The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection, Houston//

After my visit to the MFA Houston, I went over to the Menil Collection — what a great collection (though unfortunately, they don’t allow any photography inside the galleries). Still, the architecture (Renzo Piano) is fabulous and the galleries inside are airy — spacious and light. Besides the exhibits, the main collection is made up of the 10k+ pieces of Dominique and John de Menil.

The Menil Collection, Houston//

The Menil Collection, Houston//

It’s since ended (in February), but last year I got to see Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s ‘The Infinity Machine’ inside the Byzantine Fresco Chapel
The Menil Collection, Houston//

It was commissioned for the Menil.

Once entering the space, seats were along each of the walls, with the art spinning in the middle of the space, hung from the ceiling.

If you can get over your brain telling you that there is no sound in space, the soundtrack to the exhibit is the sound of space. The exhibit was fabulous, but admit I vacillated between being entirely caught up in it for swaths of time — the mirrors and reflection and spinning and thoughts of the ‘big picture’…the vastness of the universe all along composed of tiny structures — and disengaging with what at times felt so superficial, with the mirrors reflecting out (which brings one back to one’s own part in it all), which…the cycle continues. Deep, not so deep. Deep, not so deep.

From the site:
Cardiff and Miller’s first mobile fills the now-deconsecrated space with a sonic and visual experience inspired by ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras’s concept of “the music of the spheres.” Aspects of the theory that the movement of celestial bodies creates audio harmonies have been corroborated by NASA’s Voyager I and II spacecraft. Visitors hear an audio collage made up of the probes’ recordings of the interactions of the solar wind with the magnetic fields of planet and moons in our solar system. Though inaudible in space, the resulting vibrations fall within the range of frequencies audible to the human ear, and they can be played back as sound on Earth. This soundtrack accompanies a rotating arrangement of 150 antique mirrors with what the artists call an infinity machine—two mirrors facing each other to create a theoretically endless series of reflections—buried in the center.

Next, the Rothko Chapel, which is actually run independent of the Menil, although it is on the same ‘campus’ (and the campus is in a residential neighborhood). There was a wedding taking place there just before it opened to the public this day. The chapel was dedicated in 1971, and is a space meant for reflection. In the entryway are books from many different faiths. Inside are benches and mats to sit on the floor so as to view the works. Facing any direction, one may view different large, dark Rothkos.
The Menil Collection, Houston//

Outside, Barnett Newman’s The Broken Obelisk was dedicated in memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Menil Collection, Houston//

Most excited about visiting the ‘As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from thh Collection of Stephanie and John Smither‘ which just opened and is available for viewing through October 16.

Unfortunately, Stephanie Smither passed away on June 11. From her obituary:
Stephanie, a “sophisticated hoarder” or (consummate collector), was always on the hunt for handmade and one-of-a-kind objects. She was known for her bright orange lipstick and big jewelry, without which she felt underdressed. She was also known for her creative tablescapes, beautiful penmanship, and famous Smither Salsa. With her East Texas accent, someone said, “Stephanie was the only person she knew who said ‘hush’ in four syllables”.

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