Even though I was born in Galveston, and have visited 3-4 times each year for my whole life, I’m ashamed to admit that I have not spent a lot of time in Houston. Add to that the ongoing pandemic, and you’ll understand why last week was the first time I visited the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s (MFAH) Kinder Building, which opened in November 2020. Making the trip with kids in tow (ages 15 and 4), I knew I wouldn’t have the capacity for a long, meandering visit. Instead, we spent some focused time on the third floor of the Kinder with the LOL! and Line into Space installations. We also made a quick dash through the Latin American Art galleries on the second floor. (You can see a walkthrough of the Kinder Building here.)
The work of art we spent the most time with and that was most appealing to my family unit was Ólafur Elíasson’s Sometimes an underground movement is an illuminated bridge. This site-specific light installation transforms the tunnel that connects the Kinder Building and the MFAH’s Glassell School. As soon as we entered from the parking garage, my daughters and I were intrigued by the light we could see in the distance.
Once immersed in the space, we began looking at each other and taking notice of how the yellow lights altered the look of our skin. We observed that the longer we were in the space, the more our skin tones seemed to lose all coloration and appear to be grayscale, as if we had walked out of a black and white photograph. My oldest noticed a blue-violet hue that seemed to be emanating from another light source above. Upon closer inspection, we realized the color was coming from a skylight in a small cutout section of the tunnel’s ceiling, which is in fact a window, from below, into the Kinder building’s outdoor fountain. We walked the space, slowly taking it in. This is the kind of piece that makes me long to be a gallery attendant, even if for one day, to stand in the space for long periods of time reflecting on the piece’s title and observing visitors’ reactions.