Editor's Pick

Fifth Ward Takes Center Stage at The MAG's Southern Glory Show

Prauper Studios’ first visual arts exhibition of 2023 marks "full circle moment" for The Modern Art Gallery.

By Shelby Stewart February 23, 2023

Southern Glory is now on view. 

Prauper Studios made a proper return to The Modern Art Gallery in 2023 with an exhibition dubbed Southern Glory. The latest installation comes after Prauper’s two critically acclaimed art shows, From Houston With Love and Houston Forever. The latter was hosted at the former Downtown Texaco building, and Southern Glory marks a permanent return to the Main Street location.

“It’s humbling to be back at Greenstreet,” Prauper Studios curator and owner of The MAG, Emmanuel Alia said. “It’s truly a full circle moment to be opening a gallery where we held our first pop-up exhibition.”

As Prauper’s third exhibition focused on Houston culture, Southern Glory shines a spotlight on Black American life in Houston post World War II. In the 1950s, Houston was home to the legendary Club Matinee in Fifth Ward. Known as the “Cotton Club of the South,” it welcomed some of the nation’s most prominent Black performers, including  Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and Sam Cooke. Though the club closed in 1973, Houston native and film director Isaac Yowman brings the story of Club Matinee to life in his documentary, Memory Builds the Monument. 

The Fifth Ward display on view at The MAG. 

The film, which was released in 2021, highlights the heritage and history of Fifth Ward and the challenges and triumphs Black residents faced living in Houston from the early 1940s to the 1960s. As a tribute to the film, Prauper Studios reimagines the documentary in their latest exhibition. The 23,000-square-foot art gallery lends itself well to the 20 local and globally recognized visual artists represented in the show. “When curating the exhibition, I really wanted to mesh the work of up-and-coming artists, as well as more established ones,” Alia told Houstonia.

Southern Glory is anchored by nods to the neighborhood, strategically placed in the center of the showroom. Chandrika Metivier’s The Fifth Ward Hand is her take on stone sculpture artist Tanya Preminger’s Salute, which is permanently located on Syndor Street and Lyons Avenue in Fifth Ward. The installation is a massive foil-like hand supported by bricks from the Fifth Ward neighborhood. 

The Modern Art Gallery (The MAG) and IYO Visuals' new exhibition entitled Southern Glory debuted at GreenStreet in downtown Houston.

Adjacent to Metivier’s display is an immersive installation that transports you to a 1950s Fifth Ward, with Club Matinee, at the epicenter. Stills of the former club adorn the space, and one of Houston’s oldest radio stations, KCOH is spotlighted in the display. Popular acts are highlighted on the club’s moniker from Lonnie Rochon to Hattie Holmes. A nostalgic arrangement of old TV monitors plays Yowman’s film to add context to Black life in Fifth Ward. “It was the Harlem of Texas,” contemporary artist Jessie Lott said of Club Matinee in the documentary. 

Collectively, each exhibit helps shape the story of Houston’s Fifth Ward—an area often called the “Dirty Nickel”—as the show’s focal point. 

At The MAG, artistic work extends far beyond the Souther Glory show, even beyond canvas, with several sculptures peppered through the gallery’s ground level, including works by Cindee Klement. Klement, who often weaves themes of  environmentalism through her work, created a 3-D bison model with mud and clay, what she calls “art that regenerates the planet’s soil for all species.”

The second floor takes a more afro-futuristic approach and enlists some of Houston’s promising young Black artists, including KNKY Hair Show, NelxArt, Sanman Studios, and others. MF Doom’s infamous gladiator masks crafted with different textures are mounted atop the wall, joined by a wealth of canvas paintings, and immersive installations. 

Textured MF Doom models now on view at The MAG. 

Open through March, Alia calls Southern Glory a labor of love and wants Houstonians to not only see the Memory Builds the Monument film, but gain an appreciation for the legacy of Fifth Ward, and Houston’s lively arts scene. 

During the show’s viewing, Prauper will also host artist talks and other events. “I want Houstonians to take away that Southern Glory serves as our opening exhibition and our goal as a gallery is to preserve the memory of the past in arts and entertainment while propelling us into the future,” Alia said. 

The MAG is located at  1201 Main St Suite 101. Southern Glory is now on view from Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. 


Show Comments