After some starts and rescheduling last month, February presents the perfect valentine for Houston art lovers.
Look for big, new exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, while museums and galleries across serve up a range of themes from the political, to human bodies, to fundamentals of light and color.
Meanwhile, contemporary artists continue to wrestle with the trauma and glimmers of human hope that 2020 brought to us all. Here then is a roundup of the best visual shows to see this month in the artopia that is Houston.
“Carriers: The Body as a Site of Danger and Desire” at Blaffer Art Museum (now through March 14)
Featuring a renowned array of contemporary artists, the new exhibition resonates with these pandemic times forcing us to confront the fragility and hazards of our bodies. “Carriers” highlights personal narratives and intimate stories — bridging biography with broader themes of representation, health, labor, sexuality, and gender.
Look for work from a plethora of mediums from Francis Almendárez, j. bilhan, Violette Bule, Michael Ray Charles, Ryan Hawk, Robert Hodge, Matt Manalo, Lovie Olivia, Preetika Rajgariah, Dario Robleto, Gerardo Rosales, Sarah Sudhoff, Vincent Valdez, Nick Vaughan & Jake Margolin, and Jasmine Zelaya.
“Stories of Survival: Object. Image. Memory” at Holocaust Museum Houston (now through April 18)
Artifacts become a kind of historical art in this photography exhibition. The show pairs 60 personal artifacts brought to America by Survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides with their personal stories and then documented in oversized photographs of by award-winning photographer and author Jim Lommasson.
The exhibition includes artifacts and stories of eight Houston-area Holocaust survivors. “This exhibition so beautifully brings together photography with testimony,” describes HMH CEO Dr. Kelly J Zúñiga. “The process of marrying the two brings to life the human rights atrocities suffered by so many, while poignantly showcasing their stories of survival.”
“Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power” at Asia Society Texas (February 13-July 11)
This new exhibition showcases the work of Bangladeshi photographer, writer, activist, institution builder, and a Time magazine Person of the Year in 2018. With an eye on the merging of art and justice, “Truth to Power” includes 60 images by Alam, including portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life, strife, and resistance.
“My introduction into photography was for political reasons,” Alam explained of his work in a statement. “It was social justice I was after and I recognized that photography was this powerful tool. And if I was going to fight, I would use the most powerful tools available.”
“Electrifying Design: A Century of Lighting” at Museum of Fine Arts Houston (February 21-May 16)
As the first large-scale exhibition of its kind in the U.S, “Electrifying” will trace how a century of lighting design influenced artistic innovation within major avant-garde design movements. Organized by themes of Typologies, the Lightbulb and Quality of Light, “Electrifying” will feature works ranging from early design breakthroughs from the 1920s to 21st-century national and international cutting-edge designs.
Showcasing 85 rare or limited-production lighting designs, the exhibition includes works by renowned designers such as Achille Castiglioni, Christian Dell, Greta Magnusson Grossman, Poul Henningsen, Ingo Maurer, Verner Panton, Gino Sarfatti, Ettore Sottsass, and Wilhelm Wagenfeld.
“Hockney-Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature” at Museum of Fine Arts Houston (February 21-June 20)
This presentation of 57 selected landscape paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh and contemporary artist David Hockney will illustrate how Van Gogh’s perspective on nature influenced Hockney. The exhibition will especially trace that inspiration in the series of Hockney paintings depicting the in Yorkshire Wolds, in northeastern England, Hockney produced in the early 2000s. The exhibition will also draw a comparison between both artists fascination with nature, bold use of color, and experimentation with perspective.
Galleries and installations
"Mine the Gap” and “Carnage” at Lawndale Art Center (now through April 25)
Two new shows open this month at Lawndale. With work created during their 2019-2021 Artist Studio Program residencies, collaborators Jacquelyne Boe and David Janesko and individual artists Gerardo Rosales, and Holly Veselka each explore the gap between reality and the represented, a fertile ground to mine the fleeting, fragmentary, and fragile.
For “Carnage,” Jennifer May Reiland’s works on paper and wood create a personal pantheon of secular and religious saints and martyrs, ranging from Princess Diana to bullfighter Juan Belmonte to Maria of Agreda. Reiland draws from medieval European imagery and the tradition of Mexican devotional painting to examine female guilt, martyrdom, and violence against women.
“Regeneration" at Archway Gallery (now through March 4)
In this shared exhibition, Carol Berger, Liz Conces Spencer, and Gene Hester explore nature’s regenerative force with a focus on the impact of human encroachment, the destruction of habitats, and Earth’s survival. The artists use different mediums glass, ceramics, paintings on wood, and canvas to depict ideas and warnings of what may be lost if we do not quickly act to protect the planet.
Portal of Healing at Rice University’s Houston Asian American Archive (now through March 30)
Filipino American artist Rachel Gonzales created this site-specific installation for the Fondren Library to hold space for “collective grief, despair, avoidance, and the reclamation of joy, resilience, and healing in the present moment,” per a statement.
The large-scale hanging canvases, painted by sponge with one color, serve as a physical and metaphorical bridge between gallery spaces. Gonzales also weaves sound into the work with the addition of voices reading excerpts from Asian American narratives and poetry of Wei-Huan Chen and Jenah Maravilla.
“Fractured Light” and “Afterimage” at Anya Tish Gallery (February 13-March 27)
For “Fracture Light,” Mexico City-born, Houston-based artist Veronica Ibargüengoitia creates paintings and objects inspired by photographs of windows she collects from around the globe, and considers as views from a private space to the outside world.
Also opening this month, Polish painter Paweł Dutkiewicz continues his ongoing series “Afterimage” with new works that strip away all figurative representation, communicating atmospheric light through the application and composition of color, creating a luminosity akin to an afterimage.
“Visionary Futures from Diverse Works” (streaming February 19-April 11)
For this series of digital projects Diverse Works asked queer, non-binary artists of color to contemplate questions of survival and why they create art. Playing with ideas at the intersections of art, technology, and spirituality, artists Antonius-Tín Bui, Chandrika Lucienne, Lovie Olivia, Preetika Rajgariah, S Rodriguez, Y2K, and the digital platform Time Zone, imagine possible futures and their legacies through a variety of virtual performances and gestures.
While many Houston museums and galleries have reopened to the public, some require a ticket or an appointment to enter, so call ahead.