Not bad at all, Houston . . . According to American chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA), the Bayou City held its own last year in the national art scene, getting name-checked in four of the organization's 24 "best show" awards.
Every year for the last quarter century, the AICA-USA has honored the artists, curators and cultural institutions that shape the nation's dialog on art. For the June 2010 to June 2011 season, the 400 critics and art experts that make up the renowned organization reviewed more than 100 exhibitions, highlighting two Houston-based curators as well as two shows currently on view in town.
BEST SHOW INVOLVING DIGITAL MEDIA, VIDEO, FILM OR PERFORMANCE — Stan VanDerBeek: The Cultural Intercom
Organized by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning with curator João Ribas from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stan VanDerBeek: The Cultural Intercom compiled an impressive array of film work and early paintings for the first museum survey of one of media art's most pioneering figures.
After an initial run at MIT's List Visual Arts Center, the VanDerBeek's work traveled to the CAMH to offer Houstonians a rare glimpse into the foundations of much of the tech-based art seen today.
BEST MONOGRAPHIC MUSEUM SHOW NATIONALLY — Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage
The AICA's 400 critics and art experts reviewed more than 100 exhibitions, highlighting two Houston curators and two shows currently on view in town.
For Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage, Menil director Josef Helfenstein and curator Isabel Schulz performed a rare feat of curatorial magic at The Menil Collection, bringing together one of the most comprehensive collections of the artist's work since MoMA's 1985 retrospective.
As if the selection wasn't impressive enough, Helfenstein and Schulz managed to reassemble Schwitters' long-lost Merzbau — the artist's legendary installation piece destroyed during the Second World War.
BEST THEMATIC MUSEUM SHOW NATIONALLY — The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973–1991 (currently on view)
Curated by Helaine Posner and Nancy Princenthal at the Neuberger Museum of Art, The Deconstructive Impulse offers a look at women artists who appropriated the mass media of the '70s and '80s to explore the gender politics of popular culture. Luckily, there are a few weeks left to see the show at the CAMH, so be sure not to miss it.
BEST PROJECT IN A PUBLIC SPACE — Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (currently on view)
Alright, this is a bit of a stretch . . . The AICA award was actually given to the New York City installation of Ai Weiwei's traveling installation Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.
Nevertheless, the group of bronze animal heads makes a memorable statement wherever it's installed — including Hermann Park, where the works will be on display thanks to the Houston Arts Alliance until early June.
BEST HISTORICAL MUSEUM SHOW NATIONALLY — The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde (honorable mention)
Also honored by the AICA was The Steins Collect, a look at the development of early 20th-century European modernism through the perspective of renowned writer and art collector Gertrude Stein and her siblings.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow — who, at the time of the exhibit, headed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 19th-century, modern and contemporary art department — was one of the four co-curators involved in organizing one of the most talked-about shows in the past year. Houstonians will have to visit New York to see the exhibition, which is on view at the Met until June 3.