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Hunting Art Prize Finalists Announced

Hunting PLC has announced that its jurors have whittled down the 2014 Hunting Art Prize entrants to 115 artists to move on to the final round of judging. The panel will reconvene in April to make its final selection, which will be announced at the Hunting Art Prize gala on May 3.

lotteryThe $50,000 prize makes it one of the largest annual art awards in North America. Anyone in the state of Texas may enter one single image of a two-dimensional, non-photographic work (painting and drawing). The much-appreciated award has not changed its often-criticized selection process much since 2007, even after Glasstire founder Rainey Knudson published her article “How to Fix the Hunting Prize” later that year. As one artist remarked recently, “The prize money is so large and the judging criteria so small (one image), you can’t help but enter even though it’s such an arbitrary long shot.” Further explaining the anxiety of the process, he added, “I’m just not sure I’d want to know that I was on the ‘short list’ for a huge lottery jackpot.”

Congratulations to the finalists; may the best artist’s number be called!

  • Fariba Abedin, Houston
  • John Adelman, Houston
  • Michael Bane, Fort Worth
  • Vera Barnett, Grandview
  • Awadh Baryoum, Dallas
  • Sylvia Benitez, Seguin
  • Jason Bennett, Tyler
  • Carol Benson, Fort Worth
  • Linda Blackburn, Fort Worth
  • Dennis Blagg, Fort Worth
  • Darnell Bolton, Arlington
  • Martin Bouska, Richmond
  • Natasha Bowdoin, Houston
  • Valerie Burkes, Houston
  • Shawn Camp, Austin
  • Todd Camplin, Jefferson
  • Jose Cardenas, San Antonio
  • Elizabeth Chapin, Austin
  • Stephanie Clark, Spring
  • Joseph Cohen, Houston
  • Catherine Colangelo, Houston
  • Nika Cranmer, Houston
  • Keith Davis, Austin
  • Hannah Dean, Slaton
  • Andrew DeCaen, Denton
  • Lindsey Dunnagan, Grapevine
  • Joey Fauerso, San Antonio
  • Orna Feinstein, Bellaire
  • Vincent Fink, Katy
  • Christopher Fitzgerald, Pflugerville
  • Tommy Fitzpatrick, Austin
  • Todd Ford, Krum
  • Valerie Fowler, Austin
  • Janice Freeman, Houston
  • Adam Fung, Fort Worth
  • Sarah Garcia, San Antonio
  • Melissa Garner, Dallas
  • Larry Gentry, Midlothian
  • Raul Gonzalez, San Antonio
  • Sarah Graham, Grand Prairie
  • Helen Green, Austin
  • Sharon Grimes, Longview
  • Michael Guidry, Houston
  • Starla Halfmann, Austin
  • Roberta Harris, Houston
  • Sherry Tseng Hill, Houston
  • Nancy Hines, Montgomery
  • Erin Hinz, Dallas
  • Ann Huey, Lancaster
  • Thomas Jennings, Houston
  • Anna Elise Johnson, Houston
  • Bethany Johnson, Austin
  • James W. Johnson, Lubbock
  • Rance Jones, Richardson
  • Angela Kallus, Fort Worth
  • Patrick Kelly, Albany
  • Hogan Kimbrell, Houston
  • Jason Kinney, Fort Worth
  • Padaric Kolander, Austin
  • Travis LaMothe, Coppell
  • Joan Laughlin, Houston
  • Jayne Lawrence, San Antonio
  • Antonio Lechuga, Jr., Dallas
  • Patrick Lewis, Dallas
  • Jane Liang, San Antonio
  • David Lindsay, Lubbock
  • Brian Moss, Houston
  • Linda Martin, Cedar Hill
  • Arturo Martinez, Laredo
  • Winston Lee Mascarenhas, Dallas
  • Vickie McMillan, The Woodlands
  • Kathleen McShane, Fayetteville
  • Renea Menzies, Houston
  • Courtney Miles, Dallas
  • Steve Miller, Grand Prairie
  • Richard Nix, Houston
  • Kevin Owens, Dallas
  • Igraine Perkinson, Houston
  • Kevin Peterson, Houston
  • Chuck Petty, Plano
  • David Philips, Dallas
  • Gordon Phillipson, Kemah
  • Leslie Pierce, Austin
  • Erika Pochybova, Lubbock
  • Cary Reeder, Houston
  • Kit Reisch, Dallas
  • Ted Reves, Sugar Land
  • Clifton Riley, San Antonio
  • Shaun Roberts, Nacogdoches
  • Anat Ronen, Houston
  • Joyce Rosner, Austin
  • Ricardo Vicente Ruiz, Corpus Christi
  • Ricardo Ruiz, Corpus Christi
  • Alexis Serio, Troup
  • Yvette Shadrock, Macdona
  • Caroline Sharpless, Houston
  • David Smith, Sugar Land
  • Joel Stanulonis, Katy
  • Woodrow Starkey, Wylie
  • Pablo Taboada, Austin
  • Lorraine Tady, Dallas
  • Saralene Tapley, Dickinson
  • James Tennison, Fort Worth
  • Prince Thomas, Houston
  • James Van Patten, Pflugerville
  • Kelli Vance, Houston
  • Louis Vega Trevino, San Antonio
  • Michael Villarreal, Dale
  • Christopher Wallace, Conroe
  • Robert Wardle, Plano
  • Wendy Wight, Houston
  • Taylor Winn, Austin
  • Matthew Winters, Austin
  • Lee E. Wright, Houston
  • James Zamora, Denton

Austin Cartoonist Becomes First Woman to Receive Herblock Prize

sorensenThe Herb Block Foundation, which awards the annual Herblock Prize for excellence in editorial cartooning, announced today that Jen Sorenson has become the first woman to win the award. “Winning the Herblock is one of the finest moments in a political cartoonist’s life,” Sorensen told The Washington Post. “Being the first woman to win the prize makes it an extra-special thrill.”

The former Charlottesville alt-weekly cartoonist is the creator of “Slowpoke” comics and now draws for the Austin Chronicle. Jen Sorensen’s comics and illustrations have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Kos, The Progressive, NPR.org, Ms. Magazine, Politico, AlterNet, MAD, Nickelodeon, The Village Voice, and dozens of other publications around the country. The award comes with a $15,000 cash prize.

Below is her illustration inspired by the recent Austin PD/jaywalker incident:pedxing

Open Call for Artists at the Fringe

Yes, this image is a repeat from last year's announcement, posted by Bill Davenport, but there's no way to top this!

Yes, this image is a repeat from last year’s announcement, posted by Bill Davenport, but there’s no way to top this!

Those who survived the recent Lone Star Explosion, Houston’s International Performance Art Biennale, may have been left feeling creatively inspired or, at least, challenged. Artists don’t have to wait until next year to realize their crazy performance or art project ideas; the Houston Fringe Festival has announced that it is now accepting proposals for its own three-day extravaganza, which takes place at theatrical and non-traditional venues in Houston’s East End in late September.

Proposals should adhere to the Houston Fringe mission: “to present daring and conceptually challenging performances that fit outside the mainstream.” Open to both emerging and established theater, dance, film, music, and visual artists, applications are due by May 1.

It’s Back to the Real World: Global Politics Come to Texas Art

Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

Now that the Olympics and the Oscars are over, it seems a shock to realize that politics as (un)usual have been steadily marching forward in the international community. Politically minded artists and art lovers with a global view are now eagerly looking forward to the FotoFest 2014 Biennial, which begins on March 15 in Houston and focuses on the theme “Contemporary Arab Video, Photography and Multi Media.” Also, as images of Ukranian art critics (okay, angry protestors) toppling statues of Lenin are released in the media, the Ukranian American Society of Texas, based in North Texas, has initiated art and poetry contests on the theme, “What does freedom mean to you?” (Get to work! The deadline is March 16.)

Those who want to jump into the global conversation may wish to attend CentralTrak’s lecture on Thursday evening at 7 pm entitled, “The Psychogeography of Occupation,” given by writer/curator/artist/smart guy (and former guest blogger for PBS’ Art21) Noah Simblist. It sounds like attendees might learn about some really interesting contemporary art that comes from a different perspective, according to CentralTrak’s description:

Simblist will be interpenetrating relationships between art, activism, architecture, archaeology and film and their connection to the flourishing new forms of art practices in the Israel-Palestine-Lebanon region, a geographical zone where tremendous political turmoil is nothing new.

Art Takes Over Houston’s Hermann Park

Patrick Dougherty’s big twig installation (Photo: James Nielsen/Houston Chronicle)

Patrick Dougherty’s big twig installation (Photo: James Nielsen/Houston Chronicle)

In celebration of Hermann Parkʼs centennial year, the Hermann Park Conservancy has started a public art campaign to bring contemporary art installations to the park in 2014. “Art in the Park” has already installed Wind Waves by Yvonne Domenge by the Sam Houston Monument and Patrick Dougherty’s Boogie Woogie at the entrance of the Japanese Garden.

The next few days will mark the completion of Destination Mound Town by Trenton Doyle Hancock, located in the train tunnel and, on March 13, there will be a public reception for Orly Genger’s Boys Cry Too, located near the Bill Coats Bike Bridge. Upcoming installations will include Louise BourgeoisSpider, as well as works by Sharon Engelstein, Ugo Rondinone, the University of Houston’s Graduate Design/BUILD Studio and the Rice University School of Architecture.

Kid-friendly Trenton Doyle Hancock (Artist Rendering: copyright Trenton Doyle Hancock; courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai.)

Kid-friendly Trenton Doyle Hancock (Artist Rendering: copyright Trenton Doyle Hancock; courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai.)

Glasstire’s New Associate Publisher to Show Off Book Smarts

Alecia Harris. Photo: Alex Rosa

Alecia Harris. Photo: Alex Rosa

Saint Cloud, the new ultra-hip boutique in Houston’s Rice Village, is maintaining its art smart cred by launching a guest-curated reading series called “Read This Now.” Its inaugural edition will be led by graphic designer Ashley Putman and Glasstire’s very own new Associate Publisher Alecia Harris.

Saint Cloud says that Putman and Harris will “collaborate to let us know what should be on our bookshelves and coffee tables NOW.” To get the book selection advice and to meet and welcome Alecia (with champagne and sweet treats!), check out the reading, which starts at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 12.

FW Modern to Host Oscars Party

Image via ffrreeyyoouurrsseellff.tumblr.com

Image via ffrreeyyoouurrsseellff.tumblr.com

The big Oscars party in Fort Worth takes place at The Modern tomorrow night, complete with red carpet. It’s not quite the same as Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, but that takes the pressure off. There are less paparazzi and attendees can dress up, dress down or dress in costumes inspired by the nominated films. This year, that means there are a lot of possibilities in the back of the closet for some cheesy eighties outfits, or just pull out that old spacesuit. Prizes will be awarded throughout the evening.

The sixth annual Oscar Watching Party will not be issuing any advanced ticketing this year to the free event, so arrive early. Doors open at 6 pm and, beginning at 7 pm, the broadcast will be shown live via satellite in Café Modern and in the Modern’s auditorium.

“Godfather of Helvetica,” Mike Parker: 1929-2014

mikeparkerMike Russell Parker, legendary typographer, type designer and type historian, has died at the age of 85. Credited with the development of over 1,100 typefaces, Parker is perhaps best known for introducing Helvetica to the world.

As director of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, Parker was a fan of the “rational” Swiss style of letter design, in which, he said, “you draw the counters and let the black fall where it will.” reports Fast Company. Parker and his team took the font Neue Haas Grotesk and reworked it for Linotype’s machines, The font eventually became known as Helvetica, one of the most popular fonts in the world (used by McDonald’s, Verizon, NYC subway signs, and NASA, to name a tiny fraction). In 2007, the year of the font’s 50th anniversary, it was celebrated and strangely debated in the critically acclaimed documentary Helvetica and was the subject of the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition 50 Years of Helvetica.

Parker was born in London and originally planned to become a geologist like his father, but then decided to become a painter, but discovered he was colorblind. He graduated from Yale with an undergraduate degree in architecture and master’s in design. After working at Linotype, he co-founded Bitstream, the first company dedicated to producing digital fonts, according to CNN.com. He also founded Pages Software and served as historian for the Font Bureau. Parker died on Sunday, four days after suffering a stroke, after a long fight with Alzheimer’s. According to his caregiver and ex-wife, his ashes will be scattered at his family home in Massachusetts, without a tombstone.

helvetica_tattoo

Photo via typophile.com

Nasher Names First Artist-in-Residence: Rick Lowe

Lowe in Vickery Meadow. Photo by Allison V. Smith for the Nasher Sculpture Center

Lowe in Vickery Meadow. Photo by Allison V. Smith for the Nasher Sculpture Center

Rick Lowe’s “social sculpture” Trans.lation, initiated as part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s 10th anniversary exhibition Nasher XChange, has been a success so far. There have been workshops, three free-standing White Cube exhibition spaces, and pop-up markets in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood. The project was designed to encourage residents of Dallas’ most culturally diverse area to share their talents and traditions with each other and with the larger city.

But the Nasher XChange exhibition is now officially over and Lowe, founder of Houston’s Project Row Houses (currently celebrating its 20th anniversary), knows that you don’t start something like Trans.lation and walk away. “I was kind of nudging them to think about an expanded engagement with that project,” he told the Dallas Morning News. They seem to have taken the hint. Today, the Nasher announced that it is starting a residency program with Lowe as its first artist-in-residence. “Trans.lation has already seen important successes,” stated Director Jeremy Strick, “and through the platform of this residency the Nasher will be able to support its continued growth.”

Houston Art Collective to Unveil Mural and Public Health Program

lawndale_OJATomorrow evening, the Houston art collective Otabenga Jones & Associates (OJ&A) will officially unveil a new mural at Lawndale Art Center. A project of Creative Capital, the mural kicks off The People’s Plate, OJ&A’s year-long collaborative art project/public health program. Programs at Lawndale and other venues will include cooking classes, a foraging workshop, an urban gardening workshop, an instructional cooking video and a line of mass-produced lunchboxes that will be made available to the public. OJ&A cite the Black Panther Free Breakfast for School Children Program as inspiration for the program. The artwork for both the mural and the upcoming lunchboxes are inspired by the graphic art of the Black Panther’s Minister of Culture, Emory Douglas.

OJ&A may need more than four members (who are Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans, and Robert A. Pruitt) because it will be a busy year: next month, the collective will open Monuments: Right Beyond the Site at Project Row Houses (PRH), in which they will utilize all seven of the Art Houses for PRH’s Round 40 through installations that happen on and off-site.

George W Gets His Own Museum Painting Exhibition

The former President’s portrait of Barney Bush (2000-2013) will probably not be included in the exhibition, although some conspiracists believe he may have served as a mascot for some sort of “shadow government.” It is rumored that, like both Presidents Bush, he was a member of the secret society, Skull and Milk-Bones.

The former President’s portrait of Barney Bush (2000-2013) will probably not be included in the exhibition of world leaders, although a few conspiracists believe Barney may have served as a mascot for some sort of “shadow government.” It is rumored that, like both Presidents Bush, he was a member of the secret society, Skull and Milk-Bones.

Some people have been following George W. Bush’s recent painting career with a bit more affection than they did his political career but, with last month’s reported arrest of the notorious hacker Guccifer, there were some fears that the public would no longer have access to the former President’s artistic journey. Guccifer was the original email hacker who released images of Bush’s self-portraits in the shower, pet portraits and the occasional landscape. A few months ago came the interesting announcement that Bush was working on a series of portraits of world leaders but, without Guccifer, would we ever see them?

On Monday, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum sent out a press release announcing the exhibition of The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy, which will open in early April at the Presidential Library, located on the campus of Dallas’ Southern Methodist University. The show will feature more than two dozen never-before-exhibited portraits painted by Bush, along with artifacts, photographs, and personal reflections which “will explore the relationships that President George W. Bush forged with world leaders to shape international policy and advance American interests abroad.”

Vote Now: Countdown to DMA Art Madness

John Hernandez, HI-C Avenger, 1992. Will it make it to the Final Four?

John Hernandez, HI-C Avenger, 1992. Will it make it to the Final Four?

In celebration of March Madness, the Dallas Museum of Art is presenting the DMA Art Madness Tournament online. Hokey? Yes, but everybody just loves to vote on stuff! Art lovers can vote once a day through March 16 to determine the Elite Eight, Final Four, and the DMA Art Madness Champion. Voting for the current round ends this Friday, February 28th. The Art Madness bracket can be downloaded here. May the best aesthete win!

Now, we’re just waiting for the online personality quiz, “Which DMA artwork are you?”

SAMA Curator Resigns!

Photo: saflavor.com

Photo: saflavor.com

David Rubin, San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA)’s Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art, submitted his letter of resignation on Tuesday effective immediately, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

Rubin joined SAMA in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, where he had been serving as the Contemporary Arts Center’s Curator of Visual Arts for almost seven years. At SAMA, Rubin has been responsible for the permanent collection, exhibitions, as well as programming such as the popular Artist Conversation Series.

If there is any more to the “effective immediately” resignation, it doesn’t look like it will come from the museum. “David has contributed so much to this museum,” states SAMA Director Katie Luber, “and I think he’s decided to pursue some other options and looking for some other great possibilities to further his desire to support the local artists in this community,” The museum does not expect to have a replacement in place until January of next year.

Tonight! Timed Chit-Chat at Blue Star

PKNPechaKucha (Japanese for “chit-chat”) is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds total for each presenter). The format was devised in 2003 by the Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture firm (they even registered “PechuKucha” as a tradename!), to allow young designers to meet, show their work, and exchange ideas. PechaKucha Nights (PKNs) have caught on and are now held in hundreds of cities worldwide.

San Antonio is one of those cities where PKNs are popular and Blue Star Contemporary will be hosting PechaKucha San Antonio Volume 13 tonight, February 25. Happy hour begins at 6:30 pm; presentations start at 7:30 pm. Here is tonight’s lineup:

1. Mike Casey, urban pioneer
2. Mark Schlesinger, artist
3. Danette Schweers, emergency veterinarian
4. Mary Cantu, master reuser
5. Ryan Beltran, start-upco-founder
6. Angela Michelle, photographer
7. Doris Palmeros, graphic designer
8. Alex Rubio, artist

Art Trucks! A (Not So) New Trend

showontheroadSeattle gallerist Karen Light moved her Garde Rail Gallery several times before deciding to physically move to Texas in 2009. After five years, Light has now decided to open a new Austin gallery of early to mid-career contemporary artists but, rather than worry about moving all the time, she’s setting up shop in a 1993 Chevrolet box truck. Apparently inspired by the 1,400 registered food trucks in the area, Light has decided to open a “visual food truck”—a gallery called The SHOW On The Road. “This innovative model of an art gallery in an unexpected setting,” Light explains, “is disarming and accessible.”

Good luck to The SHOW (set to open late this month) but, just like sandwich trucks and taco trucks existed eons before foodies “invented” the concept, so existed art trucks. In a fit of nostalgia, artist Liz Ward recently posted a picture of the Effemmera Museum, created by Ward and fellow artist Beth Secor, which was parked outside Lawndale Art Center in 1988. Not sure if it was truly mobile, but it was pretty darn cool.
Effemmera

Lens Capsule, 2012. Photo via thegreatgodpanisdead.com

Lens Capsule, 2012. Photo via thegreatgodpanisdead.com

In 1993, Arena Productions (Sean Thorton and Chris Ballou) organized a show in the back of a moving van that they drove around Houston’s five wards, allowing residents to trade their own art for anything on the truck. In conjunction with FotoFest, Bennie Flores Ansell organized a similar mobile group show in 1998 called How’s My Driving? For Houston’s FotoFest 2012, artists Emily Peacock and Britt Ragsdale Thomas put together an ambitious series of exhibitions in their mobile Lens Capsule. Peacock and Thomas are again presenting Lens Capsule exhibitions, scaled down to two shows this year. The first will open this Friday, February 28, presenting work from High School for the Performing and Visual Arts students in the parking lot of the Lawndale Art Center. The second will show the work of Bryan Forrester in the parking lot of the Houston Center for Photography on March 14.

Houston Artist Bert Long Celebrated in Documentary Film

 Bert L Long, Jr., 1940-2013. Photo by Brett Coomer

Bert L Long, Jr., 1940-2013. Photo by Brett Coomer

Since iconic Houston artist Bert Long died last year, friends and fans have been busy paying tribute. Last month, there was a celebratory fundraiser to help publish a posthumous book on the artist and now, in conjunction with the exhibition Bert: Back and Beyond on view through March 8, Deborah Colton Gallery will be screening the documentary, Bert, on Wednesday, February 26. Written, produced, and directed by Houston-based arts patron, John Guess Jr., the film follows Long’s life as seen through the eyes big-time admirers in the art community.

For those who couldn’t get past the overflowing crowd at the Menil Collection’s Valentine’s Day screening of the documentary will want to arrive early. There will be a 6:30 pm reception; the film starts at 7 pm, followed by a Q&A with Guess, CEO of the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Search for Miss CAM Antonio to Promote SA Arts!

miss-usa-2009-1The folks who organize San Antonio’s Contemporary Art Month (CAM) will again host the Miss CAM Antonio contest, a virtual pageant to find the perfect person to represent the local contemporary art community. The contest is open to anyone currently living in San Antonio—male or female, young or old (the pageant’s Facebook page reiterates: “Open to everyone…and we mean EVERYONE!”)

There is no swimsuit competition involved; contestants will be judged merely the on answers to the pageant-inspired question, “As Miss CAM Antonio, how would you promote contemporary art in San Antonio?” Entrants must post answers, in the form of text, videos or photos, to the contest’s Facebook page before midnight on March 4. The final four will be selected by popular vote (“likes”) and the winner will be chosen by a panel of CAM board members. Miss CAM Antonio will be crowned (with a custom designed crown by local artist Marlys Dietrick). during the CAM kick-off party at Blue Star Art Contemporary Arts Museum on Thursday evening, March 6.

Ex-Houstonians Wow New Orleans Art Scene

Photo: Doug MacCash/NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune

Photo: Doug MacCash/NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune

Native Houstonian Mel Chin’s 40-year retrospective of sculpture, video and installations at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) opened on Thursday with a panel discussion and on Friday with the opening reception party. Organized by NOMA Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Miranda Lash (an honorary Houstonian for her tenure as curatorial assistant at the Menil Collection), the exhibition is already getting a lot of attention, enthusiasm and press. It’s not just New Orleans art lovers who are enjoying the show; there seems to be a refreshing mutual admiration between the artist and curator, as recorded by Gambit (bestofneworleans.com):

Finishing up an interview on the eve of the opening of his first-ever retrospective, Rematch, which includes more than 70 works of a lifetime of art, the artist looked dapper and pleased, crediting the museum’s curator of contemporary art, Miranda Lash, for the show’s exquisite use of space. “It’s her show,” he said smiling.

Miranda Lash in front of Chin’s Cabinet of Craving, 2012. Photo: Jim Mulvihill

Miranda Lash in front of Chin’s Cabinet of Craving, 2012, at a concurrent show at Jonathan Ferarra Gallery. Photo: Jim Mulvihill

Congratulations to Mel and Miranda!

New Gallery to Open in El Paso!

cubeThere’s a new gallery coming to the El Paso art community called the Cube (or, according to its letterhead and Facebook page, the “CUB3″). Plans are for three-week exhibitions, with opening receptions to take place on the last Thursdays of each month, coinciding with the El Paso Downtown Arts District Art Crawl. The Cube is positioning itself to be a more experimental gallery; it describes itself as “a new art venue that will bring forth innovative thought and education in the arts, created to show that art is more than an object that hangs on the wall or sits on a pedestal.”

The Cube’s Director/Curator Angel Cabrales has scheduled the first exhibition, Borderlands, set to open next week on February 27th, with an opening from 6-9 pm. Borderlands will feature two installations by artist Angel Cabrales. Wait—that name sounds familiar! Oh well, support a new gallery with an ambitious mission, check out the art, and ask Director Cabrales for more details about the long-term exhibition schedule.

The Menil Unveils Very Menil Plans for Drawing Institute

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 8.39.39 AM

Menil Drawing Institute (Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection)

The Menil Collection unveiled plans for its new freestanding drawing institute on Wednesday and the reviews are starting to come in. One might think that Culturemap Houston’s hometown familiarity with the Menil aesthetic may have influenced its headline description of the building as a “modest stunner.” But Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne seconded the assessment, deeming the plans “deceptively simple.”

So it would seem that architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, of the LA-based firm Johnston Marklee & Associates, might actually get the Menil thing. Hawthorne called the plans for the flat-roofed, pavilion-like building seemingly “self-effacing.” The Menil Drawing Institute will be modestly scaled: Hawthorne describes it as “bigger than a house but smaller than most museum buildings”; the Houston Chronicle points out that its16-foot height makes it no taller than the surrounding neighborhood bungalows.

Menil Drawing Institute at dusk, looking past the west entrance courtyard. (Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection)

Menil Drawing Institute at dusk, looking past the west entrance courtyard. (Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection)

Hidden behind a group of large oak trees, half of its square footage will be underground storage. The ground level will contain a large, main gathering space called the “Living Room,” a private study space called the “Drawing Room” (get it?), an exhibition space, a library, rooms for seminars, courtyards and a conservation lab.

Hawthorne also points out that the design’s subtlety could make fundraising trickier than a campaign for a flashy building to be built by a flashy architect. But Menil Director Josef Helfenstein seems not to be worried about that at all. “We’re in good shape with the fund raising,” he stated. “We wouldn’t go public with the announcement if we weren’t.”

Construction is slated to break ground early next year and the building is set to open in 2017.