back in h-town: contemporary arts museum houston

Ah, so last week I posted about the MFAH, which I often visited this past summer during my lunch breaks. If you go to Cafe Express (the MFAH’s cafe) or the food truck parked in the MFAH parking lot, you get free admission to the MFAH if you go at lunchtime. So … me and the other interns went a number of times. Anyhow, I used to intern at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), so I had to stop by to check out its new exhibits. It’s much smaller than the MFAH and it’s a non-collecting museum, so there’s no permanent collection like the MFAH has.

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First up, the CAMH got a statue! Of Andy Warhol! “The Andy Monument” by Rob Pruitt was apparently on display in New York’s Union Square for a while, but seeing as I still have not been to Union Square, I never saw it there. And hey, Andy looks like he totally belongs at the CAMH since his shiny chrome surface matches the CAMH’s shiny corrugated steel exterior.

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The CAMH has two floors – the ground floor and a basement level – so there are always two exhibits going on at the same time. On the ground floor there’s “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” and downstairs the exhibit is “Unfinished Country: New Video from China,” both of which will run until mid-February 2013. The upstairs exhibit was a bit random and confusing because I wasn’t there for one of the scheduled performances, and the performative aspect is lost when only artifacts are shown. It’s an interesting topic, but I felt like there was information lacking, like the exhibit was evidence for a research paper rather than a stand-alone kinda deal. Downstairs I sat and watched some of those videos, but honestly not for very long. Found it kind of lacking.

I like the CAMH, I really do. I have fond memories of my few months working there, but … I’m not a big fan of the exhibits. It’s a small museum (really small), it doesn’t have the resources that larger museums do, and the members of its tiny staff take on multiple roles. But the CAMH isn’t about catering to the public or showing famous pieces of art. It’s about contemporary art – what’s happening in the art world out there right now – whether you like it or not. Plus, it doesn’t charge admission and it’s motto is “Always Fresh, Always Free.” I can appreciate that.

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art, how sweet it is

This piece of candy is art. Or rather, the pile it came from was art. Currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an exhibition called “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years.” It’s quite an interesting premise for an exhibit, where work from both Warhol and those inspired by Warhol are all mixed together. Major downside? The exhibit was packed. Packed to the point where everyone was pushing, it was hard to see some of the artwork, and the guards kept yelling at people to keep moving, step away from the art, not take photos, et cetera … kind of ruined the experience for me.

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The pile of candy is an untitled piece by the late Félix González-Torres. It’s just a pile of multicolored wrapped candies in the corner of a room, and everyone can take one (I obviously took a green piece). It’s one of those things where you’re like: Are you sure that’s art? Is it still ‘by’ González-Torres even though he wasn’t the one who threw the candy on the floor? If I stashed a pile of candy in the corner of my room, do I need to cite him? Does that make me an artist?

I’d seen the candy pile in catalogues before, and it always provoked an eye roll from me. But it’s actually kind of fascinating to see the circulation pattern form around the pile as people crowd in, slow their pace, curve around the pile, stoop down, and select just that one … and occasionally cause a little cascade. Or maybe I just look favorably upon anything that gives me sugar. Eh.