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Houston's Museum of Fine Arts

Houston's Museum of Fine Arts

Changes at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts is undergoing an extensive redevelopment of its campus. The museum will be adding several more buildings to the seven already in use and expects to have the additions completed by 2019. The design includes underground tunnels which will connect the various buildings. Considering how impressive the current campus is, it’s very likely that lovers of great architecture have something to look forward to.

The tunnel between the two main buildings, which also doubles as one of the museum's art installations. The lights slowly cycle through different colors. It's a slightly disorienting space, but very popular with visitors.

The tunnel between the two main buildings, which also doubles as one of the museum's art installations. The lights slowly cycle through different colors. It's a slightly disorienting space, but very popular with visitors.

I must admit that I myself am probably more a fan of architecture than art. I enjoy realistic landscape and portrait paintings but find myself confounded when facing modern or abstract art. During our recent visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, we visited both the realistic world of Ron Mueck and the very abstract world of the Pixel Forest.

The Ron Mueck Exhibit

The 13 sculptures of the Mueck exhibit depict life from birth to old age. Apart from their sizes, all the sculptures are completely realistic. If I have any helpful advice for this exhibit, it is to take your time. Take in every amazing detail before moving on. I fell into my usual trap of becoming so excited by what I was seeing that I rushed too quickly from one to the next. I could have gone back to the beginning and repeated the experiences, but the newness of it would be gone.

Although not the largest of Ron Mueck's sculptures, it is the largest of this exhibit.

Although not the largest of Ron Mueck's sculptures, it is the largest of this exhibit.

The detail is incredible!

The detail is incredible!

Every one of the pieces has its own beauty, but each feels isolated and vulnerable in the enormous gallery rooms. My favorite piece was the older couple under the beach umbrella. He seems relaxed and content where she seems weighed down by regret or sadness. I would love to see the museum do a questionnaire about what visitors are reading from the body language of the sculptures. Is it possible for the artist to sculpt emotions into the figures and to have most visitors see what was intended, or is the perception of emotions contingent on the viewer's own experiences? 

I find this piece very interesting. On his journey through life, this middle-aged man seems to have lost his sense of excitement about the future. He's passively along for the ride, just waiting for the next rough stretch. Or, at least that's my take on the scene...

I find this piece very interesting. On his journey through life, this middle-aged man seems to have lost his sense of excitement about the future. He's passively along for the ride, just waiting for the next rough stretch. Or, at least that's my take on the scene...

Again, incredible detail.

Again, incredible detail.

The Homelands and Histories Photography Exhibit

A few rooms away from the Mueck exhibit we found a photography exhibit - Homelands and Histories by Fazal Sheikh. This is a moving series of images, shot in several countries, that reveal the struggles of displaced people. Photography is a medium I can understand and one that can easily shake my emotional core. Paintings lead to analysis but photography makes you feel. Just my personal opinion.

The Pixel Forest Exhibit

In addition to the Mueck exhibit, we also wanted to see the Pixel Forest. This is a large scale work by Pipilotti Rist that belongs firmly in the abstract/I-don’t-understand department. In a large room hang long string lights which cycle through various colors. On two walls behind the lights, a movie is being projected and is accompanied by new-age music. Fortunately, there’s a nice large area on the floor where we can flop down on some large pillows.

What can I say about the experience? I’m wondering what the artist would want me to say. I have a feeling the work is about life. It’s colorful, which is appealing. Maybe the disjointed nature of it is supposed to represent those times in our lives when we look around and think “What am I doing?” or “What’s happening to the world?”. It’s certainly making me do a lot of thinking about what it might mean. Maybe that’s the point.

Permanent Exhibits

Since I've walked through the permanent exhibits before, we don't stop to see them during this visit. The museum contains collections from all regions of the world and many time periods. In many ways, an art museum doubles as a history museum. Realistically, it's probably my love of history rather than the skill of the artists that provides the motivation for my visits to art museums.

Art and Us

Despite my struggles with understanding art, I’ve discovered that what I most enjoy about art museums is walking into a room and asking whoever I’m with which painting appeals to them most. It seems to usually be different from my own favorite. What I’ve discovered is that the answer can often reveal something about the viewer. Often times, there’s a process of self-discovery in that. Art creates a space where we can discuss our views of the world in open ended terms. 

A beautiful and large stained glass window produced by Tiffany.

A beautiful and large stained glass window produced by Tiffany.

The MFA Cafe

Before leaving the museum, we stop at the MFA Cafe, which receives some really good reviews. I order tomato soup and Karoline asks for a BLT sandwich. We are both supremely happy with our choices. It’s rare to be served a meal with such perfectly balanced flavors. At least food speaks to me in a language I understand! We’ll definitely make it a point to stop here the next time we’re in the Museum district.

What Does it Mean to Travel?

What Does it Mean to Travel?

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Houston Museum of Natural Science