The Menil Collection announces their 2014-2015 exhibition schedule. The schedule includes works by Lee Bontecou, René Magritte, Wendy Watriss and Fred Baldwin, Charles James, Haim Steinbach, Dario Robleto, and Barnett Newman. Special exhibits focus on the personal belongings of Mahatma Gandhi and ninetheenth-century French drawings. The Menil Collection is one of our favorite museums in Houston and is well worth a day trip from Dallas.
Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds
January 31 – May 11, 2014
Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds is the first retrospective exhibition of the drawings of American artist Lee Bontecou. The carefully edited selection of work from 1958 to 2012 includes her early use of a welding blowtorch to deposit velvety layers of black soot on paper, muslin, and canvas. It also examines the historical context of her repetitive use of the cavernous circle and the void to explore apocalyptic themes – the Vietnam War, space age politics, atomic bombs, and contemporary environmental catastrophes. The Menil’s exhibition will seek to define Bontecou’s drawing as a uniquely powerful expression of her artistic vision so as to provide a new perspective on Bontecou as an artist who has perpetually challenged the modernist division of form and content. With gaping black holes, undulating forms, and organic twisted lines, her surreal drawings are fantastic reflections on how we understand our place in the world, and the desire to find a rational order in the universe. The exhibition, curated by Michelle White, will travel to the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, in late spring of 2014.
Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926–1938
February 14 – June 1, 2014
Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 is the first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on the breakthrough surrealist years of René Magritte, tracing the central strategies and themes from the most inventive and experimental period in the artist’s prolific career. Bringing together some eighty paintings, collages, and objects, along with a selection of photographs, periodicals, and early commercial work, the exhibition offers fresh insight into Magritte’s identity as a modern painter and surrealist artist. Beginning in 1926, when Magritte first aimed to create paintings that would, in his words, “challenge the real world,” and concluding in 1938—a historically and biographically significant moment just before the outbreak of World War II—the exhibition looks at Magritte’s image-making tactics including displacement, doubling, metamorphosis, the “misnaming” of objects, and the representation of visions seen in half-waking states. Co-organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Menil Collection; and the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition opened at MoMA (September 22, 2013–January 13, 2014) and after its presentation at the Menil will travel to Chicago (June 29–October 12, 2014).
Memories of a Voyage: The Late Work of René Magritte
February 14 – July 13, 2014
Presented simultaneously with Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary: 1926–1938, and drawn primarily from the Menil’s own extraordinary holdings of the artist’s work, Memories of a Voyage: The Late Work of René Magritte will allow visitors the rare opportunity to experience the full scope of Magritte’s career. The exhibition brings together approximately twenty works dating from 1941–1967, with oil paintings shown alongside seldom-seen preparatory drawings. During this period, Magritte often revisited and reinterpreted themes from earlier canvases, creating variations on the iconography he had established by the end of the 1920s. At the same time, however, he continued to develop new imagery, including some of his most recognizable motifs such as the bowler-hatted man in Golconda, 1953, and the landscape in which daylight and evening coincide in The Dominion of Light, 1954.
In the Midst of Things – Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss
March 10 – July 6, 2014
The Menil Collection presents an exhibition highlighting Wendy Watriss and Fred Baldwin’s long and distinguished careers as photographers, journalists, and co-founders of FotoFest, Houston’s city-wide biennial month of photography established in 1983. Celebrating their many achievements and contributions to the photographic field, locally and globally, this small survey includes a focused selection of photographs and related materials. Baldwin, a documentary photographer, and Watriss, a journalist and photographer, met in 1970. Political activists, self-taught in photography, their work documented projects and periods like the Civil Rights Movement, the legacy of Agent Orange, and the opening of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Their book of photo/oral history on Texas’ German Hill Country, Coming to Terms (1991), is the first publication of their long-term project on the cultural and political settlements of Texas, the work that brought them to Houston and which was featured in an exhibition organized by Dominique de Menil at the Institute for the Arts at Rice University in 1976. “Texas was our starting point,” says Baldwin. “A microcosm of the country.” “FotoFest,” wrote Watriss, “grew out of the social and political values that inform our photographs. It’s a way to open the doors to the world.” This exhibition is part of the FotoFest 2014 Biennial.
A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James
May 31 – September 7, 2014
Artistic, difficult, and imaginative, Charles James was well suited to the eclectic spirit of his most unique patrons and clients, John and Dominique de Menil. As a couturier, Charles James was known for his virtuosic design and construction. His clothes fuse Victorian design approaches with forms derived from nature and are defined by dramatic curves and metamorphic extensions from the body, accentuated by unusual color choices and combinations. A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James presents, for the first time, a selection of garments including evening gowns. However, emphasis is placed on daywear such as suits and coats, from Dominique de Menil’s personal collection displayed on specially designed mannequins that evoke James’ dress forms. The clothing is complemented by furniture James designed for the de Menils, a selection of his drawings and sculptures, images from the Menil Archives, and Luisa Lambri’s 2005 photographs of the de Menil’s home, providing a rich exploration of this unique aesthetic intersection of art and living for the de Menils.
fresh: Haim Steinbach and Objects from the Permanent Collection
June 28 – August 31, 2014
Organized in collaboration with the artist Haim Steinbach (b. Rehovot, Israel, 1944), this exhibition will present a new installation of sculpture from the museum’s collection. It will display the artist’s own work alongside a broad range of three-dimensional (and some two-dimensional) works drawn from the Menil’s permanent collection. It also will feature new installations of art and non-art objects conceived by the artist for the galleries.
Since the late 1970s Haim Steinbach’s three-dimensional work has involved the careful selection and arrangement of preexisting objects. He has focused primarily on everyday things—mass-produced toys, household items, handmade knickknacks, or articles of clothing—painstakingly arranged on custom-made shelves and other display furniture. For example, fresh, Steinbach’s 1989 work in the collection consists of two identical plastic bottle racks and two shovels, one metal and one rough-hewn wood. It is an oblique homage to artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) who, famously, divorced these objects from their conventional contexts.
Working closely with the Menil’s curators, conservators, and exhibition designers, Steinbach will contribute his ideas and presentation strategies to an exhibition focused on three-dimensional works. Steinbach’s approach relates closely to a central tenet of the Menil’s philosophy: the idea that works of art from different times and places can spark new connections and conversations.
Dario Robleto: The Boundary of Life is Quietly Crossed
August 16, 2014 – January 11, 2015
Artist Dario Robleto (b. 1972) has long explored emotional themes of the human condition, including love, loss, and grief. His sculptural work, which is labor-intensive and often involves the transformation of materials, distills these complex and universal states into meditations on fragility and change. Robleto’s site-specific project at the Menil will focus on the largely unexplored history of the human heartbeat. The installation, and accompanying series of public talks, will link together the earliest historical attempts to record and visualize the human pulse and heartbeat— from a record onboard a NASA probe at the edge of the Solar System to recent developments in artificial heart research.
Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence
October 3, 2014 – February 1, 2015
Experiments with Truth explores, for the first time, the resonance of Mahatma Gandhi’s ethics of nonviolence in the visual arts through both works of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries and masterpieces of classical religious art of the past. Analyzing widely published images of Gandhi’s public persona and the highly symbolic ways in which he manifested his beliefs and lifestyle, this exhibition aims to bring together major works of art from different periods of Eastern and Western culture under the large theme of the arts of nonviolence. The exhibition’s themes echo the concerns of the Menil Collection founders, John and Dominique de Menil who dedicated themselves to humanitarian causes.
The exhibition will unite a broad range of artworks and documentary materials, including an extraordinary group of photos taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson just hours before and after Gandhi’s assassination in New Delhi; portraits of Gandhi’s most important predecessors(Thoreau, Emerson, Ruskin, and Tolstoy) and followers (Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, the 14th Dalai Lama, and Aung San Suu Kyi). Also included will be devotional sculptures and paintings from the classical religions of India that informed Gandhi’s thinking (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity). Finally we will feature major works from the Menil’s permanent collection, by artists such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Gober and works by contemporary artists such as Marlene Dumas, Amar Kanwar, William Kentridge, and Kim Sooja that resonate with Gandhi’s vision and with the spiritual humanism that informs the Menil Collection.
Becoming Modern: Nineteenth-Century French Drawings from the Morgan Library & Museum and the Menil Collection
February 20, 2015 – May 17, 2015
Becoming Modern celebrates the remarkable holdings of nineteenth-century French drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum and the Menil Collection. The exhibition includes works on paper by five artists who impacted the development of drawing at the formative beginnings of modernism: Eugène Delacroix, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, and Odilon Redon. Becoming Modern posits that some of the most exciting breakthroughs in the medium took place in the nineteenth century as artists were regarding drawing as a space of invention and as a crucible for new ways of thinking about artistic process. Experimenting with materials, artists were beginning to use drawing as a vehicle for personal expression. Artists were also seeking new ways of making a line, using color, and developing an artistic language that was uniquely their own. At the end of a century, transformed by new technologies and industrialization, drawing became a means to respond to a rapidly transforming cultural and urban landscape. Paving the way for the avant-garde, these French artists anticipated, through drawing, the radical artistic developments to come in the twentieth century.
Barnett Newman: The Late Work
March 13 – June 28, 2015
The work of artist Barnett Newman (1905-1970) has come to define the spiritual aspirations and material innovations of American painting in the mid-twentieth century. Large and bold vertical planes of color, with thin upright lines that came to be known as “zips,” characterize Newman’s vocabulary of form. In contrast to the horizontal compositions that define the landscape tradition in Western art, Newman’s work reflects the upright posture of the human body. For the artist, this reorientation was deeply political. He felt it could free painting from the past and allow an entirely new awareness for the viewer through the ineffable experience of standing in front of his work. In his essay from 1948, “The Sublime is Now,” Newman wrote, “We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of Western European painting. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man or ‘life’ we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings.” This will be the first exhibition to focus on Newman’s production in the last five years of his life, and will include a fascinating group of unfinished work in his studio. Major paintings from 1965-1970 from the Menil Collection and on loan from other important museums and private lenders in the United States and Europe will be presented.
About The Menil Collection
A legacy of the late Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, the Menil Collection opened in 1987. The main museum – architect Renzo Piano’s first U.S. commission – anchors a thirty-acre campus that also includes the Cy Twombly Gallery, a site-specific Dan Flavin installation, and outdoor sculpture. Presenting regular rotations of artworks from the growing permanent collection, the Menil also organizes special exhibitions and programs throughout the year, publishes scholarly books, and conducts research into the conservation of modern and contemporary art.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11a.m. to 7p.m., and charges no admission fee. For more information visit www.menil.org