This month offers plenty of cool art to see on those hottest of days. From ritual beauty to Texas state parks, from photographic creatures to artists at work — plus the sweetest painted dance party of them all — expect art and artists for every taste to savor in July.
“Beauty and Ritual: Judaica from The Jewish Museum, New York” at Museum of Fine Arts (now through September 18)
On its own, this new exhibition of Jewish ceremonial art presents an astounding array of art and cultural objects, from an 18th century wooden Torah ark to ancient and contemporary Torah crowns, to Menorahs from antiquity to the 21st century.
“Beauty and Ritual” features nearly 140 objects from the Jewish Museum's world-renowned collection, examining Jewish ceremonial objects from antiquity to the present and exploring their artistic, ritualistic, and cultural significance.
Yet, the exhibition also represents the opening of a new chapter in the MFAH’s vision and art scope. “Beauty and Ritual” signals a new partnership with The Jewish Museum as they will continue to loan art to the MFAH when The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Gallery for Judaica opens in early 2023.
“There are very few general fine-arts museums in the nation that have a dedicated space for Judaica, and this exciting collaboration will have significant impact on the field,” says Claudia Gould, The Jewish Museum director.
The MFAH is also calling the Herzstein Gallery the “centerpiece” of its World Faiths Initiative. The Initiative seeks to activate themes of religion, faith and spirituality in the Museum’s encyclopedic collections through innovative programming and reimagined displays.
“39th Center Annual: Living Creatures” at Houston Center for Photography (now through September 4)
HCP’s Center Annual juried group exhibition seeks to illuminate current themes, technologies, and practices in photography, and this year, the lens of 15 chosen artists focus on the relationship between photographer and the beings, whether human or animal, they capture.
Juror Kristen Gaylord notes the aggressive words many times used to describe the act of photographing like “shoot” and “capture” have implied the photographers ability to control how the subject is perceived, and believes the show’s selected artists understand the stakes of this relationship.
“They approach them with a range of emotions from joy and curiosity to sorrow and rage, but in all examples, they teach us about what it means to be a creature whose life is intimately intertwined with millions of others on earth,” states Gaylord.
“Sugar Shack” at Museum of Fine Arts (now through December 31)
This summer after taking in the “Beauty and Ritual” and the reality bending “Leandro Erlich: Seeing Is Not Believing,” head over to the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for a rare opportunity to see an extraordinary piece of Americana painting, Ernie Barnes’ “Sugar Shack.”
Though it was made famous as both the album cover for Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album I Want You and the end credits image of the groundbreaking 1970s television comedy, Good Times, the painting dances on its own as the epitome of the Black Romantic tradition.
The MFAH notes that Barnes recalls the inspiration for the work as a childhood memory of sneaking into a local dance hall called the Armory. “It was the first time my innocence met with the sins of dance,” he told an interviewer in 2008. MFAH visitors can see the original painting in person thanks to Houston collector Bill Perkins, who acquired “The Sugar Shack” at auction last month, and loaned it to the museum for the rest of the year.
Samuel Bak Gallery rotation at Holocaust Museum Houston (ongoing)
As the home to the nation’s largest permanent collection of painter and Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak’s work – over 140 artworks – HMH has committed to regularly rotating those works through the gallery.
Born in 1933 in Vilna, Poland, Bak’s artistic talent was first recognized during an exhibition of his work in the Vilna Ghetto when he was nine years old. Bak and his mother survived the Holocaust, but his father and four grandparents all perished at the hands of the Nazis. Bak’s life-and-death experiences inspired his prolific work and collection of artworks.
In July, HMH debuts 40 newly rotated artworks, including notable pieces like Stardom, in which a cracked porcelain cup in the foreground of the painting is marked with a broken Jewish star with a smoke stack placed inside, the Jewish star in memorializes Bak’s father and Saving the Face, depicting a decaying bust adorned with the scales of justice.
“The Art of Texas Parks” at Foltz Fine Art (July 15-August 27)
In 2023, the Texas State Parks system will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
In anticipation of this occasion, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, galleries and museums across the state, including Foltz in Houston. Thirty Texas contemporary artists were invited to participate in the project and to paint designated state park sites.
These “Centennial Artists” were assigned specific state parks to paint; however, their stylistic preference, subject matter, and composition vary significantly at the discretion of the artist. From these submitted works, paintings were selected for inclusion in the upcoming book publication from Texas A&M University Press. This exhibition and benefit sale will will present a preview of thirty selected works.
“Maria A. Guzmán Capron: Forma Seductora” at Blaffer Art Museum (July 15-September 18)
This first solo museum exhibition of the Oakland-based artist will feature selections of her fantastical hybrid figures that explore converging forms of identity, culture, desire, and social exchange.
Capron stitches these creations made from vivid, often recycled fabrics and paint, into twisting bodies in various states of motion and repose. The Blaffer notes that the layered textiles seen in Capron’s exuberant assemblies speak to her interest in the ways clothing can signify one’s history, class, gender, and/or cultural identity. For the artist, fabrics can point to specific socioeconomic associations as well as aesthetic narratives.
Describing her work, Capron recently said, “I am a new thing and I want to signal with my textiles to other in-between people that they belong.”
“Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin: Wayfinding” at Blaffer Art Museum (July 15-October 9)
This latest exhibition from the renowned Houston interdisciplinary artists and life partners (a.k.a Nick & Jake) creates a kind of art bridge between the various United States of their 50 State Project, their multi-decade series of installations and performances made in response to little-known pre-Stonewall queer histories from each state.
The duo have found a new medium for some of the images they captured exploring these histories, creating a series of “wind prints,” spreading loose charcoal powder around stencils of those images and subsequently blowing the powder away.
Both Vaughan and Margolin have an extensive theater background they mine for performance-lectures with many of their shows. So look for new performative work as well during the span of the exhibition.
“Artists on Site series 3” at Asia Society Texas (July 20-August 28)
First developed in 2020, the Artist on Site series is an initiative that transforms the Asia Society galleries into studio and project spaces for Houston-based BIPOC artists.
This third round of the series showcases four featured artists as they spend six weeks transforming Asia Society Texas' gallery space through an exploration of creative work. Ruhee Maknojia, Matt Manalo, Luisa Duarte, and Lanecia Rouse Tinsley bring their voices to the project, working across media including painting, sculpture, textile production, printmaking, installation, and more to unfold their ideas over time, drawing visitors into conversation with the artists and deeper into the practice of artmaking.
Lanecia Rouse Tinsley is a multidisciplinary artist whose portfolio includes a range of abstract painting, photography, teaching, writing, speaking, and curatorial projects for various non-profit organizations.
Multidisciplinary, Philippines-born Houston artist, Matt Manalo, creates environmentally conscious work incorporating raw materials and found objects and tackles ideas surrounding his own immigrant identity, displacement, and how “home” is defined.
Ruhee Maknojia’s conceptual research and art practice developed around the rich heritage of textile and patterning and how they can act as a base to raise questions about contemporary ethics, values, and power structures in an ever-growing and interconnected world.
The work of Venezuelan /American contemporary artist, Luisa Duarte, has been exhibited internationally. Most recently Duarte’s work was selected for inclusion in a major exhibition at the Art Museum of South Texas, Texas Artists — Women in Abstraction and a solo exhibition of her work, Inseparable Ties exhibited in the TC Energy Building.