Monday, April 27, 2009

Culture and Creativity; Field Trip to Houston

Went to Project Rowhouse and the Menil Collection Saturday. First time to Houston. Pleasantly surprised - that's one good thing about low expectations. It was an excellent field trip. So nice to meet some of the art history students and studio art majors. I had only even SEEN two of them before this trip. The art history student organization organized the trip superbly. I hope there are more collaborations in the future between DEPARTMENTS. 

One of the art history students told me about her exciting research/thesis on Piet Mondrian - she is focusing on the philosophical/theosophical/spiritual aspect of his life. I told her about my visit to The Phillip Collection last October in D.C. Just when I walked in, one of the curators started a talk about one of Piet Mondrian's paintings. I appreciated his work so much more after hearing about his outlook on life. 

Our 1st stop in Houston: Project Rowhouses. I went to the Rick Lowe Lecture when he spoke in Austin last year. Excited to see community in person. We were sitting, waiting, when a larger African American man wandered over. He gave the best, most exhuberant tour guide introduction ever and proceed to be the best tour guide. He referred to himself in the first person several times...this is Benjamin...He carried a burning insence stick throughout the two hour tour and he sometimes played the trumpet, around the top of which he'd attached a pocket watch.

My favorite transformed rowhouse: an artist wall papered a room with light pink dyed pages of a book/letters, handwritten in chronological order of their page #s. The room felt papered with rose petals. I wouldn't mind a room like this. The artist had covered the adjacent room in textured, terra-cotta adobe. Shatters of mirror in circle clusters throughout. Wouldn't mind a room like this either. 

Chevron volunteers outside the row houses planting shrubbery. Unexpectedly kind of them.

Next stop: The Menil Collection. People have been telling me to go here for a while. I LOVE the surrealism quarter! Recognized  most of the artists from my last 1.5 years of design immersion. Many influenced design or were influenced by design: Joseph Cornell, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Matisse, Man Ray, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters. I think one of my favorite pieces was Man Ray's "Needle and Thread" I think it was called, an ink line drawing with a vertical line in the landscape, a wavy silhouette around the line - reminded me of a women. As you come closer, you see the vertical line is actually a needle and the wavy line is thread. Stepping back again, you just see beautiful abstracted shapes, negative/positive space, black and white.

Next stop: The Rothko Chapel. I walked in when two performers were singing and playing stringed instruments. Serene, peaceful. Meditational. I just sat for a while with others and listened. Closed eyes. It was kind of funny when a belligerent old man in a black rain coat shuffled in noisily disgruntled that someone had to point out to him where the paintings were. Black and lavender velvety canvases, more like stage backdrops. I suppose its the beautiful, calm way they work with the space that matters. 

Next stop: Dinner at the Black Labrador, an English style pub. I went with 3 of the art history students and their husbands/boyfriends and a couple from Houston who met us there - friends with one of the art history students. One member of the couple is a graphic designer and it was great talking to her. She just got a new job after being laid off for 7 months! She said she wished she had done more internships and stayed in school longer. Then there was a computer science major turned art history grad from El Salvador. Three people from California. One from Miami of Cuban descent. A very interesting group. Yay! Such a good day absorbing culture and creativity. I really enjoyed the parts of Houston I went to - I never wanted to go before because of the things I heard, but actually now I want to go back and see the other hidden treasures there.