My TOP 5+++++ Texas Exhibitions of 2012

I’ve been in a bit of a rut, watching re-runs of Living Single (I have always loved Queen Latifah) and drinking Green Tea. I’ve also taken a liking to Yoga and consider myself on the path to “yoga-dom”. As you all know, I live eat and breathe art. Cliche, I know, but true nonetheless.

Today, I thought of exhibitions that I have seen this year and I would like to see again if given the chance.

Lucien Freud- The Modern Ft. Worth

www.themodern.org

 

What moved me about Freud’s work the most, hands down, were the eyes. Eyes never lie. The build up of textures reflect time, change and at times abstraction. There should be, if there are none, books over the eyes rendered in his paintings. He painted the reflections of light from nearby windows, shadows and liquid! The eyes alone, held viewers into place and had conversations with other portraits across the gallery. Freud was truly a painter. A photograph near the end of the exhibition by David Dawson, shows an old Freud, facing the viewer, as if facing a mirror, and applying shaving cream to his face with a paint brush. Like his paintings, his eyes reflect so much life and history. He was a true painter.

Glenn Ligon, AMERICA- The Modern Ft. Worth

Glenn Ligon’s mid-career retrospective was one of a kind. I’ll be honest though… When you love an artist’s work like I love Ligon’s… and you research it with deep interest, you read his books and all articles written… It spoils the work! It was as if I over-saturated myself with knowledge on all things Ligon! So much so that I was not as amazed I thought I would be, however that is not to say that I did not enjoy the exhibition. What I enjoyed the most about this “mid-career retrospective” was the retrospective! I saw early abstract paintings that “faded into a mass of other things just like them” and that is why he moved to text… leaving the brightly colored oil and acrylic paints behind for someone else to pick up. Thank God he did!

El Anatsui When I Last Wrote to You About Africa- The Blanton Museum of Art

El Anatsui is a quiet man. I’d be willing to guess, given my brief oh so brief, exchange with him, that he thinks alot but does not necessarily talk alot. He is a extremely nice and down to earth. Akua’s Surviving Children is a sad piece, but hopeful all at once. The viewer could literally smell the char of the wood and see the barnacles and mussels still attached. I read a story by Maya Angelou once, where she speaks on the first time she visited the Ivory Coast. She says that women in the marketplace gave her food and told her “welcome home”. Never having been there before, she assumed the women had confused her with someone else. The story goes, that when the slave traders came to their village, women ran into the woods with their children and some women beat their babies against trees and killed them (versus having them taken) while others ran to the nearest village. Those that ran and survived are believed to return one day and Maya Angelou was one of them….

 

Nick Cave: Hiding in Plain Sight- AMOA-ArthouseNicCave11-FULL

Still on view, the soundsuits of Nick Cave are amazing! I’d seen his work over the summer and I could not get my fill of Nick Cave. The work put into the suits is endless and I appreciate work!As an artist, I want the work to be perfect on the first round. I want a masterpiece. Over the last year, every piece I’ve redone at least twice…or have big plans to redo… probably twice. I recently listened to a podcast from the Anderson Ranch Art Center that featured Nick Cave and I recommend it to all of you. Most Importantly, he performs in 2 of his suits, he also speaks on the wall pieces he has created and his online store (www.soundsuitshop.com) .

There Is No Archive In Which Nothing Gets Lost- MFAH Glassell School of Art

Curated by Sally Frater, the small video exhibition featured work from Wangechi Mutu, Lorna Simpson and a collaboration from Sonya Boyce and Ain Bailey. There is No Archive  is a success due to the questions it enables a viewer to ask not the answers it forces the viewer to accept. It is in my opinion, that if you leave an exhibition without your ideas challenged or perhaps something learned, then the exhibition was not a success. Each artist enables the viewer to contemplate ideas of race, gender and class in our contemporary culture as well as in our history. For the last few years, especially with the inauguration of our first black president in 2008, the idea of a “Post Racial” society has quietly been circulating. Many argue that people no longer see race and race/ethnicity no longer matters however I find that hard to believe. Frater is aware of the “post racial society” conversation and created a small show that oh so simply proposes the question: On whose terms? When does race not play a part in one’s life? When does race play a part? On whose terms are these decisions made? And when are they accepted or ignored?

I wrote “TOP 5” But I kinda lied. There are several more exhibitions that are still ongoing that I am actually going to see again. Here are a few more, that moved me beyond words.

 

The Progress of Love- The Menil Collection

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit The Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art- The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Happy New Year!

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Review: the Progress of Love

The Progress of Love exhibition at the Menil Collection made me wonder about the beginning of relationships.  We’ve all been there haven’t we? The butterflies in your stomach, the warmth of first kisses and hugs or that hunger for the other person that is damn near on the brink of obsession.  Greeted by Yinka Shonibare MBE’s, The Swing (After Fragonard), 2001, and Mary Ellen Carroll’s neon pieces Me Like Blacks/Blacks Like Me, 2007, the mood is set. With The Persuaders 1971 hit single Thin Line Between Love and Hate playing on a loop from Nadine Robinson’s “sonic painting” Light, Version III,2012, in the next gallery, the viewer has no choice but to think of love in stages of beginning, middle and end.

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

Curated by Kristina Van Dyke, Director of Pulitzer Foundation and Bisi Silva, Director of the Centre of Contemporary Art, Lagos Nigeria, The Progress of Love explores the formation, dispersion, and expression of love in a variety of cultures through varying media. With over two dozen works from Contemporary artists of Africa and its Diasporas, the viewer is not overwhelmed by the number of artworks present but excited and welcomed to explore this little thing called Love.

Zouhlikha Bouabdellah, Cheri, 2007. 30cmx30xm Sheets of Paper and Lacquer , http://www.zoulikhab.com

Zouhlikha Bouabdellah investigates Love in the Arabic language in her 2007 work titled Cheri.  Consisting of over 300 sheets of paper with different Arabic words for love, scrawled and dripped onto crisp white sheets with red lacquer, Bouabdellah enables the viewer to question their own native language used in expressing love.  Organized in a grid like fashion, Cheri harkens to education, literacy, love letters and language. How did we learn about love? How do we learn to express our love? What words do we use?

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

Eaten by the Heart is an hour long video installation by video artist and filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa exploring the question “How do Africans Kiss?” Couples of Africa and its Diasporas kiss on screen for up to five minutes at a time and inadvertently become more passionate from beginning to end. As a Black American, I never thought of kissing as a European practice versus a universal practice, which brings into question the performance and diverse cultural practices of love. I noticed that Eaten by the Heart made many viewers uncomfortable. Not many sat down for more than five minutes, almost anxious and nervous about viewing such an intimate act, especially as couples grew more passionate.  Whether couples were same sex or heterosexual, giggles and pointed fingers from the back of the space made me think again of how we learn about love. How do we learn when to express, give, receive or reciprocate love in a private or public setting?

 

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

And how do we learn to end a relationship?  When does the thin line between love and hate disappear? Growing up with three brothers and raised by a single father, I witnessed someof their relationships simply fizzle out. No arguments, No call and no ridiculous facebook posts. Similar to Felix Gonzalez- Torres’ “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1991, two battery powered clocks are set at the same time. In unison, they click-clock throughout the exhibition eventually losing power as time continues. One will fall behind the other, causing both to then be out of sync and no longer perfect but inaccurate or unmatched.

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE IT’S A THIN LINE

During my drive to The Menil Collection, I wondered about how over two dozen artists throughout Africa, America and Europe, could have a conversation about love without the conversation being too literal. Television and silver screen has brainwashed many into thinking about love in a very black and white terms. The complexities and cultural differences in expressing love are not present in popular culture creating very narrow perspectives about what love is and how it can exist in our increasing globalized world.

As I went through the exhibition, my perspective about love grew and I thought more about how I have defined, received and reciprocated love in relationships, or with family and friends. How did I learn to express love? When did I learn what were “proper” expressions of love and which were “improper”?

At the end of the day, The Progress of Love is about connection. Whether Nigerian, British, or Texan, we share the need for our existence to be acknowledged by the love from another person.  

Are we fighting a losing battle?

I went to the White Horse, a bar off of East 7th street. Very country western with the typical mixed group of people. By “mixed” I mean, people from all walks of life and all ages. My friends and I grab a table and begin to drink our beers and whiskey, and talk about whatever come to mind. You know what I mean. Anything and everything that comes to mind is out on the table and up for conversation. My guy friend, Will**, excuses himself, and goes to the restroom. A middle aged man with a vest made entirely of Christmas lights, has been circulating throughout the bar, dancing with random women and drunkenly makes conversation with strangers. He also goes to the restroom (coincidentally) behind Will.

Will returns to the table:

Will: What do you think of the guy with the Christmas vest?

The Table: I dunno… drunk and middle aged…drunk

Will: He came into the bathroom after me and said, ” Damn… Its packed in here like Amistad!! Hahahah”

The Table: What the fuck?!

Me: Oh hell no! I got somethin’ for his ass!

Will: C,don’t say anything! Don’t cause a scene. He’s drunk that’s all.

Me: He’s not that damn drunk. Who the fuck knows about Amistad?!

Will: Yeah I was the only Black man in there…. I said to him ” Really Man, Amistad?!” And he just kept laughing.

 

Are we fighting a losing battle? Or better yet, how many times do people who have been at the receiving end of an idiotic joke, just shrug their shoulders and say, ” Oh they’re just drunk.” How many times and for how long? I want a number. I want to know for how long am I supposed to ignore when I am offended. How long am I supposed to ignore when my friend is offended for taking a piss in a restroom?! How long? Can somebody, anybody, give me a number? In this “post-racial” society, can somebody give me a time frame and a number?

Are we fighting a losing battle? Plenty of artists, curators and historians are tackling race, gender and politics. We all have similar ideas to “dismantle the Master’s House” (Lorde 1984) however I wonder, are we really doing it? Or is it like Kerry James Marshall once said in a lecture,I’m paraphrasing, The cannon was established before we [Black people] arrived on the scene and it will not be undone in my lifetime or the next.

Ah. And around Christmas time… yet another made up holiday to celebrate “Jesus’ birth” in actuality is derived from Pagan ideologies… Just sayin’.

Damn, the future is bleak…Or is it?

Throughout the rest of the night, I thought about the man in the lit up vest. I should’ve given him a piece of my mind. Or better yet, I could’ve copied down Adrian Piper’s “Calling Cards” of the 1980s and made his drunk ass read it and realize that no matter how drunk you are, that is not an excuse to be a racist asshole with ridiculous jokes. AND that will be THE LAST, THE LAST THE LAST, time I don’t stand up for what I believe in because we are not losing the battle… I don’t think we are at all. But Every once in a while we all have to be reminded that the fight isn’t over. We have to be reminded that when we have children, cousin and nephews of color come into this world, we have to educate them on this world. We have to educate them on racism, hatred, segregation, just like we teach them their ABCs.  This is not a post racial society. If anything its just post-modern.

Yourself in the World

Pinot Grigio and a good book... Ah the little things in life.

Pinot Grigio and a good book… Ah the little things in life.

One of my favorite artists is also one of my most favorite writers. Now, many many people know that I have a love for Janet Evanovich but she’s not a a visual artist… Yet she is quite artistic with her Stephanie Plum Mystery novels… On book 19 myself… Ahem ahem. But I digress.

Glenn Ligon is actually the artist/writer to which I was referring. A year ago the Whitney Museum of American Art published selected writings and interviews to coincide with Ligon’s retrospective, AMERICA. Edited by Scott Rothkopf, senior editor at Artforum, Yourself in the World is a beautiful book.  When I was a child, my mother often would tell her friends and our other family members “C, is going to be a writer when she grows up”. She said it so matter-of-fact, without question, hesitance or wonder and I (being a child) kept writing. I didn’t think about being a writer until my freshman year of college and that’s when “My mama used to say…” came flooding back. Sometimes people need reassurance that they are on the right track. You never know when, how, where or in what form reassurance comes, but it always comes. And don’t be fooled, when you’re wrong, there is reassurance for that too. But AGAIN, I digress. Reading Yourself in the World, the first time, reassured me that I was on the right track as an artist and as a writer. Ligon writes, ” …realizing that my writings and interviews, like my art practice, were a record of who I was at a particular cultural moment, and that the insights, contradictions and incomplete thoughts expressed in them were an important part of my story”.  Writing is something you do for yourself as well as others. And the same can be said about art. The catch with writing and art, is that you need to do it because you love it. And if you make money doing what you love, you’re a lucky devil!

Ligon reviews works by David Hammons ( he actually says Hammons’ artwork is “freaky deaky” LOVE IT!), Wardell Milan II, David McKenize, Kelly Walker, Felix Gonzalez-Torrez, Rodney McMillan and various others. He writes about travels to New Orleans, his navigation through childhood and moving throughout the burrows of New York. All in which have added to him as an artist and as a writer. All in all, I found Yourself in the World so moving because it reminds me alot about myself and the artist I will become.

How do you keep track of your personal growth, your contradictions, insights or incomplete thought? Is it in your work? Your writings? Your Hairstyles? Your clothes? What are your breadcrumbs?

My breadcrumbs are the work. My writings, my art, and sometimes my memories. And just in case I get lost ( its inevitable. We all get lost in our own confusion) I have breadcrumbs to look over and think to myself, “My Mama always said…”

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