Year in Visual Arts, Dance: Houston Communities Look their Best in 2021

Curator Max Fields stands in front of Baseera Khan’s ‘Receive and Give’ tapestry at FotoFest ‘In Place of an Index’ at Silver Street Studios, featuring new works by 12 artists who are or are currently living in Texas, Wednesday, September 1 2021, in Houston. The exhibit, which opens Sept. 2, is part of the “Texas Biennale 2021: A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon” exploring challenging topics: institutional racism, political histories, and contemporary media and culture.

Photo: Karen Warren / Staff Photographer

Look on the bright side — that’s the spirit Houston’s creative communities embraced as artists, museums and institutions tried to bounce back from a year of uncertainty and seemingly endless closures.

Navigating the “new normal” presented challenges, but also opportunities. The dancers returned to the stage. A treasure trove of rarely seen works diverted to Houston’s Museum District. Emerging artists rushed to show their pieces in unexpected places and rescue pieces of local history.

In 2021, the gallery doors reopened and the theater curtains rose as Bayou City’s most talented residents returned to the spotlight. The best is yet to come.

Two great returns to Wortham

In late September, after a 568-day hiatus, Houston Ballet returned to its Wortham Theater Center stage for Margaret Alkek Williams’ “Jubilee of Dance,” which serves as the professional dance company’s opening night. The return to live, in-person performances for 2021-22 felt more like a homecoming.

For the first time, “Jubilee of Dance” – traditionally a one-night-only event – has expanded to five performances. The three-act productions comprised of 13 micro-performances showcased Houston Ballet’s 18 months away from Wortham and reminded guests why the organization is so often described as world-class.

Electricity swept through the Brown Theater for the grand finale, the world premiere of artistic director Stanton Welch’s “In Good Company.” The full breadth of Houston Ballet brought their 11-part oeuvre to life, once digital, finally, in real time, to the music of the Dead South. The contemporary piece felt like an amalgamation of cultural dance and transcended any traditional notion of ballet.

November welcomed ‘The Nutcracker’ back at Wortham for the first time since 2019. The production marked Houston Ballet’s fifth presentation of Welch’s interpretation, choreographed to Pyotr Tchaikovskuy’s timeless score, with larger-than-life sets created by renowned designer Tim Goodchild.

Dueling Van Gogh Immersive Experiences

An international obsession with “l’Atelier des Lumières,” a Vincent Van Gogh-inspired light show on the Netflix series “Emily in Paris,” started the race to bring similar experiences to big cities — Houston included. This is how two immersive events around the life, death and work of the Dutch post-impressionist painter landed in town: “Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Houston” and “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience”.

The former has real street cred – Massimiliano Siccardi is the Italian director behind ‘Atelier des Lumières’ and the film featured inside ‘Immersive Van Gogh’, which also features ‘Emily in Paris’ star Lily Collins among his fans. Its competition, however, has a medium impact on art history. “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” features an imposing 3D sculpture of the artist, a detailed timeline of his career, a series of 11 “Sunflowers” canvases, a recreation of his “Room in Arles” and a dazzling virtual -l experience of reality.

Photography, reinvented

Fotofest without photography? This year, few exhibits were framed or even one-dimensional.

For the first time in its eight-year history, FotoFest was presented in conjunction with the 2021 Texas Biennale: “A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon,” curated by Max Fields, Ryan Dennis and Evan Garza. The trio coined the term “Texpats” to describe the 12 artists from or currently working in Texas who contributed to Houston’s group show, “In Place of an Index,” which derives from the notion of potentiality and “of potential story” by writer Ariella Aïsha Azoulay. ” Through their respective work, each Texpat essentially asked themselves “What if? or suggested an alternative outcome when confronted with an imperial event, personal experience, contemporary culture, and colonial institution through the lens of the camera.

The Impressionists make an impromptu stop at the MFAH

“Incomparable Impressionism”, a collection of 100 masterpieces from the French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movement, was to be exhibited at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia for four months in early 2021. Then the pandemic hit and the show’s overseas tour was cut to 25% of the planned runtime.

So the director of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Gary Tinterow, made a phone call and asked, “Would you consider sending the exhibit to Houston?” Six months and $800,000 in emergency fundraising later, masterpieces by Théordore Rousseau, Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Jean-Bapiste-Camille Corot have arrived in Bayou City. Works that have made rare appearances and drawn large crowds include Renoir’s famous “Dance at Bougival” (1883), Gustave Caillebotte’s “Man at his Bath” (1884) and “Camille Monet and a Child in the garden of Argenteiul” by Monet (1875). ).

Violence, victory at Menil Collection

Juxtaposition proved a central theme in “Enchanted: Visual Histories of the Central Andres,” which opened at the Menil Collection in late July. The exhibition, timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence, featured a mix of works from the Menil’s permanent collection and works of art on loan from the Santa Fe International Popular Art Museum. , NM More than 40 ceramics, textiles and pieces from the festival outfits of the West Side of South America were proudly displayed; a selection of gelatin silver photographs by Pierre Verger added narration, context and contrast.

From Forever 21 to artist pop-up

“From Houston, With Love,” a 60-day collaborative exhibit, transformed a former Forever 21 store into a temporary art gallery last June. The 23,000 square foot space contained nearly 150 works by 30 artists. Emmanuel Alia, a Houston native who founded Prauper Studios in 2014, put the concept together in less than a month.

Alia’s goal was to encourage big companies to bring in Texan creatives and painters for art projects and commissions instead of looking to Los Angeles or New York. Cary Fagan’s “Chairs are People” sculptures stood out. As was Chandrika Métivier’s commission: a one-story “model house” sculpted with BoPET, a foil-like polyester film, better known as Mylar.

Reuse of parts from the Rothko Chapel

When complete, Rothko Chapel’s $32 million capital campaign and master plan for open spaces will eventually include a program center, energy facilities, landscape and drainage infrastructure, and a guest house. hosts for artists or scholars in residence. The Welcome House, another novelty, is already full and open for business. So does the recently restored chapel, now enhanced with a redesigned skylight, lighting design and entryway.

The fate of two gray bungalows with white trim on campus is less certain. All an interested party would have to do is split them in half and take them away. An expensive and time-consuming undertaking, although this is not the first time that artists or an organization moved from the mountains to claim a piece of the Rothko Chapel.

Guild member Carlos Silva salvaged the chapel’s original 600-pound doors. Eventually, he’ll use them to create a site installation, reinforcing the gates with a steel platform surrounded by a sturdy frame. And artist Geraldina Interiano Wise has teamed up with former Glassell School of Art classmate John Cryer III to reimagine light deflectors as “Texas Light Dancers.” The abstract interpretation of a dancer’s duet will express the movement and dynamics of light and represent their original purpose.

  • Amber Elliott

    Amber Elliott covers arts and society for the Houston Chronicle.