Art & Soul

Ray Dennison and Mellanie Perez | November 30, 2017 | Feature Features National

Nowhere is Houston's boundless energy and sense of possibility more on display than in our visual arts community. From thought-provoking exhibitions and forward-thinking artists to venerable institutions and anniversary celebrations, here's a curated sampling of what's happening in H-Town's art world now.
“Hamlet on Bourbon” by David McGee

A prolific painter looks to the most diverse city in the nation for inspiration.

Houston artist David McGee’s works have been displayed at The Menil, the MFAH, Dallas Museum of Art and Harvard University, and his narrative paintings in particular are known for exploring society, class and race. “I don’t think you can get away from the power of literature or film in my work,” he says. “I’m also interested in the labeling system. When we get abstract or confused, we put labels on things, and that ultimately affects systems of class, race and sex.” Earlier this year, he moved to the Bolivar Peninsula to study water and prepare for a solo show at Texas Gallery inspired by Moby Dick and the Middle Passage. Now, the Houston Museum of African American Culture presents a retrospective on his works through Jan. 12. “When people go to museums, they often think they have to be told what to think, but I just want people to look. Some of these things will make people uncomfortable, but they are part of our world. That’s what art does. It enlightens—and sometimes agitates. But if you get a small percentage of people thinking differently, then you’re doing it right.”

One of the country’s largest private art collections turns 30.

Founded in 1987 by art patrons John and Dominique de Menil, The Menil Collection today stands as one of the city’s most unique attractions. The Renzo Piano-designed main building offers iconic works by Magritte and Warhol, while the nearby Cy Twombly Gallery and Rothko Chapel add to the allure of the area and provide a full day of exploration. This winter, and on display through Feb. 25, contemporary London-based artist Mona Hatoum presents her first major solo exhibition in the United States in more than 20 years. In the show is a set of larger-than-life kitchen utensils, as well as a suspended installation of black steel and fishing wire titled “Impenetrable” (shown above). The works are provocative and meant to make viewers question an ever-evolving and violent world, so relaxing under the oak trees on the property afterward is a great way to balance out the experience. The anniversary celebrations culminate this month with a black-tie ball Dec. 2, but prepare for more fun when the new Menil Drawing Institute opens in 2018.


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