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Fall Arts Preview 2015: Visual Arts

Improvisational Ideas, illuminated Intersections and a very Rothko retrospective

By Nick Esquer September 1, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Mark Rothko


Mark Rothko: A Retrospective, opening this month at the Museum of Fine Arts, will no doubt surprise some museum-goers. Known locally primarily for the dark palettes and somber canvases of his namesake chapel, a different Rothko is revealed here in a 60-plus-piece show that includes everything from expressive still-lifes and swimmy, post-World War II Surrealist works, to luminous, vertical paintings from his late career. “There is a deep beauty and conceptual rigor to these works,” says curator Alison de Lima Greene of the artist’s paintings made late in his career. “Perhaps his greatest achievement was to work with the basic material of painting—pure color—and take it beyond the decorative and into the sublime . . . .The more I look at Rothko, the more I appreciate the very real sense of life he brought to his works.”

Sep. 20–Jan. 24. mfah.org

Texas Design Now

Statewide designers of accessory, fashion, furniture and industrial work will present their creations at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Curated by designer Garrett Hunter and MFAH gift shop manager Chris Goins, the exhibition showcases everything from minimalist and couture fashion to artisanal and cutting-edge home furnishings from around the state.

Aug. 22–Nov. 29. camh.org

Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy rubs a thin sheet of paper over an ancient artifact with what looks like a crayon? The vast history of this technique (also known as frottage), which dates from the 6th century, will be the focus of this Menil Collection exhibition of more than 90 rubbing works, including Surrealist takes and works by frottage all-stars Roy Lichtenstein, Arte Povera and Jim Dine.

Sep. 11–Jan. 3. menil.org

The wildLIFE Project

During a recent sojourn in Africa, artist and furniture maker Wendy Maruyama, along with some wildlife advocates, investigated the continent’s continuing efforts to stop elephant poaching. The sabbatical sparked heartfelt inspiration in the artist, and upon returning to her San Diego home she created massive wood paneled works of the creatures, including full-size replicas of elephant heads covered in maps and other materials, and tied together with string.

Sep. 18–Jan. 3. crafthouston.org 


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Artist Anila Agha will take bedroom nightlights to a whole new level with her hanging luminary at Rice Gallery. The Pakistani artist uses a giant block of laser-cut wood and a single hanging light bulb to create geometric patterns that emulate Islamic sacred places from her past. The result should be a transcendent and stunning visual of shadows, light and shape.

Sep. 24–Dec. 6. ricegallery.org

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered

In the age of Instagram and selfies, it’s good to have a reminder of what legitimate photography is—or at least what it was. More than five decades of the Russian-American photographer’s radically diverse work will be on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, including his poignant photos of pre-Holocaust Jews in 1920s Eastern Europe and his later works of photomicroscopy.

Sep. 24–Jan. 3. mfah.org

Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?

Much of Nigerian-born filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa’s work follows the people of the Niger Delta, using stylistic and visual methods to focus on the sociopolitical landscape of the area. This multimedia mix of video installations, photographs and sound at the Blaffer will take viewers back to Saro-Wiwa’s homeland, featuring traditional folklore, masks and religious practices from the region. 

Sep. 26–Dec. 19. blafferartmuseum.org

Ideas in Color

Houston artist Marilyn Biles’s improvisational and colorful oil works are coming to the Jung Center. From subtle touches of color painted against simple backdrops to dramatic lines crashing together with multiple hues, this Biles exhibition promises to float between the impressionistic and the abstract. 

Oct. 2-29. junghouston.org

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