Monday, October 22, 2012

The Menil Collection: Highlights


Working in the arts sometimes feels like the Groundhog Day movie, it keeps going and going and it feels like one giant loop sometimes.  This is even more so when it comes to art fairs where you go to a city and set up shop so that the local or not so local clientele can peruse and hopefully purchase.  Most times this takes place at the same time of year at the same building and you see the same cast of characters in fair staff and other dealers.  It’s sort of charming in its repetitiveness but it is also strangely atrophying.  I remark on this because I am returning from Houston, where I was working an art fair, as I did last year.  Last year was my fist time in Houston and this is now my second and amongst the work there was a little time for play and that playtime was saved to visit The Menil Collection one of the most impressive collections of art and most certainly one of the classiest ways of presenting it.

The Menil is probably one of my favorite places to see art. I can’t say it enough.  I just love it.  You can read me gush about it from about this time last year on this little blog.  Sadly, this year’s rotating exhibition was not as compelling as last year’s. It was a group show reflecting on the theme of silence, aptly entitled, Silence organized by Toby Kamps.  It was a bit over stuffed and ‘cerebral’ in a not beneficial way, but there were some shining stars nonetheless.  One was Martin Wong’s Silence, 1982, which full disclosure I had the honor and pleasure of working with his estate during my previous employment.  He is so great and sadly under recognized, but luckily this is shifting as there are people in high places and influence that are aware of his work and his life and making sure others do too.  It made me so happy to see it included amongst the bonafides like Beauys and Duchamp and all those likes.  Another great piece in the show was Tino Sehgal’s Instead of allowing something to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things, 2000 which, at the time I viewed it, a slender girl, obviously trained in dancing, was on the floor slowly undulating and writhing and occasionally scuffing the walls with her shoes.  It was really powerful and seeing loud junior high school kids stop in their tracks and silently watch, mouths agape, speaks volumes to the work’s ability to capture.  It was really subtle and powerful.  Another fun work to see was Yves Klein’s Untitled (Monogold), ca. 1960 which was gold and indented with circular forms and it just felt like a wonderful piece to see in real life which in reproduction must lose its soul.

The De Menil’s surrealist collection is just divine, and it was re-hung and there were nice new bits on view and some re-runs that made me think new things.  Last year seeing so many Magrittes in one place made me a bit disillusioned but seeing his The Glass Key, 1959 made me feel very impressed again.  What was really stellar though was a micro exhibit of Claes Oldenburg’s very early collages entitled, Claes Oldenburg: Strange Eggs curated by Michelle White, which shows works from 1957–1958.  These eighteen discreet collages were tucked away in a small room and were of free floating forms sourced from magazines of that time.  The coloring was shades of gray and browns and they were cut up and then sutured together in such ways that it was at times hard to figure out what the original image was and where or how they were attached.  They are very creepy in a way and seeing them in context with the surrealist collection felt fitting with the slight dark energy that surrealism can produce.  Seeing these after recently seeing the retrospective of his work in Cologne has me thinking things but I am not yet able to fully process it.  There is a darkness and a bizarre Frankenstein desire to cut and attach, to cut and sew, to deflate life and to give animation of life to things inanimate or deadened.  The show although small was a giant revelation on Oldenburg’s practice. 

The Rothko Chapel is a snooze to me but this year’s standout in The Menil Collection’s satellite buildings was the Dan Flavin, Untitled, 1996 installation at Richmond Hall.  It is a large wide-open room with multi colored fluorescent lights vertically hung pointing in one angle and then the opposite angel at the half way point.  It felt oddly dated but it was also very festive.  It is the perfect backdrop for a roller skate party or a music video.  That’s probably not the original intention but hey, life doesn’t stop for art.  In the back there was a room with white lights making building like forms and these reminded you that Flavin works with the language of sculpture.  They were very nice to see all together and not acting as a bookmark on the time they were made which they usually feel like in other collections or shows.

So there it is, my mini gush part two on The Menil Collection.  Anyone who is in Houston for a few hours or a few days, must must MUST pay a visit and revel in the generosity of what money can buy.