Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Rothko Chapel

with 2 comments

I was in Houston last week for the American Association of Museum’s annual conference.  It was my first time attending, and I learned a lot and networked a lot. (Thanks for the fellowship Getty Foundation!)  As a Californian, my perception of Houston is a bit skewed from reality.  It didn’t help that my freshman year roommate was a frat boy from H-Town, who was fond of boxed wine and drunk driving.   All of my conceptions of Houston were changed during my trip.  Total strangers smiled at me and made eye contact (a strange thing for me).  More importantly, Houston is FULL of art institutions.  I managed to squeeze a major art mecca into my trip and was blown away with the amount of things I saw.  (This was easy to accomplish because of Houston’s concentrated museum district.)  I got to see the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s traveling summer exhibition Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting.  It was kind of dinky, and I’m glad I didn’t have to pay the extra $7 dollars to see it.  What really blew my mind at the MFAH was the Carlos Cruz Diaz show (post to follow soon); I loved it so much, I saw it twice in four days.

Titian’s “Diana and Actaeon” – The Painting that almost got away.

The MFAH was not the only stop on my art pilgrimage, I also saw the Menil Collection, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, the Cy Twombly Gallery, and my favorite the Rothko Chapel.  The Rothko chapel was on my art bucket list; but when I entered the chapel I was disappointed.  Why do people make such a big deal about this space?  I decided not to be so judgmental, calmed myself, sat down in the cool quite space and allowed myself to become immersed in the huge black canvases.  The first thing I realized was the paintings are so much more than black.  Secondly, I realized some of the paintings are easier to dive into than others.  Some seemed almost frustratingly challenging and I was fearful of being inadequate to appreciate them.  But then in the black paint I began to see all kinds of religious visions: annunciations, assumptions and heavenly kingdoms.  It really was a religious experience, and I didn’t even pick up one of the religious texts the chapel provides for visitors.  I came on a perfect day, one full of wind-blown clouds.  These atmospheric conditions made the light ever-changing and made the black paintings bleed and swoon.

Good thing I got the memo to wear black.

The space also made me think of another Rothko-filled room.  The first time I had been in such a room was at MOCA in the fall of 2009.  The curators had arranged a Rothko room in their Collecting History show—the first show I blogged about.  A lot has changed since then. I graduated from undergrad, figured out I wanted to go to grad school for arts administration, and moved to Chicago.  But I haven’t really moved on, my heart is still in LA.  Lucky me I will be in LA over summer and will get to see lots of art.  I remain thankful however, for trips like this one to Houston for reminding me that beautiful and moving art exists in places other than New York and Los Angeles, it exists in the middle of the country in places like Chicago.  And in places like Houston, Texas.

No photography allowed, but the guard was taking a nap.

– H.I.

2 Responses

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  1. Great post, Franky. I particularly enjoyed the following description:

    “I came on a perfect day, one full of wind-blown clouds. These atmospheric conditions made the light ever-changing and made the black paintings bleed and swoon.”

    I also admire how you are always able to sneak photos… somehow!


    June 5, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    • Lovely post. It looks like I’m in a very devout pose in the picture, like i’m praying but I’m pretty sure I was putting the brochure in my purse. It’s a great photo regardless. I felt the same way when i entered; it took some time. I can’t wait for more art visitations. 🙂

      Margarete Villalobos

      June 10, 2011 at 10:57 PM

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