best September art
10 vivid and eye-catching September exhibitions no Houston art fan should miss
The fall arts season begins the month bringing in a cool wave of national and international art to Houston.
From artists using New Orleans and Houston as their models, to one of the first artists to use neon light as a medium, to a contemporary take on Tibetan traditions, there’s a diversity of art to explore this month.
Look also for some monumental installations indoors and out at Rice University. Here are September's can't-miss exhibits and openings.
"New Orleans: Sound of Drifting Shadows” at O’Kane Gallery at University of Houston Downtown (now through October 19)
In this new exhibition, New Orleans-based urban landscape painter Kaori Maeyama highlights the city’s mundane vignettes, from desolate residential neighborhoods to uncanny industrial landscapes.
Aided by the use of brayers, squeegees, and a dark tonal palette, Maeyama's evocative nocturnal paintings, absent of human presence, often suggest the passage of time through blurred imagery and aged architecture or natural forms.
“The Negro Motorist Green Book” at Holocaust Museum Houston (now through November 26)
This exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service examines the reality of travel for African Americans in mid-century America and how an annual guide served as an indispensable resource for the nation’s rising Black middle class.
As we reported in July, "The Negro Green Motorist Book" features interactive displays, artifacts from business signs and postcards to historic footage, images, and firsthand accounts. All this is meant to draw visitors into the reality of travel during the early 20th century into the civil rights era.
The exhibition conveys not only the apprehension felt by African American travelers, but also the resilience, innovation and elegance of people choosing to live a full American existence. It also focuses to the rise of African American businesses and the Black leisure class in the United States — and the important role The Green Book played in facilitating the second wave of the Great Migration as well as its use as a tool for civil rights leaders.
“Senan Shaibani Marsh Arabs Project’s Mudhif “at Rice University (ongoing)
The art of ancient architecture becomes woven into the contemporary Houston landscape with the build/installation on the Rice University campus of a mudhif — a copy of an ancient reed guest house used in the marshes of Iraq.
Historically, mudhif structures were constructed entirely of reeds from the marshlands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. They acted as a public hall where tribes welcomed guests, settled community affairs, held religious ceremonies, and exchanged information.
In replicating the mudhif form, the building becomes a cultural ecology and preservation project and demonstrates how pivotal the ecology of a region is to a culture, acting as a bridge to preservation of the built environment as a tool for preserving cultural identity.
Many Houston art and cultural institutions as well a a group of volunteer builders came together for this Senan Shaibani Marsh Arabs project presented by Archaeology Now.
“Johnny Floyd: GODBODY” at Houston Musuem of African American Culture (September 15-November 18)
This first museum, solo exhibition of the up-and-coming Atlanta-based artist ruminates on the intersection of classical mythologies, ancestral connection, and modern Black culture as artifact.
Employing traditional portrait painting filtered through a surrealistic lens, Floyd interrogates notions of conventional aesthetics in the contemporary moment while centering Blackness in historical narratives that have been intentionally exclusionary for centuries.
Taken together, the works in exhibition become a reimagination of orthodox folklore of the past, a reclamation of the accounting of the present, and a consideration of the possibilities of what is to come.
“Laure Prouvost: Above Front Tears Nest in South” at Rice Moody Center (September 15-December 14)
Art birds of a feather should migrate to the Moody Center this fall to journey through immerse landscapes from award-winning French interdisciplinary artist Laure Prouvostor.
Featuring large-scale, multimedia installations, found objects, sculptures, tapestries, architectural assemblages, and videos that interact with the Moody’s architecture, the exhibition will explore themes of eco-feminism and environmentalism with humor and imagination.
“Touching on themes relating to feminism, consumerism, environmental degradation, and the history of surrealism, Moody visitors will have the opportunity to experience Prouvost’s unique vision through a layered landscape that is both personal and universal,” describes Moody executive director Alison Weaver of the exhibition.
"Tsherin Sherpa: Spirits" at Asia Society (September 21-January 7)
This exhibition of work by Himalayan, now California-based artist Tsherin Sherpa explores themes of loss, struggle, and empowerment, while contemplating clashes of culture and identity.
From a young age, Sherpa began studying traditional Tibetan thangka painting with his father, Master Urgen Dorje Sherpa, a renowned thangka artist from Ngyalam, Tibet. After immigrating to California in the late '90s, he began to explore his own style – reimagining traditional tantric motifs, symbols, colors, and gestures, which he resolutely placed in contemporary compositions.
Featuring more than 30 paintings, sculptures, and textile works, this new exhibition traces the evolution of Sherpa's Spirits series as it reconfigures, and repurposes elements from traditional Tibetan art and melds them with modern imagery.
"Tania Candiani: Lifeblood” at Blaffer Museum (September 22-November 19)
Mexican interdisciplinary artist Tania Candiani uses Houston as a muse for this new exhibition supported by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.
The exhibition will focus on the Houston histories and lives embedded in the land – and particularly the waterways that have alternately built and destroyed the city over time. Candiani initiates explorations and collaborations that convene communal meditations on the past via music, architecture, and craft, with an emphasis on early technologies and vernacular practices of record-keeping.
A portion of this project was created in the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
“Wall Drawing Series: Marc Bauer” at Menil Collection (September 22, 2023–Fall 2024)
This fifth installment of the ephemeral, site-specific wall drawing series at the Menil Drawing Institute, the Menil has selected internationally renowned artist Mark Bauer whose creative practice is based on examining how images circulate in print and online media platforms.
Bauer uses drawing to reconfigure found images — from sources ranging from personal family albums to cable news streams—with the goal of ultimately shaping a prismatic view of history, culture, and politics. He likens this process to a kind of witnessing, a deliberate and deeply personal way of seeing and understanding the world.
“Chryssa & New York” at Menil Collection (September 29, 2023–March 10, 2024)
As one of the first artists to incorporate neon into her work, Chryssa became a pioneer of light art in the mid-20th century. Co-organized by the Menil and Dia Art Foundation, this first major survey of artwork by Chryssa in the United States since 1982.
“Chryssa & New York” will focus on Chryssa’s output while she lived in New York from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Highlighting her use of neon along with found elements of commercial signage and text, the exhibition will explore how Chryssa’s work bridged ideas from the Pop, Conceptual, and Minimalist movements.
“Chryssa was a leader within avant-garde circles while she lived in New York,” states Michelle White, Menil senior curator. “She was fascinated with the sparkling and text-filled space of Times Square and wanted her innovative body of work to capture the energy of this unique postwar environment. By radically bringing together actual materials from the square, including lights and letters, Chryssa’s art stands as an early example of work that takes commercial communication as its primary subject.”
“Tree of Life” at Center for Contemporary Craft (September 30-January 6, 2024)
Art from a very special species of tree — specifically the African blackwood tree (also known as mpingo or Dalbergia melanoxylon) — becomes the star of this very unique exhibition.
Native to Tanzania and the territory surrounding Mt. Kilimanjaro, the African blackwood tree has a naturally dark colored core, which makes the wood a preferred choice of material for ornamental turning, carving, and use in woodwind instruments.
This exhibition features figural sculptures carved in the Makonde tradition by Tanzania-based artists Joseph Singombe and Pius Mtembe; ornamental turning by the late Texas-based artist James Harris, and woodwind instruments. Together, the works showcase the different methods artists use when approaching this material and the beauty of the wood-turned-art.