The key to unlocking the Menil Drawing Institute’s inaugural exhibition—a sprawling examination of art-world elder Jasper Johns’s drawings—rests in the artist’s journal entries.
“One would like not to be led,” Johns wrote in 1968. “Avoid the idea of a puzzle which could be solved. Remove the signs of ‘thought.’ It is not the ‘thought’ which needs showing. The application of the eye. The business of the eye. The condition of a presence. The condition of being here.”
“The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns” collects 41 works spanning more than six decades of the artist’s career. Familiar motifs—the American flag, the bullseye target—are present, with some early pieces drawn on makeshift materials like leftover yearbook pages or plastic. The Menil also poured millions of dollars and nearly a decade of scholarship into the catalogue raisonné, slated for publication alongside the exhibition.
In short, it’s an auspicious start for the MDI, the country’s first standalone institution dedicated solely to the study of modern drawing—a wholly underappreciated genre, says Menil Director Rebecca Rabinow.
“There’s something about drawing that in many cases is a more immediate experience between the artist and the viewer,” she says. “Drawings encourage visitors to step forward, be present.”
Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the Justice System | Contemporary Arts Museum Houston | Thru Jan. 6
America’s complicated criminal-justice system looms over this multifaceted exhibition that examines—among other things—social justice as subject matter; art and artists’ unique role in our punitive, politicized society; and even the eerie similarities between museums and prisons.
The Big Show | Lawndale Arts Center | Sept. 15-Nov. 11
Juried this year by Evelyn C. Hankins, senior curator of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, this annual free-for-all welcomes all artists living within a 100-mile radius, provided their original work dates from January 2017 or later, satisfies certain size requirements, and has never been exhibited in Houston.
CraftTexas 2018 | Houston Center for Contemporary Craft | Sept. 29-Jan. 6
Sculpture, furniture, street signs, jewelry, and more make up the appropriately eclectic array of objects—50 works by 36 creators—featured in HCCC’s biennial statewide exhibition, juried this year by Oklahoma Contemporary’s Jennifer Scanlan.
Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol | Museum of Fine Arts, Houston | Oct. 7-Jan. 27
The MFAH and London’s National Portrait Gallery condense half a millennium of British royalty into roughly 150 of the most memorable figures from the monarchy’s four most recent ruling houses, as rendered by the finest artists of their respective eras. The pomp and pageantry of Victoria and The Crown are no substitute for this.
Contesting Modernity: The Informalist Movement in Venezuela 1955–1975 | Museum of Fine Arts, Houston | Oct. 28-Jan. 21
Post-WWII artists worldwide rejected the geometric rigidity of Cubism in favor of a more spontaneous, raw, and increasingly abstract approach. In South America, the style flourished for 20 years through the works of Elsa Gramcko, Alberto Brandt, and Francisco Hung, among others; about 90 such pieces are collected here.