Houston, Part 3

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in Houston in September. Auntie Julie and I went for a swim at her local outdoor pool (which stays open year-round! New Yorkers take note). After a shower and lunch I was off to the musum district again, this time to go to Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, or CAMH, where a longtime acquaintance now works. The show was Texas Design Now, timed, I suspect, with Design Week. It was a great show, full of wonderful stuff in nearly every media by people I’d never heard of. The Houston Chronicle did a nice review (though unfortunately they have a subscriber paywall).

I first encountered Dean Daderko, now a curator at CAMH,  when he was helping friend & colleague Tara Mateik install an exhibition at Art in General and I was Tara’s intern, around 2006. Dean has been at CAMH for 4 years and loves Houston. Another mark in the “pro Houston” camp! I was very impressed with the exhibition in the basement, Whispering Bayou, a collaboration between  Carroll Parrott Blue, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and George Lewis. An interactive video installation, when you walk up to a screen it begins to play interwoven clips of people talking about growing up around the bayou, a phenomenon I’m familiar with.

We bumped into another curator friend of Dean’s, coming over from MFAH because of the excellence of CAMH’s packed shop. Networking!

Though I was set to head off to Waco again that afternoon, I could not resist popping in to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (aforementioned MFAH) to see their recently opened Mark Rothko show (open through Jan. 24!). With a stop in the James Turrell tunnel installation it made for the second Turrell I experienced in as many days.

Houston and Mark Rothko, of course! It was great, I’d never seen his early, more figurative work. It was a lovely show and a good visit to the museum. The last time I was there was while MoMA was renovating and sent parts of their collection on a tour. The first time I ever saw Starry Night was there.

A semi quick stop in the museum shop and 3 Christmas presents later, I was on my way to my old neighborhood of Sharpstown for a cruise. On the way out of town I stopped for a Vietnamese iced coffee and a Doughssaint (aka Cronut, my first!) in Chinatown, which I’d forgotten was so close to my childhood home. Another mark in the pro column for Houston.

Greater New York 2015 at PS1

The first show I ever saw at PS1 was Greater New York 2005, on a field trip with my “Galleries and Museums of New York” class, in my first semester of graduate school. Ahh, memories!

Apparently my visit was something of the opposite of Paddy Johnson & co, who went there straight from the airport and I had to hustle off to the airport so unfortunately I wasn’t able to view the whole show. It was a shame, as the first few photos and discussions in the review are interesting, yet I missed that part of the show.

Onward! I didn’t get a long/good read of the 2010 edition, though I remember thinking of it as crowded. Some of 2015 was crowded, other parts had plenty of space.

Donald Moffett’s Gold/Tunnel was early in the exhibition the way I went through and was the first thing that struck me. I hadn’t spent any time with his work before, and the layering of a monochromatic gold canvas and a video of water going under a stone bridge kept me interested for a while. There were a few more works of his further along in the galleries that I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed were by the same artist. (Fun to find in later research that he’s also a Texan and has the same alma mater as some family members.)

One of the works I most connected with was Glenn Ligon’s Housing in New York, a Brief History. It is framed around the circumstances that led him to and from the places he has lived, from his birth to 2007. I certainly connect with pegging life events to certain places, I still can’t visit Houston without cruising by the house I grew up in. It was interesting to connect with some of the places Ligon has lived, having recently left the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene area, where the artist spent the early 90’s, a very different time for the neighborhood. (On the very same visit that took me to PS1 for the exhibition, I was startled to find a Starbucks right next to a Chipotle, opened since I left in August of this year.) On a different side of the coin, I started working in Ligon’s current home of Tribeca during the same year the work was made. I am quite familiar with the Western Spirit store on the ground floor of his building that he mentions, and once spotted him in the nearby Starbucks.

harlem matriarch
Kevin Beasley’s Untitled/Harlem Matriarch is a striking three-dimensional work. Colorful, floral-printed house dresses cast in resin into a large, satellite-shaped disk that casts cool shadows.

Henry Flynt’s room full of photos of SAMO graffiti were of special interest to this Jean-Michel Basquiat fan. I’ve seen a few of the SAMO pieces smattered into exhibitions in the context of Basquiat’s work, but this was an excellent chance to get to know SAMO better, a line of photos around an entire gallery.

Mary Beth Edelman’s untitled collage (pictured at top) was one of my absolute favorite works in the exhibition. I enjoyed the idea that a seminal early feminist artist is still working on walls in PS1. It looked fantastic from far away but the detail was amazing as well, birds, sculptures, women mashed up throughout. There were other pieces of hers in the gallery, as well as a sculpture called Kali Bobbit in the big sculpture gallery on the second floor.

Bits and pieces in photo gallery + other notes:

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Juxtaposition of Ignacio Gonzales-Lang’s Kueens (2009) Ugo Rondinone’s dark lithe figure nude from 2010 was interesting, as the Gonzalez-Lang is a traditional african craft reading on a Ku Klux Klan outfit, in red.

Roy Colmer’s photos of downtown doors were another connection to old New York for me, as I’ve spent lots of time looking at doors and armitures in Soho.

Houston, Part 2: Haptics with Dr. E.

Throwing back to my visit to Houston in September. I decided to go to the ol’ hometown when I did based partly on AIGA Houston‘s Design Week. A friend works with Plus Pool and mentioned that her colleagues would be there for a talk. The +Pool panel was late in the week but I had to return to Waco for the Arts Fest that I’d been helping with. So I went for a Monday night talk with designer Lana Rigsby and neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman. I arrived at the Rice Media Center, after a wonderful and gossip-filled dinner with a college friend, not knowing what to expect.

What I found was: Haptics, aka touch, geared toward the designing audience. I am not “a designer” the way most people there were, but I have done some graphic design and most certainly appreciate good design (aka don’t get me started on bad industrial design, especially WRT sinks in museums and restaurants). Great content, from Dr. Eagleman especially. I was a little disappointed that each person had a part and they didn’t have any conversation between them. Rigsby essentially introduced a the story of publication collaboration with Eagleman (A Communicators Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch, copies were distributed of at the end of the program) and let him have the floor. He is an engaging and handsome speaker, who clearly knows his stuff. The talk was about a month before his new PBS show about the brain premiered but if you’re watched it, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Below are some scarcely edited notes and thoughts.
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Hometown Houston: More Research Needed (Part 1)

Headed off to H-town all on my own on a Sunday in September, which I was glad to do for so many reasons. All by myself! Going to my hometown to just mess around and reacquaint myself with it! After an uneventful (3-hour) drive, I went straight to the Rothko Chapel. Only to find it closes earlier than the Menil Collection, its parent organization. I was still pleased to catch sight of “Broken Obelisk” on the reflecting pool and saw many people enjoying the beautiful Menil campus on a less-than-scorchingly-hot day in Houston.

Quick snap of Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk.”

Met up with a family friend and some of her smart and interesting friends and had a few beers in the village (Houston has one too!). After bonding with a few new friends I went “home,” where I was staying with another family friend, our dear friend and auntie Julie. I’d spent many hours at her house as a child and tween, as I’d been a regular babysitter for her two now-adult children. We started Monday slowly, catching up over strong coffee, then headed toward downtown so Julie could go to yoga and I could scope out the nearby museum district.

Options for art viewing were limited as many of the museums and art orgs are closed on Mondays. Fortunately one organization I was interested in, Lawndale Art Center does a Monday-Friday 10 to 5 (plus Sat!). I loved their space, didn’t love the installation in their large gallery, Specter Field a collaboration by Harold Mendez & Ronny Quevedo. In the smaller back gallery was an interesting show of small, square paintings by Camille Warmington. The compositions were from old family photos, and her technique really caught my eye. Carefully applied lines of acrylic on panel with color planes done in an almost topographical way made for a really interesting textural look, though the paint was applied thinly. On a read of the gallery brochure I learned that the images are ones of the artist’s family. Harking back to a time when her mother, who died when Warmington was young, was still alive and in the picture, as it were.

This is a shot I took, I especially liked the colors, the awkward framing of the photo, and the subject of a happy occasion:

Camille Warmington, “If They See What’s Broken Will They Love Me” 2015.

This image is from her website, and does a better job of showing the painting technique:

Camille Warmington, “Who Am I Called to Be” 2015. From the artist’s website.

(I’d like to see more of this type of work from her, it seems quite different from earlier more abstract painting, done with different techniques.)

Then I drove over to Rice University for the first time that day (2nd time will get it’s own post, I think) to see their James Turrell Skyspace. It’s got a lot going on and I barely saw the half, as it’s title is “Twilight Epiphany” and I was there during mid-day. It was beautiful and I look forward to seeing it at other times of day and in different seasons.

Later that day I went to Northwest Houston to visit the home and studio of JooYoung Choi. She’s a good friend of some good friends but I’d never had the opportunity to meet her before. I was fascinated that this New England-raised artist has chosen to make Houston her home and I enjoyed talking about our shared friends and her work and background. Some of the aesthetics and themes of her work reminded me of Shana Moulton, whom I’d met when I worked at Art in General and she was commissioned as part of the New Commissions program. All the bright, wild colors also reminded me of Ryan Trecartin’s installation in the New Museum’s Younger than Jesus show, though I’m not familiar enough with his work to say if any of the themes are similar.

I learned that Glasstire had recently been by to take some photos, resulting in this piece. I appreciate the nice documentation of her studio, as I didn’t take any notes or photos while I was there. Choi has a solo show opening in January at Anya Tish Gallery on Montrose. I hope to be there and I’ll let you know more about it when the time comes!

More on the Design Week talk I attended and a few more museum visits in a later post.