Friday, February 11, 2011

The Menil Collection

Another arctic blast hit the Houston area this past week. Before the frigid cold hit, on Tuesday, we  took a walk on the Kemah Boardwalk and toured a small aquarium there. At that aquarium I was surprised to see sting ray coming up to the sides of a pool and begging for food. Visitors can purchase small fish which can be fed to the sting rays. The sting ray pictured below is one of many who came up to us and begged for food. They sure have wide mouths, John was brave enough to let one of them take the food out of his hand!
 Wednesday was a cold day and we had no desire to be outside until the next day when we drove into Houston to check out the Menil Collection. The art collection was assembled over several decades by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil. The first building we toured has many pieces of Byzantine and medieval art, antiquities, Pacific and African tribal arts, 16th-century to present day European paintings as well as surrealistic and contemporary works. One exhibit was very fascinating to me. It had a single light bulb hanging on a rope from the ceiling, an empty bottle of Jim Beam extra dry gin and a bundle of newspapers on the floor. High on the wall of that room was a small window with prison bars. There was also a painting with a rifle sitting on a pool of blood. Come to think of it, it did all make some sense! In addition to the one main building there are also two chapels within a short walk from the main building. The first chapel is rather plain, being ecumenical in nature. It is described in a museum brochure as "no man's land of God". The second sanctuary is a Byzantine Fresco Chapel, the pieces of which were obtained from a church in Cyprus. Outside of this building is a sculpture called Broken Obelisk, a tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The last building of the art museum which we toured had the work of Dan Flavin, one of the founders of Minimalism. It is primarily one large room of lights. The picture below shows just one small area of the room. The room is empty, the lights shown in the picture are repeated on the opposite wall. The Texas sun (coming in from a sky light overhead) interacts with the electric light. By seeing the Menil art collection I certainly came to appreciate many different expressions of art, Houston is quite fortunate to have that collection.

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