Year in visual arts, dance: Houston communities present themselves in their best light in 2021

Curator Max Fields stands in front of Baseera Khan’s “Receive and Give” tapestry at FotoFest’s “In Place of an Index” at Silver Street Studios, showcasing new artwork from 12 artists from or currently living in Texas, the Wednesday, September 1, 2021, in Houston. The opening of the exhibition on September 2 is part of the “Texas Biennale 2021: A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon” exploring difficult topics: institutional racism, political histories, contemporary media and culture.

Photo: Karen Warren / Staff Photographer

Look on the bright side – this is the spirit that Houston’s creative communities embraced as artists, museums, and institutions tried to bounce back from a year of uncertainty and seemingly endless closures.

Navigating the “new normal” presented challenges but also opportunities. The dancers returned to the stage. A treasure trove of rarely seen works diverted to Houston’s Museum District. Emerging artists have flocked to show their work in unexpected places and collect pieces of local history.

In 2021, the doors to the galleries reopened and the theater curtains were raised as the most talented residents of the city of Bayou returned to the spotlight. The best is yet to come.

Two big returns to Wortham

At the end of September, after a 568 day hiatus, the Houston Ballet returned to its original stage at the Wortham Theater Center for Margaret Alkek Williams’ “Jubilee of Dance”, which serves as the opening night for the professional dance company. . The return to live and in-person performances for 2021-2022 felt more like a homecoming.

For the first time, “Jubilee of Dance” – traditionally a one-night only event – has expanded to five performances. The three-act productions of 13 micro-performances showed how the Houston Ballet spent those 18 months away from Wortham and reminded clients why the organization is so often described as world class.

Electricity passed through the Brown Theater for the grand finale, the world premiere of “In Good Company” by artistic director Stanton Welch. The full scope of the Houston Ballet has given life to his work in 11 parts, formerly digital, well, in real time, set to music by the Dead South. The contemporary piece resembled an amalgamation of cultural dances and transcended any traditional notion of ballet.

November welcomed “The Nutcracker” returns to Wortham for the first time since 2019. The production marked the fifth presentation by the Houston Ballet of Welch’s interpretation, choreographed to the timeless score by Pyotr Tchaikovskuy, with larger-than-life sets created by acclaimed designer Tim Goodchild.

Duel Van Gogh immersive experiences

An international obsession with “Atelier des Lumières”, a Vincent Van Gogh-inspired light show on the Netflix series “Emily in Paris”, has started the race to bring similar experiences to major cities, including Houston. This is how two immersive events around the life, death and work of the Dutch post-impressionist painter landed in the city: “Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Houston” and “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience”.

The former has a real reputation on the street – Massimiliano Siccardi is the Italian director behind “Atelier des Lumières” and the film screened inside “Immersive Van Gogh”, which also features “Emily in Paris” star Lily Collins as a fan. Its competition, however, has a medium impact on art history. “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” features an imposing 3D sculpture by the artist, a detailed career timeline, a series of 11 “Sunflowers” canvas wraps, a recreation of his “Room in Arles” and a dazzling virtual film . -experience of reality.

Photography reimagined

Fotofest without photography? This year, few of the pieces on display were framed or even one-dimensional.

For the first time in eight years of existence, FotoFest was presented in conjunction with the Texas Biennale 2021: “A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon”, curated by Max Fields, Ryan Dennis and Evan Garza. The trio coined the term “Texpats” to describe the 12 artists from or currently working in Texas who contributed to the Houston group show, “In Place of an Index,” which derives from the notion of potentiality and ” potential story ”by writer Ariella Aïsha Azoulay. “Through their respective work, each Texpat has essentially asked ‘What if?’ Or suggested an alternative outcome when confronted with an imperial event, personal experience, contemporary culture and colonial institution through the lens of the camera.

The Impressionists make an impromptu stopover at the MFAH

“Imparable Impressionism”, a collection of 100 masterpieces of the French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movement, was scheduled to be on display at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia for four months in early 2021. Then the pandemic struck and the show’s overseas tour was cut to 25% of its planned duration.

So Houston Museum of Fine Arts Director Gary Tinterow made a phone call and asked, “Would you consider sending the exhibit to Houston?” Six months and $ 800,000 in emergency fundraising later, works of art by Théordore Rousseau, Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Jean-Bapiste-Camille Corot have arrived in the city of Bayou . Among the works which have made rare appearances and attracted considerable crowds are the famous “Danse à Bougival” by Renoir (1883), “L’Homme au bain” by Gustave Caillebotte (1884) and “Camille Monet et un enfant dans the garden of Argenteiul ”(1875).

Violence, victory at Menil Collection

Juxtaposition turned out to be the central theme of “Enchanted: Visual Histories of the Central Andres”, which opened at the Menil Collection at the end of July. The exhibition, scheduled to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence, featured a mix of works from Menil’s permanent collection and works of art on loan from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Museum, NM Over 40 ceramics, textiles and festival dress pieces from Western South America were proudly on display; a selection of silver photographs by Pierre Verger added storytelling, context and contrast.

From Forever 21 to artist pop-up

“From Houston, With Love,” a 60-day collaborative exhibition, transformed a former Forever 21 store into a temporary art gallery last June. The 23,000 square foot space contained nearly 150 works by 30 artists. Emmanuel Alia, a native of Houston who founded Prauper Studios in 2014, put the concept in place in less than a month.

Alia’s goal was to encourage large corporations to bring in Texan designers and painters for art projects and commissions instead of looking to Los Angeles or New York. Cary Fagan’s “Chairs are People” sculptures were remarkable. Just like Chandrika Métivier’s commission: a one-storey “model house” sculpted with BoPET, a polyester film resembling aluminum foil, better known as Mylar.

Recycling of parts of the Rothko chapel

When complete, the Rothko Chapel’s $ 32 million open space fundraising and master plan will eventually include a program center, energy facilities, landscape and drainage infrastructure, and an artist guesthouse. or academics in residence. The reception house, another novelty, has already been completed and open for business. Just like the recently restored chapel, now enhanced with a skylight, redesigned lighting and entrance.

The fate of two gray bungalows with white trim on campus is less certain. All an interested party would have to do is split them in half and take them away. An expensive and time-consuming endeavor, although it wouldn’t be the first time an artist or organization moved from the mountains to claim a piece of the Rothko Chapel.

Guild member Carlos Silva recovered the original 600-pound doors from the chapel. Eventually, he’ll use them to create a site installation, reinforcing the doors with a steel platform surrounded by a sturdy frame. And artist Geraldina Interiano Wise has teamed up with former Glassell School of Art classmate John Cryer III to reinvent light deflectors under the name “Texas Light Dancers.” The abstract interpretation of a dancer’s duet will express the movement and dynamics of light and represent their original purpose.

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  • Amber Elliott

    Amber Elliott covers the arts and society for the Houston Chronicle.

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