Prentiss Riddle: Art

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Prentiss Riddle
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Inverted Utopias and Diane Arbus in Houston

In Houston last week I caught two great shows at the MFAH, a big Diane Arbus retrospective and another on Latin American avante-garde art from 1920 through 1970.

Diane Arbus pretty much patented the concept of the beauty of ugliness in photography. She photographed sideshow freaks, nudists, and the developmentally disabled as well as more "ordinary" people who ended up looking no less freakish. I've seen a lot of her work over the years but never so much of it in one place. I knew she was popular and influential but I didn't realize how many of her images had become iconic -- what album cover ripped off her child with toy hand grenade? The show includes letters, notebooks and artifacts, too, which reveal her to have been a Kerouac-like correspondent, obsessive note-taker and sometime mail artist on the side. There's a ton to pore over here. (If you can't make it to the show, see Diane Arbus at Masters of Photography.)

Diane Arbus: Child with hand grenade La civilización occidental y cristiana
Inverted Utopias: Berni

The Inverted Utopias Latin American show was also huge. Its opening space entitled "Play and Grief" was immediately up my alley -- darkly humorous, heavy on the irony and the politics, with an emphasis on collage and the figurative. The giant lizard made of trash looked like a cousin to the water buffalo car I'd seen at the Art Car Museum just weeks bafore. Some of it seemed too obvious until I realized its age: León Ferrari's santo of Christ on a USAF fighter is from 1965, when such juxtapositions weren't obvious at all. But the parts of the show I connected to less immediately were also rewarding, the cubist and constructivist section in particular and even the documentation of late-60's "happenings" which confronted the Argentinean dictatorship. Exploring the online galleries at MFAH and the Houston Chronicle I see that I must have overlooked some rooms. Maybe I'll get another look before it closes in September.

Finally, the intersection of the two: looking at all the Argentinean and Uruguayan modernists and their 60's revolutionary successors I had been wondering about their relationship with Jorge Luis Borges, who at once was so modern and so conservative. And there he was in Arbus's show, photographed in Central Park in 1969, dapper and blind and immune to shifts in the stylistic winds, for which he would have found ancient and medieval antecedents anyway.

art 2004.08.15 link

Comments

well fuck. There i was in Houston and I didnt' realize there was anything good going on. fuck, fuck, fuck, was bored out of mind and those 2 things I would totally kill to see. Grrrrr. esp. the argentinian stuff. and uruguayan modernists... OMG why did i not know. I am kicking myself. did you get a catalog or anything?

badgerbag [lizzard cxe bookmaniac punkto net] • 2004.08.16
The catalogs in the museum store were too pricy for me -- in fact I even walked away from the cute little set of postcards, as much of a fetish object for me as books.

By the way, did I tell you you blog like Diane Arbus?

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.08.16
Oh, yeah, and learning about art in Houston is much harder than it ought to be. In July I found myself with a Friday evening on my hands and thought, I know, I'll go to an art opening! But when I picked up the Houston Press (the free weekly) they had less than a quarter of a tabloid page of listings. This in a city of three million people, several major museums, dozens of galleries, hundreds of serious artists and thousands of dabblers. Houston's art scene rocks like Austin's music scene, but the Austin Chronicle on any given week lists ten times as many art events as the Houston Press. Houstonians are such philistines.

I went online and managed to track down an opening at the Art Car Museum anyway.

I meant this to be a separate blog entry, but in my hunt for online art resources covering Texas cities the best I've found so far is the excellent GlassTire.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.08.16
More art >