Glasstire’s staff and contributors share which Texas-based shows, events, and works made their personal “best” lists for 2023.
Cruz Ortiz: Danza de Los Cosmicos at Lone Gallery, Dallas.
I’ve been a big fan of Cruz Ortiz’s work since I was in high school and attempting to navigate the San Antonio art scene, where Ortiz’s presence is nothing short of monumental. Earlier this spring, when I saw his solo show at Lone Gallery, I fell in love with his work all over again. This new body of work was a surreal, psychological dreamscape exploring life and death, beauty and decay, and chaos and serenity. Along with a multitude of large-scale paintings, brick altars were placed around the gallery and, for the opening reception, a mariachi band filled the space with a vibrant energy that brought the work to life.
Ryan Takaba: Sound Shatters the Illusion at Artpace San Antonio.
As a part of Artpace’s International Artist-in-Residence program, summer 2023 resident artist Ryan Takaba created a singular cylindrical structure whose exterior was covered with the wax drippings of hundreds of candles. I was really taken with the meditative and serene essence of the work, especially juxtaposed against the laborious and meticulous nature of its construction. Centered around the ritual of altars, Takaba’s exhibition was imbued with thoughtful intent as he constructed an ethereal space that explored the passage from the natural to the spiritual. I genuinely can’t wait to see what Takaba creates next.
Michael Velliquette: The Direct Path at The Contemporary at Blue Star, San Antonio.
I caught a glimpse of something that I had never seen before in Michael Velliquette’s solo show, The Direct Path, at Contemporary at Blue Star earlier this year: paper, an arguably delicate medium, that had been manipulated with intricate folds and built up to resemble carved stone. And the exhibition layout was similarly unique, as it broke up the usual wide-open gallery space and offered each paper sculpture its own corner for viewing. The enclosed pedestaling of artworks allowed for all attention to focus on the wonder contained therein. Beautifully rendered and technically impressive, this exhibition left me in awe.
Susan kae Grant: Shadowing Grace at the Grace Museum, Abilene.
Presented throughout the Grace Museum’s entire bottom floor, Shadowing Grace highlighted works spanning numerous series from Grant’s career and offered a comprehensive look at her ongoing visual exploration of REM sleep and dreams. In addition to her silhouetted photographs, the exhibition included Night Journey, a site-specific installation which viewers could walk through, and a re-creation of the artist’s studio, providing a close look into her process.
Afro Mingei: A Project by Theaster Gates at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas.
Conceived as a fully functioning social space, Afro Mingei merged elements of Japanese and African American cultures and philosophies to create a truly memorable experience. A curated menu including bites, tea service, Japanese whiskeys, and more could be enjoyed around a table made by Gates out of salvaged wood from Chicago. Equipped with a turntable and over 1,000 records from the artist’s personal collection, the space came alive with special programs, such as musical and storytelling performances.
Paho Mann: Latent Constructions at Galleri Urbane, Dallas.
Paho Mann’s carefully assembled photographs grouped under the moniker Latent Constructions left an indelible mark, despite or perhaps because of their ghostly presence. Using 3D scanning software, Mann compiled data from images of flowers and obsolete cameras into ersatz still-life depictions. The memento mori embedded in Mann’s mesmerizing spectral images is but one aspect of his project. The skillful combining of artifacts from the 3D scanning technology reveals a puzzling together of a fragmentary perception akin to how our eyes actually see — compiling notations of light and dark to define shape, and eventually meaning. Mann seems to suggest that knowledge and utility are always approximate and fleeting — that our understanding of ourselves and the external world is fated to incompleteness and partiality. But within that narrow field of vision and understanding, our shared lives play out in time, cohering and atomizing into infinity.
Arthur Dove: Miniature Laboratories at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth.
Art speaks differently each time we experience it. At particular moments in our lives, certain artists simply don’t register or touch the psychological, intellectual, or emotional stories governing our existence. Until they do. When I was a younger person I thought little of Arthur Dove, but in the past ten years I’ve come to see Dove’s art anew. The Amon Carter’s magnificently humble exhibition of Dove’s tiny works, created when he was homebound due to illness, was a revelation. Displayed on the mezzanine gallery, each roughly 3 x 4-inch work on paper kept me in rapt attention. The diminutive gems revealed a consummate restraint and casual certitude. Highlighting a convalescent art, like Matisse cutting paper from his sickbed, Dove’s Miniature Laboratories emerge from the physical trials of late life — where the essential feels all the more vital and necessary.
Gabrielle Goliath: Chorus at Dallas Contemporary. Read our review here.
Goliath’s powerful multimedia installation addresses the femicide and rape culture prevalent in South Africa. Although it’s been over a year since I first saw the exhibition, it’s seared into my memory. Watching the 23-minute video of the University of Cape Town Choir hum a sonic eulogy honoring fellow student Uyinene Mrwetya, who was brutally raped and murdered in 2019, left an indelible impression. One begins to understand the magnitude of the issue while reading an entire wall of names — victims memorialized from the past three years. Then comes the subsequent realization that this only represents a fraction of the deaths, because so many go unreported. Goliath effectively navigates between the personal and the universal by focusing on naming the individuals, thus humanizing the victimization of women and children. Her work also asks us to bear witness, challenging us to affect change in the future.
Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish at The Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Read our review here.
I am a big fan of Pipilotti Rist’s work, and she never disappoints. Her surreal, trippy, immersive video installations seduce the viewer with lush color and visuals, but her work functions beyond spectacle. In Worry Will Vanish, Rist takes us on a journey through myriad landscapes, exploring the interior and exterior of the human body, the cosmos, and the natural world. All sense of scale collapses as we navigate through the micro and macro worlds. I often feel like I am in a dream world when viewing Rist’s work — one that exists liminally. In this video, I kept questioning my perception, asking if what I was seeing was a technological/digital creation or something based in reality/the physical world. Pixel Forest, an installation of spherical orbs of LED lights, framed the center of the gallery, creating an immersive light forest that transformed the space into a celestial world.
Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth.
The first major Maya exhibition in the U.S. in a decade, Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art featured 95 works (some national treasures that may never travel again) that revealed aspects of Maya gods and divinity garnered from multiple fields of inquiry. Seven of these were given to particular artists on the basis of signatures or attribution. Fifty had never been shown in the U.S., and seventeen were recent archaeological discoveries. These Maya objects, many of them stupendous in quality, were organized thematically to better reveal their religious, political, and symbolic functions.
Mind Windows: The Art of Roberto Ríos in San Marcos. Read our review here.
Mind Windows: The Art of Roberto Ríos, a six-venue exhibition in San Marcos that featured over 70 paintings, was an unprecedented opportunity to witness the remarkable products of the artist’s career, which spanned more than a half-century. Ríos (b. 1941), one of the greatest Chicano painters of the 1970s (and the most commercially successful one in San Antonio), was deeply influenced by Surrealism (René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró). His commercial career, however, was virtually ended by Chicano Gothic (c. 1970), a watercolor harshly critical of San Antonio’s then-mayor. A Con Safo group co-founder, nine of Ríos’ Chicano paintings were lost at a group exhibition in Mission, Texas. Disillusioned by his experiences, Ríos quit the group in 1973. He turned to mythic and religious subjects and largely withdrew from the public eye. Mind Windows was the first opportunity to see a substantial body of his work in Texas since the early 1970s.
Gaspar Enríquez: Chicano Pride, Chicano Soul at the Las Cruces Museum of Art. Read our review here.
Gaspar Enriquez: Chicano Pride, Chicano Soul at the Las Cruces Museum of Art in Las Cruces, New Mexico was a fantastic retrospective of the El Paso artist. His immaculate, velvety portraits of Chicano folks had room to breathe in a great exhibition space, showcasing different eras of his career.
Nathalie Lawrence: A Sculpture is A Visual Poem at 5&J Gallery, Lubbock.
In A Sculpture is A Visual Poem at 5&J Gallery in Lubbock, Texas Tech University alumna Nathalie Lawrence’s lively metal works and paintings stood out. The bright, hyper-textural sculptures embodied humor, archetypes, and wonder. Lawrence is one to watch.
Si Lewen: The Parade at the Menil Drawing Institute, Houston.
Ask anyone: nobody wants war, and yet there are, apparently, millions of secret fans of this activity among us, otherwise the military-industrial complex would go extinct. In Polish-American Jew and WWII veteran Si Lewen’s graphic series, war is traced from its humble beginnings on the playground right up to a (also heavily militarized) victory parade. Lewen, who escaped to the U.S. when he was 14 and later liberated the Buchenwald camp, presents war as a Rubik’s cube of slow transformation, from boy to soldier to invalid. The show hit home for a Russian on so many levels of history.
I Am Not Your Mexican, a group show of Latin American artists curated by writer Eduardo Egea, was extensively covered by Glasstire. It has my favorite new work of the year, Fernando Polidura’s CF Fourteen (2023), a minimalist arrangement of the artist’s partner’s hair in straight parallel lines, embroidered on beige cotton paper. Encased in glass as if it’s a health risk, the work reminds us of lockdown’s manic claustrophobia, when little details of the closest people had been rendered in high relief to get on our nerves like never before. Polidura chooses to really concentrate on the beauty of geometry, and that’s inspiring.
2023 RGV Perennial Art Exhibition at Rusteberg Gallery, Brownsville.
Curated and organized by artist Keatan McKeever, the 2023 RGV Perennial Art Exhibition featured artwork created by participants in a pair of workshops hosted by Javier Dragustinovis (Curator of the Contemporary Art Museum of Tamaulipas) and C. Díaz (founder of ENTRE Film Center). Dragustinovis guided participants in a drawing exercise exploring the emotional and historical charge of personal objects, while the Diaz-led workshop produced an eco-processed series of 8mm films and photographs using developer made with local plants.
Jo Harvey and Terry Allen in Killers of the Flower Moon.
From Day Jobs at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin to I’ll Be Your Mirror at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Groundswell at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, 2023 was a great year for art in Texas. However, instead of highlighting another one of the year’s many wonderful exhibitions, I’d like to draw attention to a cameo appearance by artist and musician Terry Allen in Martin Scorsese’s 2023 historical epic Killers of the Flower Moon. Allen appears in the film alongside his wife, artist Jo Harvey Allen, as Uncle Jim and Aunt Annie. Killers of the Flower Moon is a riotous film taking place in 1920s Oklahoma, and Allen, whose father was a Lubbock nightclub owner that promoted concerts by Little Richard and Elvis Presley, feels right at home in the setting. While the New York Times neglected to include the Allens in their list of the film’s cameos, Glasstire is here to set the record straight.
Carlos Donjuan: Dream Dream Dream at Kirk Hopper Fine Art.
When I first moved to North Dallas to attend the University of Texas at Dallas in 2001, I spent a lot of time driving back into the city to see art and attend events. On those drives I became enthralled with the work of the Sour Grapes Crew, which could be spotted all around downtown Dallas. Over the past two decades, it has been exciting to see how the members of Sour Grapes continue to show up in the art scene. Carlos Donjuan, who formed the crew with his brothers, is a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and was invited to be a contributing artist at the recently opened Meow Wolf in Grapevine.
Donjuan’s solo exhibition at Kirk Hopper Fine Art in Dallas earlier this year brought together nearly 30 of his surreal paintings, mostly of children wearing masks. While some pieces featured expected masks (like a Spiderman, Batman, or luchador), others had more mystical facial features, including geometric-shaped noses, multiple perfectly circular eyes across a face, and markings reminiscent of Vaudeville clowns — painted round circles on cheeks, vertical markings extending from above the eyebrow to below the eye, and painted lips that extend beyond the natural lip line. The show combined a fun and lighthearted sensibility with a solemn air. It brought to mind the playfulness of childhood daydreams and the weight of the world that DREAMers (the young people affected by the DACA program and the DREAM Act) continue to navigate.
Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art — both the exhibition and the performances — at Centro de Artes, San Antonio. Read our reviews of the show here and here. Read about the performances here.
Earlier this year, Rigoberto Luna organized a major exhibition of Latinx artists with Texas ties. The show was powerful and unifying, while celebrating the diverse voices and practices of 40 artists from across the state, from El Paso to Dallas to Brownsville to Lubbock. Beyond bringing together the physical work, the show also sparked conversations and is likely to travel to other venues in the coming year.
Apart from the exhibition itself, Luna also hosted an evening of performances at Centro de Artes by three of the exhibiting artists, Christian Cruz, Cande Aguilar, and José Villalobos. Each piece was striking and resonated a deep ocean of emotions, touching on violence experienced by women, children, and young men. Though heavy topics, there was a sense of collective grieving and release among the audience witnessing the artists’ actions.
Mona Hatoum at Ruby City, San Antonio. Read our review here.
I am not the kind of person who gets starstruck. I am not interested in the lives of celebrities and often struggle to remember names and faces, let alone the songs, movies, or other cultural things specific people have been involved in. Though I enjoy looking at and talking about art, and especially doing so with the people who create it, it is rare that I would feel nervous or excited about an opportunity to speak with a particular artist. However, when the chance to interview Mona Hatoum presented itself, for the first time in my life I felt the anxious anticipation of meeting an idol.
I have adored Hatoum’s art since I learned about it in the early 2000s. Her ability to use often simple materials to make poignant and poetic works has had a profound impact on me as an artist and art enthusiast. I cannot even say that it was a dream come true to interview her, because I never dared to dream that I would have that opportunity. I had the honor of speaking with Hatoum for over an hour and found her to be lovely, insightful, and supportive. Writing about her work and drawing from our conversation was definitely one of the best Glasstire experiences I had this year.
YOU REALLY LIVIN’: A world that was always full of yellow sun, green trees, a blue sea and black people at Lawndale Art Center, Houston. Read our review here.
Alexis Pye’s YOU REALLY LIVIN’ transformed Lawndale’s exhibition space into a living room full of conversation and good times. A couch and chairs placed in the center of the gallery invited the viewer to sit and linger for a moment or two and take in the multi-hour music playlist crafted by Pye to accompany the opening. The works themselves are brilliant explosions of painterly forms overlaid by vibrant flowers (and sometimes surrounded by tapestries also created by Pye) that explore gender, rock music, familial and community relations, and above all else celebrate the Black experience in all its beauty.
Hyperreal: Gray Foy at the Menil Drawing Institute, Houston. Read our review here.
I attended a rather touching lecture by Robert Cozzolino for the Menil Drawing Institute’s Hyperreal: Gray Foy that reminded me why we as contemporary art writers and historians do what we do. Inspired by surrealism and magical realism, Foy’s drawings are exactly rendered and spectacularly detailed, blurring the lines between organic and inorganic, animal and vegetable, abstraction and figuration. Foy was overlooked in his lifetime, both due to not fitting into the dominant art paradigm and also for his sexuality. The show and lecture were a beautiful window into Foy’s life, struggles, and successes, and also a reminder of how far we have come.
Betting on the Sun at Landmark Gallery at the Texas Tech University School of Art, Lubbock.
Curated by Bethany Springer for the 2023 Texas Sculpture Symposium, Betting on the Sun employed myriad strategies to represent sculpture in the expanded field, and included video, sound, performance, and 3D imaging. Among the varied works, echoes and resonances emerged — literally, in a sound piece played on a grid of radios by Pedram Baldari and Nooshin Hakim Javadi — with ideas of authenticity and falsity, weight and lightness, and solidness and transparency bouncing between the works in a delightful interplay.
Paul Acevedo Gomez: Bueno, Bonito, Barato y Original at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, Lubbock.
I was blown away by this array of suspended sculptures, collages, paper weavings, and large-scale drawings by Guadalajara-born, Tulsa-based artist Paul Acevedo Gomez. Pieced together seamlessly in individual panels, Gomez’s most spectacular drawings were inhabited by a cast of what seemed to be supernatural beings and animal-plant hybrids. His corn gods and cactus men enacted allegorical scenes with a dynamism that brought to mind epic works by José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera.
Supporting Indigenous Sisters: An International Print Exchange at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art.
Bringing together sixteen women artists, including eight Indigenous artists, this exhibition shined a bright light on the alarming number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States and other nations. Utilizing the tradition of a print exchange, these works illustrate the need for collaboration by all to protect the most vulnerable of our sisters. I am always a fan of art as a tool for advocacy and was particularly drawn to this exhibition because it invited so many artists from North Texas to share their experiences while addressing a broader, global problem.
In Passing: Ann Le and Trinh Mai at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts.
One of the most poignant exhibitions I saw this year, In Passing, curated by Kim Phan Nguyen, featured the works of Ann Le and Trinh Mai, both second-generation Vietnamese-American women. Through the works in a variety of media, including photographs, textiles, and sculpture, I truly felt as if the artists were generously inviting me into the private histories of their families. Touching on themes of war, migration, and resilience, this exhibition really served to provide a new vantage point for understanding the legacy of the Vietnam War. Considering the conflicts and displacements of families we are currently witnessing in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, it is necessary to have exhibitions like this that remind us of the humanity of the people impacted. It also forces us to reflect on how histories are created and the voices who are often given the priority and authority to craft them.
Curator Rigoberto Luna’s Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art featured over forty artists and filled the large galleries of Centro des Artes’ space. One of the best exhibitions of recent memory, the expansive show articulated the magnitude and multiplicity of Latinx identity. Featuring known and up-and-coming artists who intersect with Texas as part of their lives (some born in Texas, some who have passed through, some currently living in the state), the exhibition featured various media and magnified what a “survey” can mean in the museum space.
Leila McConnell: Somewhere Beyond at Foltz Fine Art, Houston.
Foltz Fine Art’s exhibition of Leila McConnell’s work offered a meditative exploration of abstract painting, spanning decades of her career. Her works, through her painterly application choices and lush and vivid use of color, make the ethereal tangible, if just for a moment. Her small and larger paintings invite the viewer to linger, pause, and think. I’m waiting for the Dorothy Hood-level, major museum exhibition attention to McConnell’s work, which would serve as a welcome intervention in Texas modernist art history.
Tamara Johnson: House Salad at Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin.
For a long time I believed colanders belonged on heads. Dallas sculptor Tamara Johnson’s exhibit at Austin’s Lora Reynolds Gallery convinced me that they do just as well on walls, where they may become whole little conversations. I never knew I wanted trompe-l’oeil okra until I saw it perched beneath an egg on a false strainer. Now I will make it a point to see whatever Johnson decides to show us next.
Getting Mistaken for Richard Linklater Outside the Austin Film Society Before a Screening of Fran Rubel Kuzui’s film Tokyo Pop.
Lars — who I haven’t met, but who I’ve seen introduce films at the Austin Film Society (AFS) since my first visit years ago — waved at me as I neared the cinema. He was about to lead a Q&A with the #1 Texan, filmmaker Richard Linklater. Confused, I waved back. When I got closer Lars said, “oh, I thought you were Rick.” I looked down at my big linen shirt and understood.
I don’t mean to embarrass Lead Film Programmer Lars. I was flattered. The movie was fun and the Q&A was, like all of AFS founder Linklater’s live appearances at the theater, a delight. This whole anecdote is just an excuse to express my love for the Austin Film Society and encourage moviegoing Austinites to investigate their dynamic programming and highly sensible membership opportunities.
Cerámica Suro: A Story of Collaboration, Production, and Collecting in the Contemporary Arts at Dallas Contemporary (through December 31, 2023). Read our review here.
I love this show. Not only does it tell a story of contemporary art through the mentorship of generations of artists, but it also tells a story of Mexico — and particularly Guadalajara — that is really special. It’s also always a treat to see talented and tenacious friends get the recognition they deserve, on both sides of the border. Bravo to every one of the artists involved, and particularly to Alejandro García Contreras — it’s been beautiful to see you come into happiness again.
Isadora Stowe: Illuminated at the El Paso Museum of Art. Read our review here.
Working with a complicated space is, well, complicated. For her first solo project at the El Paso Museum of Art, Isadora Stowe worked through the complication to transform a semi-transitional space into something intentional and considerate. She made the space hers and built a narrative within it. The result was an environment full of whimsy and color that satiated the senses and felt like it should live in the space forever.
David McGee: The Tarot Cards and The Gloria Paintings at Inman Gallery, Houston. Read our review here.
David McGee’s exceptional exhibition at Inman Gallery was museum quality. Amid the artist’s three recent and quite varied bodies of work, his more than 150 mixed media Tarot Cards on paper stand out as a critical, playful, alternate encyclopedia of art and political history, from Goya to Guston and beyond: a card labeled “Pokémon” reproduces a self-portrait by Egon Schiele. McGee’s serious sharpness is paired with an astonishing attention to detail no matter the media, and it’s easy to lose oneself in the delicate folds of his life-sized figures’ watercolor ball gowns, or in the luscious impasto of his abstract oils.
Spanish Light: Sorolla in American Collections at the Meadows Museum, Dallas (through January 7, 2024).
Painters rejoice! There’s still time to catch Spanish Light at the Meadows Museum. The sizable exhibition of rarely-shown paintings by Joaquín Sorolla from American private collections proves what a master — some might say magician — the Spanish artist was. Sorolla is especially scintillating in his famous beach scenes, where sails, waves, and sand become a playground for the artist’s expert brush. These and other works delighted America’s elite, who snapped up hundreds of the painter’s canvases after his 1909 debut in New York. One hundred years after Sorolla’s death, visitors, and especially painters, will find much delight in his still-vibrant paintings.
Sonic Meditation for Solo Performer: Steve Parker at Co-Lab Projects, Austin.
Steve Parker’s interactive musical installation took the anthemic energy of a college football marching band and stripped it down to more minimalistic sounds — willed by the mind, like a conductor’s wand. One participant at a time wore a neurofeedback headset that channeled their brain waves to produce chill, ambient tones in real time (unlike the boisterous band at halftime). Traditional brass instruments suspended in space gave the installation its sculptural appeal, while a slew of wires translating the score conjured the NCAA via EEG.
Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago at Ballroom Marfa.
This decked-out former school bus turned cosmic coach will get you where you need to go. Inspired by the artist’s own personal and healing journeys, Mariposa Relámpago (“lightning butterfly”) is a catalyst for cleansing and clarity through vibration. Adorned with found objects (including items Maravilla collected while retracing the route he traveled as a young boy from El Salvador to the United States), the chrome-plated canister could pass for a strong magnet holding its many details in place. I missed the artist’s opening gong ceremony, but took a silent sound bath as the sun went down and the bus glowed purple, like an unblocked chakra.
The Museum of Human Achievement Holiday Show: The Shabooming + Edward Normalhands, Austin.
Okay, so December is the de facto Dump Month of the Glasstire Best Ofs, but that doesn’t mean that the annual Museum of Human Achievement Holiday Show should be snubbed! Since 2013, the community space has hosted completely outlandish, quirked-up, and totally fantastic holiday performances with an ever-growing cast of local characters. Last year, The Shabooming left such an impression on me that I am evidently writing about it almost a year later, and this year’s Edward Normalhands is sure to be another certified hit. No one does whatever kind of messed-up experimental theater this is quite like them, so here’s to yet another decade of mutated holiday classics.
2023 Nasher Prize Dialogues: Laureate Lecture, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas.
In March, Nasher Prize Laureate Senga Nengudi joined Linda Goode-Bryant and Maren Hassinger for a conversation-turned-participatory-performance on their decades-long collaborations together. Naturally, their energy was completely infectious, making for the most energized lecture I have had the pleasure to attend. I say this with such certainty because halfway through the talk Nengudi forwent any slides to enlist her audience in a prompted exercise, in which the whole room was instructed to “laugh,” “sparkle,” “balance,” and “whisper” on queue. Texas was lucky to hear from such an absolute powerhouse of a trio, and I highly recommend giving a listen to the recorded talk.
Erica’s First Holy Shit, a film by the Austin group This is Not a Cult.
This year, Paul Rubens passed away and creatives everywhere mourned his loss. For many, the actor offered an introduction to unbridled silliness. In June, I watched Erica’s First Holy Shit, a campy film from This Is Not A Cult, a multi-media performance art group in Austin. The film takes the viewer on a journey through many different scenes rife with colorful sets and props that would make Rubens proud. It was definitely a highlight of my year.
The 2023 Flatland Film Festival, Lubbock. Read our review here.
Attending the Flatland Film Festival, as of 2023, is only overshadowed by the glittering Buddy Holly Hall next door. Regardless, the 20th Flatland Film Festival hosted a slate of documentaries and shorts over one weekend in September. Lubbock’s main art museum, the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, along with the presence and output of Texas Tech University, make the city an as-yet underappreciated locale for a variety of creative endeavors, including art exhibitions, film screenings, and academic study. I made time to visit the Panhandle this fall, and I’m glad I did.
Katrina Laine: The Weight at La Mecha Contemporary, El Paso.
Taking it back home to the U.S.-Mexico border, two events that make me smile from a “how art and culture makes you feel and connect” perspective were seeing The Falstaff blossom over time, and Katrina Laine’s solo show, The Weight, at La Mecha Contemporary. The exhibition was filled with investigations into gender, body, text, video, and colorful wit-pop. I fell in love with Laine’s intimate meditation of “when’s the last time someone made me a sandwich.” She moved us to challenge invisibility and through form, material, and visuality gave us an essence into her internal and external realities.
Performance Workshop and Mexico/Texas Ensemble at The Hill of James McGee, Texas’ Chihuahuan Desert.
No recording allowed. David Dove of Nameless Sound (Houston), Carmina Escobar (Mexico City), and the Mexico/Texas Ensemble through the work of people and organizations including Dr. Melissa Warak (University of Texas at El Paso, Department of Art) and the Cornudas Mountain Foundation filled my brain, body, mind, and spirit with the most frisson, chills, and sonic emotions I have felt probably…ever. First, the performance workshop with Dove, Escobar, and willing participants unlocked voices, practices, and performance installation that I have yet to experience. Then, The Hill, a personal site and treasure in West Texas, was transformed into a monumental performance site to be still. To listen. To embody senses. Out of body experiences. Even McGee had a special gift for those that were lucky enough to stay longer. Truly a once in a lifetime experience. You can learn more about the program here.
Kehinde Wiley: An Archeology of Silence at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (through May 27, 2024).
This exhibition of 26 paintings and bronze sculptures is not a typical museum show, with artworks presented on brightly lit white walls accompanied by lengthy wall labels. Instead, the galleries are darkened and the pieces are illuminated with precise “projector lights,” which focus on the works and don’t spread into the space around them. This installation, and the fact that the figures are all depicted horizontally prone, results in a series of haunting, chapel-like spaces conducive to contemplation. Kehinde Wiley’s powerful paintings and sculptures are all based on historical depictions of heroes, martyrs, and saints, but the figures have been replaced with Black men and women. The scale and the attention to detail elevate them into positions of power and grace.
A Gift From the Bower, organized by DiverseWorks and on view at the Locke Surls Center for Art and Nature, Splendora. Read our review here.
This show was organized by artists James Surls and Jack Massing in collaboration with DiverseWorks on the occasion of Surls’ 80th birthday in April. Thirteen artists, including Surls and Massing, were invited to install sculptures in small clearings (“bowers”) on the Surls-Locke property. The show debuted on Earth Day weekend and included music and performances inspired by the sculptures. It was a great pleasure to ramble through the piney woods and encounter these truly exceptional site-specific pieces. After two years of planning, the result was truly a gift for those who were fortunate enough to attend.
Amy Cutler: Past, Present, Progress at Ruby City, San Antonio (through February 25, 2024). Read our review here.
I first encountered Amy Cutler nearly 15 years ago through a book of her work, so I was absolutely delighted to learn that she was having her Texas debut this year at Ruby City in San Antonio. Her paintings are full of intricate details, causing one to linger. There’s something simultaneously contemporary and old-world about her work. And how thrilling to see one of her drawings come to life through a new installation piece that invites the visitor to step into her surreal world!
Competing with Lightning/Rivalizando con el Relámpago at The Contemporary Austin. Read our review here.
I’m grateful to The Contemporary Austin for introducing me to the work of Eamon Ore-Giron this year. His large-scale paintings combine modern geometric abstraction with Mesoamerican elements. The resulting imagery is powerful and breathtaking. I loved seeing how he reinterprets Aztec and Incan deities into vibrantly colored shapes. The exhibition also featured his most recent series, Infinite Regress, which felt like taking a road trip through a cosmic desert. Fortunately the gallery had a bench on which to sit, because these paintings deserved a moment of contemplation.
Day Jobs at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin. Read our review here.
Day Jobs is a show that I will never forget. Organized by Veronica Roberts and Lynne Maphies, this refreshing exhibition demystified romantic notions of what it means to be an artist, how artists support their creative endeavors, and where their ideas come from. This show was centered around a group of artists who draw inspiration from their day job in their work as artists, including Emma Amos, Larry Bell, Mark Bradford, Violette Bule, Lenka Clayton, Jeffrey Gibson, VLM (Virginia Lee Montgomery), Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez-Delgado, Robert Ryman, and Fred Wilson, among many others. I loved this show because it was a strong reminder that there are many ways of becoming an artist and sustaining a life as a maker.
Houston Remembering its Art History.
2023 has been a year of milestone anniversaries for Houston art organizations. Many of these institutions have used their celebrations as a chance to reflect on where they’ve come from, and also to consider how Houston, as city, fits into their futures. Project Row Houses celebrated its 30th birthday with a round dedicated to the organization’s founding artists; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is gearing up for its 75th next year with a reconsideration of its inaugural exhibition, and also a group show reflecting on Houston’s Freedmen’s Town. To top it off, the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum has marked its 50th with a book, featuring photographs of past shows and newly commissioned essays, and the Menil, while not celebrating an anniversary, put on an intimate show of works by Nestor Topchy that track the people who have shaped and are shaping art in the city. An art scene that reflects on itself and knows its own history is an art scene that can move forward in new and exciting ways. These organizations have decided to pause, take a breath, and look back to ensure that we can all take the next step together.
Prestige TV at its Finest.
Despite the months-long pall cast by both the writers’ and actors’ strikes, 2023 was a banner year for prestige television. Perhaps the most splashy of the finales was that of Succession, the wealth porn kingmaker show that has captivated America since 2018. The more under-the-radar final season of Barry (whose last episode also aired immediately following Succession’s), Bill Hader’s genre-bending thriller-comedy, may very well cement it as one of the best series of our lifetime. (It is also a proof-of-concept for Hader’s chops as a triple threat: actor-writer-director.)
And, just recently, the docu-series How to Survive with John Wilson also ran its final arc. Clocking in at just three seasons, this show has had an outsized impact on my mind. When the first season premiered, I binged it in one fell swoop, and then immediately called my partner into the room and watched it through again. Wilson has done the impossible of capturing New York, a constantly changing but ever-familiar place, in amber. The best art lets us see the world anew and highlights the wonderful, uncanny, fantastic things that pass us by. Wilson, by making an HBO show that undercuts the idea that it is an HBO show, has done just that. (Honorable TV mentions for the year include White Lotus, The Righteous Gemstones, Telemarketers, White House Plumbers, The Morning Show, and The Last of Us, particularly Nick Offerman’s heartbreaking episode.)
I’m thrilled by nearly every opportunity we have in Texas to see a major solo retrospective of works by a world-renown living artist. Kentridge’s show was no exception. While I knew of his work only by seeing dribs and drabs at different museums, this show, organized by The Broad and its brilliant curator, Ed Schad, and staged in Houston by the MFAH’s Alison de Lima Greene, laid bare Kentridge’s excellence as an artist. His craft has only gotten better as he ages, and his drawings and videos are captivating. I stayed in the show for many happy hours, and I could’ve spent many more.
A selection of very honorable mentions, in no particular order: the touching and pitch-perfect memorial for Houston artist and gallerist Wayne Gilbert (who I and the whole of Houston’s art scene will miss dearly); Houston gallery Seven Sisters’ inaugural exhibition, featuring large-scale ceramic works by Brie Ruais; Mitch Pengra’s wonderfully weird and captivating show at landSPACE: a kunsthalle in Austin; Rob Weingart’s intricately painted constructions at Lasso Gallery in Amarillo; visiting Amarillo Ramp in the rain (and celebrating its 50th birthday) with Canyon-based artist (and Glasstire writer) Jon Revett; JooYoung Choi’s maximalist world and Laure Prouvost’s immersive show (particularly her unsettling VR video) at the Moody Center for the Arts in Houston; El Franco Lee II’s hard-hitting paintings at the Houston Museum of African American Culture; Patrick Renner’s monumental constructions at the Architecture Center Houston; Eduardo Portillo’s sculptural paintings at Barbara Davis Gallery in Houston; a dizzying show of works by Einar and Jamex de la Torre at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi; Tammie Rubin’s ceramic hoods at Big Medium in Austin; the crazily ambitious and equally mesmerizing show Open Storage: 25 Years of Collecting at The Warehouse in Dallas; ceramics, paintings, and drawings by Ken Price at McClain Gallery in Houston; Ming Smith’s three-venue takeover of Houston; Jordan Strafer’s unsettling videos at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; and DUAL moving an airplane into the gallery at Reeves Art + Design.
Read our Best of lists from previous years below:
—Glasstire’s Best of 2022
—Our Favorite Art Books of 2022
—Glasstire’s Best of 2021
—Our Favorite Art Books of 2021
—Glasstire’s Best of 2020
—Glasstire’s Best of 2019