Houston Bound – Back To Drop Off Work
A few months ago I was in Houston, picking up art work from the Moody Gallery to take back to the Southwest School of Art. Fortunately, I also got to go back to drop it off. This was in question since my boss needed to head up to Houston also. For a while it looked like I may not get this job. Thankfully (for me), she was too busy for the trip. I always love travelling to Houston, leaving the city is always relaxing. My favorite stops always include The Menil, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (CAMH). The permanent collections are stellar and the temporary exhibits bring amazing artworks to Houston. Getting to include seeing art and visiting good friends is always a bonus of any job I do. This time, it wasn’t a Monday, which meant all the art was open. Art and artists have a bad relationship with Mondays. Or should I say the perfect relationship, as I have just always considered this a benefit.
I was really excited to see the large sculptures by Ai Weiwei at Hermann Park. They have been up for a while, but are finally being taken down to travel to another location. Weiwei is a well known controversial Chinese artist. His art often comments on the current state in communist China. This does not sit well there, as seen last year, when he was arrested and detained for almost three months, being released only due to public outcry. The scale of these figures are immense, in typical Weiwei fashion.
The individual heads are incredible to look at and are beautifully crafted pieces of bronze towering over you. Based on the original Zodiac Heads that graced Yaunmin Yuan, the originals were looted in 1860 with two pieces eventually ending up in an auction house in 2009 and sold to an anonymous buyer. This caused an outrage, Chinese citizens felt they had now been ravaged twice. While those two piece may have ended up in private hands, the Chinese Poly Art Museum was donated a total of five of the original twelve heads, from 2000 through 2007. It is interesting that Weiwei is striving to preserve Chinese history on such a large scale, while he is in the middle of a fight with the current Chinese Government on the changing the future. The Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (CAMH) is a favorite of mine. This museum encourages experimental and avant guard art. I have seen fabulous exhibitions here including Pipilotti Rist and Stan VanderBeek. It is what it is. Or is it? was the readymade art show currently up. Readymade art has always been interesting to me, the concepts that DuChamp embodied inspire art to be found in many untraditional places. This changes the perception of what art is as well as what can be used to create art. Transforming an existing object into something to view and contemplate in a new way is exhilarating. It reiterates that the world, our lives, are never static and fosters thoughts of change and creativity. Readymade art has the chance to be pretentious, but if it is done thoughtfully, it can be elevated to an art form. This show was intelligent and invigorating to look at. Artists in the show included Felix Gonzalez-Torres, William Cordova and Claire Fontaine. The last few years I have been contemplating many found objects as art. In school I had a found art piece that was in a student show and invited to be in a found art show, The DuChampions of the Ready Made at Lonestar Studios. It was a broken, dirty window simply suspended from the ceiling. For the DuChampion show, it was requested to somehow alter the found piece. So I boarded it up and titled it Perseverance. Soon after that I began working a lot, of course, cutting away my time to paint. Instead of feeling I was wasting my time, I began to realize that’s when I can work on conceptual pieces. Most of the work for a conceptual piece is the thought. This process can be done anywhere, for any amount of time. This had a dramatic affect on how I began to see things and my artwork. I began a lot of exciting projects that I still continue to work on today.
Located right across the street is The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). The main exhibition today showcased the work of Latin American artists from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, among others. Mexican painters, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, were included as well. This was part of the collection of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). They have been putting together this collection since 2001 and are now exhibiting fifty pieces from the collection of over two hundred. This was a well put together exhibit,
introducing me to a number of painters I had not previously heard of before, including Antonio Berni, Roberto Matta, and Raphael Barradas. It is always refreshing not to have museums show the same major artists over and over again. It is also great to have Latin American art recognized. While collecting contemporary art is not their priority as a museum, there are several pieces I enjoy viewing when I visit. I always love the Damien Hirst there. I am a little surprised this piece has not been loaned to the Tate Modern in London for his current retrospective, but I heard he has an entire room of medical cabinets there, something I wish I could get to see and may not be together again. I also always go through the tunnel of light, or The Light Inside (1999), as it’s officially titled, by James Turrell. The colored light always makes me feel disoriented, like I’m walking in the negative space as I head down the walkway, through the length of the room, to get through and out on the other side.
I did also visit the MFAH Sculpture Garden, which is a serene outdoor area that I had not visited in a few years. I walked through beautiful, large sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, and Louise Bourgeois. Another stop included the Richard Serra drawing exhibit at the Menil. This consisted of large solid planes painted onto the wall and drawn on large pieces of paper, much like the sheets of metal he prefers to work with. I have to admit, I haven’t been too inspired by the last couple of major shows at the Menil, Richard Serra, and Walter De Maria, a few months prior. These have been known to be cutting edge artists and I was a little disappointed not to see new work with transformative ideas. Both are still working artists and these were both new bodies of work, but both shows seemed lacking. Maybe I am expecting too much. Both times, however, the people I was with were not particularly impressed either. I guess it goes back to my earlier of assessment that bigger names do not necessarily mean better art. Don’t get me wrong, I highly respect these artists and really do enjoy their work, just not every piece or series. I love going to see De Maria’s New York Earth Room, 1977, when I have time in New York. One day I may even pay the $250 per person price to go to the remote location of his lightning rods in New Mexico with a no guaranteed possibility to see them in action. I have also seen many pieces of Serra’s in both a museum setting and as public sculpture that I enjoyed very much. Just apparently not today. This was a great trip, even though it was only a quick two days visit. Working with the Moody Gallery went smooth as usual. I appreciate these jobs that take me out of an office setting and into any place where I can continue to experience different ideas of art.