Bayou City art world heroines
Two Houston curators awarded Andy Warhol Foundation grants
Since the creation of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts at the behest of the Pop Art prince's will, the institution's grant-making activity has been used to support the creation, presentation and documentation of contemporary visual art, particularly work that is experimental, under-recognized or challenging in nature.
And each spring and fall, the New York-based foundation awards a select cast of curators with grants aiming to encourage research leading to new scholarship in the field of contemporary art. The money awarded supports travel, archival research, convening of colleagues, interviews and time to write. Remarkably, of this season's nine recipients, two derive from the Houston art community: Kristina Van Dyke, Curator for Collections and Research at the Menil Collection, and Aurora Picture Show founder and former director Andrea Grover.
With her Warhol grant, Van Dyke will organize an exhibition that offers a new perspective on contemporary African Art, researching a topic that, to date, has received no critical attention: The way in which technology shapes notions and facilitates expressions of love in Africa.
It's a universal theme that's yet to have been put under the eye of an African Art specialist. Working with her curatorial collaborator, Bisi Silva, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria, Van Dyke will visit and interview artists who approach issues surrounding love from a distinctly African perspective. The two curators will focus on the young, technologically sophisticated generation of artists who have not had significant exposure in the United States.
With the $38,000 grant, Van Dyke will bring Silva and other scholars, as well as several participating artists to Houston for a roundtable discussion. Van Dyke's previous accolades are manifold, including serving as a 2010 fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership.
Grover — the original high priestess of the Aurora Picture Show — has been awarded the foundation's maximum possible amount, $50,000, to create a traveling exhibition and publication to be researched and launched at Carnegie Mellon University in Warhol's hometown of Pittsburgh, Penn. Rooted in the theory of architect, inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller, the project will present artists' proposals for reconsidering the production of food, shelter, transportation and energy.
"I was invited to apply for the grant by the University's Studio for Creative Inquiry and Miller Gallery," explains Grover, adding with her typically resolute modesty, "I was very pleased with the invitation."
As CultureMap reported, Grover will be moving to eastern Long Island at the end of the month, but will now temporarily relocate to Pittsburgh between August and December. Working as a visitor at the Studio for Creative Inquiry, an interdisciplinary artist-centered laboratory, she will have access to an unprecedented breadth of university resources that will deepen the treatment of the content of the exhibition.
For example, she will bridge connections with the university faculty and students in the art, science and engineering communities as well as those working in CMU's more avant-garde environments, such as the Living Environment Lab and the Center for PostNatural History, all in the name of what Grover terms "creative problem solving across disciplines."
Grover will convene a group of four to six collaborators with different areas of expertise to work together on conceptualizing, planning and executing the book. "The process that we want to use is called a 'book sprint,'" explains Grover, "It comes out of the computer programming world, which developed something called the 'code sprint,' but we'll be using it to produce a publication."
Both the exhibition and the book will emphasize the necessity of visionary leadership by artists and scientists in order to avert social, economic and environmental catastrophe. Grover's keen interest in the interaction of science and art may derive from her decades-long stay in Space City.
"I'm sure that Houston has subliminally influenced the way I thought about the exhibition," Grover says. "NASA had an art program program for 40 years — they must value what creative people bring to scientific discourse."
For Grover, a critical moment in her career trajectory was meeting internationally renown performance artist Laurie Anderson during Anderson's tenure at NASA. "You could say that the artist in residency program was an inspiration," she adds.
Since the exhibition is being prepared to travel, there's hope that Grover's project will one day land in her adopted hometown of Houston. As an ideal location, she mentions somewhere that's not typically an art-viewing venue, like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, adding, "It's a little grandiose — but I would not reject the chance to show at NASA."
Other Warhol Foundation curatorial fellowships have been awarded to affiliates of such illustrious institutions as New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art and SFMOMA.
The Warhol Foundation has previously funded support for The Glassell School of Art Core Program and programming at Project Row Houses. Without a doubt, this spring's delivery of two awards to Houston curators is a landmark moment in the city's reputation as a rising metropolis in the international art community.