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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tuesday – yet not at the camh

I used to work every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday … but it’s Tuesday and I ain’t at work! I worked at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston (CAMH) in its curatorial department, and it was an amazing experience. Last Thursday was my last day, so I’m going to toot my own horn a bit … because I can! I was an amazing intern. Truly, I was.

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[NOTE: This image is a scan and not mine. Purposefully low quality.]

One of the other interns recently created a Tumblr page for the museum and one of the posts featured my work on Issuu! Not my work as in work I created, but my work as in the results of over two months of work I did scanning, cropping, optimizing, and uploading a whole bunch of old exhibition catalogs! Yeah, that was validating. I think I was a tad overqualified for the position. I also scanned a whole bunch of old photos which will be uploaded to the website by whatever intern replaces me. Ah, I’ll miss the scanner. I spent a good amount of time with that thing.

If you’re in Houston, go visit the Contemporary Arts Museum (always free!). The current exhibit is trippy. Then grab some lunch at the food truck in the parking lot of the Museum of Fine Arts. My favorites are Phamily Bites (the Vietnamese eggrolls or pork sandwich) on Tuesdays and Creole2Geaux (catfish po boy) on Wednesdays. Yum. And yes, there are a lot of links in this post. Au revoir, CAMH!

museum district outdoor sculptures

Personally I’m not a sculpture person. Just not a big fan of it. I appreciate Greek and Roman statuary, but only to the degree that I appreciate the mythology or history they are usually connected to. I’m also not really a fan of performance art or drawing or photography … I really just like painting. But paintings are always (unless it’s a mural) housed in museums, whereas some sculptures are just out there, exposed to the elements. It’s kind of brazen, the way outdoor sculptures shrug off the rain and the heat, while delicate canvas can only hang delicately on a white wall in a temperature-controlled environment.

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“Manilla Palm” (1978) by Mel Chin

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“New Forms” (1991-1992) by Tony Cragg

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“The Dance” (2000) by Linda Ridgway

The above three are outdoor sculptures from the Museum District. The first is behind the Contemporary Arts Museum (CAMH) and the latter two are in the sculpture garden at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH). I head over to the MFAH quite often because there’s a food truck parked over there and museum café … and there’s really no other food options in the area, which is kind of disappointing. Anyhow, that means that I see these sculptures quite often. (Note: There’s also a prominent red Calder in front of the MFAH, but I didn’t include it because after you’ve seen one Calder, you’ve seen them all … and I’ve seen a lot.)

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I have never been one for real work. Working around 30 hours a week at an architecture firm (as a part-time position that was only supposed to be 20 hours a week, I might add) just about killed me. I worked there about four months before throwing in the towel. I used to think that I hated it because the pay was so crappy, but it’s more a question of value. Right now I have an internship that’s unpaid. But I like it. Getting paid would be nice, but I’m okay with this slave labor.

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Sure, it could be that I like it because it’s only about 20 hours a week (and I don’t have school or other work commitments like I did while at the architecture firm) or it could be that it’s because everyone speaks English at my internship and I’m not such an outsider. It also could be that my current work actually seems useful and helpful whereas my work at the architecture firm seemed largely about getting the clients to pay us. But mostly I think it’s because at my internship, no one’s an architect. Yep, I gotta say that’s it.

There’s a reason why a lot of people (id est, architecture students) refer to ‘architecture’ as ‘architorture’. And scarily enough, it’s said with almost a sad fondness, because really … all architects are masochists to some degree. I guess that’s why it’s refreshing to go to work at the internship, rifle through boxes of old exhibition installation photos, take a trip to the archives, compile a list of publications, watch a YouTube clip of an interesting piece of performance art, and actually eat lunch in the break room instead of my desk. Almost doesn’t feel like work.

I like architects. Most of my friends are architects, studied architecture, or are in some way connected with architecture. And I can’t really fault architects for their neurotic quirks, obsession with details, egosim, or constant dissatisfaction … because I’m often guilty of the same. I’m still an architect at heart and still relate best to other architects, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to work with them. The art world, however, IS A LOT MORE CHILL. Sure they have their own brand of crazy, but (from what I can tell) it’s a lot less ulcer-prone.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]