Wednesday, April 7, 2010


MFAH stands for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which is composed of two buildings and the sculpture garden. The new building hosts two exhibitions from Sargent, "Sargent at The Sea" and "Houston's Sargents", and also watercolors from Prendergast, produced during his two trips to Italy... The succession of portraits and the seas from Sargent did bore me. The watercolors from Prendegast were also abundant, some of them unfinished.

Among the endless enfilade of rooms (especially the rooms dedicated to Europeans paintings and sculptures ), I discovered Frederic Remington, a great Western painter who depicted vivid scenes of the Far West, so harsh, like this corpse hanging of a cliff and the party coming at the rescue or this soldier, falling from his horse, death already in his eyes. The movement, the lighting, make the scenes very real. The rest of the permanent collection is somewhat light in paintings from Impressionist and Modern Art.

The highlight of this visit, for me, was the temporary exhibition titled: "Ruptures and Continuities: Photography Made after 1960 from the MFAH Collection". A diptych by Hatakeyama, "Blast 2005" greets the visitor. It is startling to see the fragments of rocks and the dust flying. One can almost hear the sound of the explosion when looking at the photograph. The exhibition is very well curated, presenting more than 200 hundred photographs from 80 artists. The photographs are grouped in different sections: Self-Performance, Transformation of the City, Directorial Mode and Constructed Environments, New Landscape, and Memory and Archive. Notable for New Orleanians was a photograph from Robert Polidori titled "New Orleans 2006" depicting the desolation of one area in the city. Photographs from Brian Ulrich, William Eggleston, Lewis Baltz and many more were part of the exhibition. An installation from Boltanski "La fete du Pourim", 1989, was included: photographs of Jewish children, aligned along a wall with a rusty biscuit box below each picture, like a small altar, leaving each child with a familiar object. Every household in France had a similar tin box, the pictures on them differed (I can still remember the box at my house). Simple garlands of white light bulbs decorate the installation, like votive candles. A quote from the artist accompanied the exhibit: "A good work of art can never be read in one way. My work is full of contradictions. An artwork is open- it is the spectator looking at the work who makes the piece, using their own background".

An installation from Boltanski was just presented at le "Grand Palais". Another is scheduled to occupy the Park Avenue Armory starting May the 14th.

The other building, with other permanent collections (Islamic, African, Chinese), hosts a unique display of pre-Colombian gold objects. How could the Conquistadores leave so many beautiful pieces!

The works from a prolific artist, Alice Neel were allocated a large space for a temporary exhibition.. She is memorable as a female painter and also because of the subjects she chose to depict: daily scenes from her neighborhood in New York City, political figures or well-known artists.

Unexpected, an installation from Damien Hirst was surprising the visitors in the underground passageway between the two buildings.

photograph by the author

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