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The Contemporary Arts Museum Is Coming Back and Better Than Before

CAMH reopens February 18 with two major exhibitions.

By Rob Sanford January 20, 2021

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston has been closed since Covid-19 struck the nation last spring, but its illustrious team of curators and staff have not sat idle. From the first major renovation in over two decades, to the launch of CAMHLAB, an artist-in-residency program established to fill the void left by pandemic-related closures of studio and performance spaces, Houston’s second-oldest art museum went to great lengths to prepare itself for the distant day it would be able to welcome visitors again.

And that long-anticipated day has come. On February 18 CAMH will reopen its doors to the public with two exhibitions, Slowed and Throwed: Records of the City Through Mutated Lenses and Wild Life: Elizabeth Murray & Jessi Reaves.

Houston hip hop fans can rejoice in the return of Slowed and Throwed, an interdisciplinary remembrance of the late Houston beatmaker DJ Screw that debuted just before the museum closed last March. Born Robert Earl Davis, Jr., DJ Screw earned local and nationwide fame for the iconic “chopped and screwed” tapes that gave him his name. Using two turntables, DJ Screw mixed, molded, and layered original songs into entirely new records that he first began selling out of his house in southeast Houston during the early 1990s before establishing Screwed Up Records in 1998. This novel sound—perambulatory and poetic, sluggish and distorted—revolutionized the Houston rap scene and continues to influence the global music industry today.

In Slowed and Throwed, the 15 participating artists, all of whom have Houston ties, approach their various mediums with a distinctive sense of place and a disc jockey’s technique. In his Northside Corrido series, artist Jimmy Castillo layers photographs of himself walking around recently demolished sites in his evolving north Houston neighborhood. The result: a family of phantoms returning to ruins, a spectral scene of gentrification. Channeling DJ Screw’s knack for mixing sampled material, multimedia artist Tomashi Jackson incorporates painting, archival footage, and audio in her video collage, Forever 21: The Essence of Innocence, yielding a vivid painting in motion that lures the viewer into a story of youth and persecution in modern America. In both creative style and content, Slowed and Throwed is an homage to DJ Screw and a continuation of his legacy.

Wild Life is a cross-generational conversation between Elizabeth Murray, an abstract modernist painter largely active during the mid-to-late 20th century, and contemporary sculptor Jessi Reaves. Murray, who is known for curiously shaped canvasses and cartoonish imagery, matches well with Reaves’s bricolaged quasi-furniture and eccentric wall pieces. This form of interdimensional interaction is nothing new for Reaves, who, alongside fashion designer Raffaella Hanley, re-created Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 18th-century masterpiece The Swing in a live-action sculpture last February.

Following the limited opening, the exhibitions can be seen during the museum’s regular hours: noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 9 p.m. Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. Friday–Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday. As always, admission is free.

Slowed and Throwed is on view until April 12, while Wild Life continues through May 16.

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