The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Debuts Four Major Exhibitions This Spring

by Jessica Fuentes March 9, 2022

This spring, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is debuting exhibitions featuring Dawoud Bey, M.C. Escher, Shahzia Sikander, and the Obama Portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.

A black and white photograph of three African American women at a parade in Harlem, New York. The photograph is by Dawoud Bey.

Dawoud Bey, “Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY,” from “Harlem, U.S.A.,” 1978, gelatin silver print (printed 2019), collection of the artist, courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco. © Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey: An American Project, which opened last weekend, is a retrospective of the artist’s work spanning from the 1970s to present day. The exhibition includes early street portraits he took in Harlem, large-scale studio portraits, works from his series The Birmingham Project (which highlights the lives lost in the 1963 Birmingham bombing), and poignant landscapes that explore the Underground Railroad and Louisana plantations. 

Two black and white photographic portraits by Dawoud Bey. On the left sits an older Black man dressed in a suit and looking solemnly at the camera. On the right is a young Black boy who seems timid as he sits in a chair and looks straight at the camera.

Dawoud Bey, “Don Sledge and Moses Austin,” from “The Birmingham Project,” 2012, inkjet prints, Rennie Collection, Vancouver. © Dawoud Bey

In the press release announcing the exhibition, Gary Tinterow the Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair at the MFAH said, “Dawoud Bey is one of the preeminent photographers of our day. As the exhibition’s co-curators [Corey Keller and Elisabeth Serman] have so aptly noted, the exhibition and its evocative title introduce Bey’s deeply humanistic photographs into a long-running conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera.”

The exhibition is co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and will feature approximately eighty five works by Mr. Bey. 

A lithograph by M.C. Esher. The image depicts two realistic hands emerging from a drawing in which they are each drawing each other's shirt cuffs.

M.C. Escher, “Drawing Hands,” January 1948, lithograph, collection of Michael S. Sachs. © The M.C. Escher Company, The Netherlands. All rights reserved.

Virtual Realities: The Art of M.C. Escher from the Michael S. Sachs Collection, the largest and most comprehensive show of works by the artist ever held, opens this weekend. The exhibition features the collection of Mr. Sachs, who accumulated artworks by Escher over a 50-year period and acquired 90% of the artist’s estate in 1980. 

Though Escher’s early works focus on portraits, nudes, and still lifes, his fascination with patterns and repetition are evident as early as 1918. During the 1920s and 1930s, his works shifted to include detailed landscapes and studies in perspective. Then, in the late 1930s through the early 1950s, he made the pieces he is perhaps best known for today, works in which realistic images devolve into abstract tessellations, and compositions that experiment with optical illusions.

A lithograph by M.C. Esher. The artwork depicts a hand holding a mirrored ball which reveals a self-portrait of the artist in his home.

M.C. Escher, “Hand with Reflecting Sphere,” January 1935, lithograph, collection of Michael S. Sachs. © The M.C. Escher Company, The Netherlands. All rights reserved.

In the press release announcing the exhibition, Dena M. Woodall, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the MFAH (who organized the show) remarked, “By spanning Escher’s entire career, this extraordinary exhibition explores Escher’s detailed thought process. It reveals, in a way, the magic behind the final prints, with the inclusion of preparatory drawings and progressive printing proofs as evidence of his working process. His meticulous manner extends to printing all of his woodcuts by hand with the back of a spoon, instead of a press.” 

The exhibition will include more than 400 prints, drawings, watercolors, printed fabrics, constructed objects, artist tools, and sketchbooks.

A painting by Shahzia Sikander which depicts several female figures in movement. The work includes repetition of small circles and ornate patterns.

Shahzia Sikander, “Pleasure Pillars,” 2001, vegetable color, dry pigment, and watercolor on tea-stained wasli paper, collection of Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee. © 2021 Shahzia Sikander / Courtesy of the artist; Sean kelly, New York; and Pilar Corrias, London.

Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities, which was featured in Glasstire’s 2022 Spring Preview, will open later this month at the museum. With nearly sixty works on view, the exhibition will present art from the first fifteen years (1987-2002) of Ms. Sikander’s career. Her works are rooted in historical manuscript painting traditions from South and Central Asia, and explore issues related to migration, gender, and female sexuality. While some works are miniatures, the exhibition will also include wall drawings, large-scale installations, and video animations.

Organized by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in collaboration with the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, the show was exhibited at both venues prior to coming to the MFAH, which will be the final stop on the exhibition’s tour.

On the left is a portrait of President Barack Obama painted by Kehinde Wiley. On the right is a portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama painted by Amy Sherald.

Left: Kehinde Wiley, “Barack Obama,” 2018, Oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © 2018 Kehinde Wiley
Right: Amy Sherald, “Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama,” 2018, Oil on linen, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The Obama Portraits Tour, which features paintings commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery of the President and First Lady, will open early next month. The much-anticipated exhibition is the final stop of the works’ tour across the U.S.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project is on view through May 30, 2022. Virtual Realities: The Art of M.C. Escher from the Michael S. Sachs Collection will be on view from March 13 through September 5, 2022. Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities will be on view from March 20 through June 5, 2022. The Obama Portraits Tour will be on view from April 3 through May 30, 2022.

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