Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't Mess With Minimalism: Part 2

A few blocks away from where I was staying in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, Texas is the Menil Collection.  This museum is one of the most tranquil I’ve been too.  I like to think of it as a smaller Dia: Beacon.  Both are wonderful venues for minimalist art.  The use of natural light, the simple architectural design, the integration of nature… all make the Menil an experience.  Oh, yeah… its free too!  I would suggest however that the Menil scrap its African, Pacific Islands, Northwest Coast, Antiquities, Icons, and Byzantine and Medieval sections or put them in a separate building.  They don't fit the space... but some Minimalism would dovetail with the Menil experience.

The Menil Collection

Dan Flavin


I visited two exhibitions: Richard Serra Drawing (A Retrospective) and Dan Flavin (Installation at Richmond Hall).  Serra's drawings are so reminiscent of his sculptures.  His work is something that you have to be in the presence of... internet images don't do them justice.  As Serra said himself, to not "let the rhetoric of simulation steal away the intimacy of your experience."  His paintstick works are sometimes gigantic, filling  entire walls from floor to ceiling.  They reflect his attraction to textured surfaces.  The way he chose to exhibit them, sometimes just one per room allows the massive drawings to breath and evokes the empty gallery space surrounding them.  Indeed, these works are more sculptural in affect than traditional 2d drawings.  He calls these works "Installation Drawings" and Serra has been making them since 1974.  The brochure for the exhibit (which curator Michelle White wrote) explains that while studying the Mexican Muralists "Serra saw how surface intervention could perceptually subvert physical structures: that a painting of fire, for example, could destroy the column it was painted on.  He wanted to challenge architecture through his drawings in the same way."

Oil Stick on Steel

On display were also four videos Serra had made in 1968.  According the White, "Serra moved to New York City in 1966, an important time for process art, or what has been called Postminimalism.  Along with Serra, artists such as Eva Hesse, Barry Le Va, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Smithson shared an interest in the tactile immediacy of found materials such as malleauble rubber, lumpy felt, neon, and fiberglass.  The worked on ways to allow the processess [...] to be a visible component of the finished work itself."  I found these works very pleasant to watch... they seemed mantra-like.

His other works included many sketches.  White explains, "Serra does not use drawing as a preliminary step for his sculptures.  In fact, he frequently reverses its typical role and draws his sculptures after they are completed.  As can be seen in his notebooks, Sera does not draw to generate or sketch ideas but rather to respond to the world around him while looking, walking, and thinking."

Sketchbook Drawing

Drawings After Circuit

After leaving this exhibit I felt the same as I did after going for a long walk in Houston's wonderful Arboreum.  These drawings are like forces of nature... quiet, subtle, refreshing, a little frieghtening, unknown, and powerful.  This exhibit and Dan Flavin's brought me back into my senses and resent my mind.

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