Art Openings

A Trio of Shows Open at Art League Houston

Works by Lavar Munroe, Michael Menchaca and Letitia Huckaby bring race and social status to the forefront

By Samantha Ketterer July 30, 2015

This Friday in Montrose, Art League Houston unveils three new exhibits, each one uniquely different from the other. Two Texas artists and one from the Bahamas present three unique works, but three exhibitions that successfully make viewers think and look once, twice or even three times.

Zoo at the Edge of the World: A Continuum of the Exotic
Lavar Munroe, Main Gallery

The zoo keeper by lavar munroe ydl919

"The Zoo Keeper" by Lavar Munroe

In Zoo at the Edge of the World, Bahamian mixed-media artist Lavar Munroe draws inspiration from the 19th- and 20th-century European human zoos, where people of non-western origin were on display. Manipulating illustrations, advertisements and sideshow banners of the time, Munroe recreates the human zoo in an abstract way—much of his work shows humans paired with wild animals, which was not an uncommon depiction in these zoos of the 1800 and 1900s.

While the pieces have been regarded as controversial, Munroe says his work is not just about race—he’s interested in how people were curious about the “exotic other,” and how that carries over in current times. “I’m interested in how practices back then, the human zoo, set a plateau for how we view each other in today’s society,” he says.

Munroe created the work through a destructive process—slashing, cutting, stapling and ripping the paintings before nursing them back to life. Expect colorful and beautifully grotesque images in a thought-provoking display.

Letitia huckaby 2. sister canice and sister canisius sefuz6

"Sister Canice and Sister Canisius" by Letitia Huckaby

Bayou Baroque
Letitia Huckaby, ALH Front Gallery

Through gorgeous patchwork-style photographs, Huckaby honors the nuns at the Sisters of the Holy Family Mother House in New Orleans. Huckaby, who works out of Fort Worth, photographed nuns in front of elaborate bed sheets and pieced segments of the photos together into complete quilt-like portraits. The African-American congregation to which Huckaby pays homage was formed in 1842, when founder Henrietta Delille broke from the “traditional plaçage system of colored women being placed as concubines to wealthy white men in New Orleans.” Huckaby was inspired by their courage and faith, ultimately pushing her to create her exhibit.

Luminous, Yet Devoid of Chroma
Michael Menchaca, Hallway Gallery

Tend  guard  cultivate  till by michael menchaca vhldhv

"Tend, Guard, Cultivate, Till" by Michael Menchaca

In a hallway connecting the two previous exhibits is Menchaca’s Luminous, Yet Devoid of Chroma. His video presentation uses arcade game graphics to depict recent events involving race issues in the U.S., such as the Charleston shooting in a historic black church earlier this summer.

“I want people to pass by it and have it seduce them,” Menchaca says. “These graphics are meant to have [people] insert coins, [but] as a substitute for inserting coins, it’s to have them insert thoughts, in a way.”

The arcade game format came from personal experience; Menchaca, a San Antonian who identifies as Neo-Chicano, says the work is treated with a nostalgic quality. “As a young kid, there’s this escapist fantasy world. When you have a low income and come home, you play video games. That’s what I did.”

Through metaphor and current events, Menchaca’s video restructures America as it currently stands—in a way that is engaging, provocative and reminiscent of the past and present.

Each show runs July 31–Sep. 12. Free. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose Blvd. 713-523-9530.