years living and working in New York City and London. “When I wanted to go to art school, I felt like I needed to go to New York,” he says.

After school, Nguyen eventually went on to work in visual development for films and video games, working on movies like Ice Age, before co-founding a mobile games company, where he works as chief creative officer. Throughout art school and his career, he befriended many working artists, some of whom he’s known for more than two decades.

In the early days of the COVID pandemic, before vaccines were available, Nguyen’s parents, who still live in Klein, both got the virus and required hospitalization. That close call prompted Nguyen and his wife to move back home to be near family. Since he owns his own business, Nguyen was able to work remotely, but something was still missing, he says. Like many people, Nguyen responded to COVID by evaluating what was most important to him. “Honestly, I just missed a lot of my friends.”

Friend of a Friend at Reeves Art & Design.

Friend of a Friend at Reeves Art & Design.

Vincent Nguyen

A few months after moving back, Nguyen attended an art show at Reeves, which had recently been converted by its owners from a high-end antique furniture store into a full-blown gallery. There, he met and befriended owner Matthew Reeves, who also introduced him to a friend named Mark. Nguyen later found out the “Mark” in question was reclusive Houston artist Mark Flood.

The initial meeting between Reeves and Flood became the germ of an idea for this show, which marks Nguyen’s first time curating an event. To start, he reached out to a few specific artist-friends he wanted to include, and they in turn reached out to their friends. That includes Flood, who will have a piece in the show.

“I know these guys, and if I’m going to be here in Houston, Houston needs to see their stuff,” Nguyen says. “People were asking ‘Who else is going to be in the show? I’ll do it if they do it.’ The only reason I was able to pull this roster together was because of each other.”

In addition to Flood, the other participating artists include sculptor Austyn Taylor, painter James Jean, ceramicist Natalia Arbelaez, and more. Several of the artists have created pieces specifically for the show, Nguyen says. A lot of them also have ties to the Bayou City, whether through family or having previously shown at one of Houston’s galleries.

Most of all, the show will highlight the power of collaboration in the creative process and the connections that are possible through art. It will also double as a celebration of Houston.

“Houston’s changed so much,” Nguyen says. “I love it. I feel like there’s more access to art. You have more access to everything.”

Friend of a Friend will be on display May 12 through June 3 at Reeves Art & Design, 2415 Taft Street. An opening reception will take place May 12 from 6-9 p.m.

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