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Menil/Fiesta mashup

Art on aisle 12: Artists hijack supermarket for boundary-bending exhibition of paintings

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1 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
The "Menil/Fiesta" projects searches for differences and similarities at two legendary Houston locales. Photo courtesy of Aaron Parazette
3 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
The UH School of Art project celebrates its 10th year with an in-store show at the Kirby Fiesta across from Reliant. Photo courtesy of Aaron Parazette
4 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
More than 20 paintings are on display among the store's freezer cases and end displays. Photo courtesy of Aaron Parazette
UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit February 2014
The exhibit remains on view through Mar. 23. Photo courtesy of Aaron Parazette
2 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
Photo courtesy of Aaron Parazette
1 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
3 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
4 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit February 2014
2 UH School of Art hijacks Kirby super-Fiesta for new painting exhibit
Fiesta Mart (Kirby/NRG Park)
Get Directions - 8130 Kirby Dr Houston

Attention, shoppers. The UH School of Art unveils a new exhibition this week at one of the city's busiest and least-likely venues — the Fiesta megamarket across from Reliant Park.

Conceived by professors Aaron Parazette and Gael Stack, the "Menil/Fiesta" project has become a rite of passage for UH painting majors, a challenge designed to dilute the traditionally-held boundaries of where art can and cannot exist.

Students in their junior year are asked to visit both the Menil Collection and a Fiesta grocery store, gathering images and ideas to form the basis of an original series of paintings.

"We want students to approach these places with an eye for both contrasts and similarities." 

"We want students to approach these places with an eye for both contrasts and similarities," Parazette tells CultureMap. "These complex questions of context and commercialism that arise, and each student has to find a way to present them."

Since the project was launched, artistic solutions have ranged from sharp juxtapositions, like donuts atop a Picasso portrait, to abstract fusions common grocery items and iconic modernist tropes (imagine green bell peppers and Barnett Newman "zips").

In celebration of the program's 10th year, the UH School of Art has partnered with Fiesta to display the paintings of an actual grocery store. The exhibition, which includes 21 past and recent works, winds itself above the shelves and end displays of the Fiesta Mart at 8130 Kirby, just south of the Texas Medical Center.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the show," says Parazette, laughing that the store's 22,000 weekly transactions are giving the young painters an audience of a lifetime.

"Museums and galleries are non-competitive spaces for art, which gets all this breathing room. But here, these paintings have to compete with balloon and freezer cases . . . And it's wonderful to see how well the pieces hold up."

The Menil/Fiesta show officially opens Thursday at the Kirby Fiesta with an artists' reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the frozen food section. The in-store exhibit remains on view through the end of the nearby Houston Rodeo on March 23.

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