Art Notes


A Fabled Kingdom, Those German Impressionists and True Fireworks: Look no further than the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for a pair of exhibitions that are rewriting art history. First up, a jewel-like show for sculptures from the ancient African kingdom of Ife (9th to 15th centuries) showcasing %26#8220;Dynasty and Divinity%26#8221; via cast copper heads and figures that are regal, mysterious and imbued with an inscrutable presence. The MFAH%26#8217;s Frances Marzio organizes the presentation in Houston (through January 9) ... Also in the Beck Building, the American debut of German Impressionists, as the MFAH mounts a blockbuster-scale show highlighting landscapes by Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth and Max Slevogt, co-curated by Helga Aurisch, alongside a focused exhibition of drawings, watercolors and prints by the esteemed trio, whose works have rarely been shown outside the continent. Dena Woodall organizes the works-on-paper exhibition (both through December 5) ... It%26#8217;s literally an explosive scene when international artist Cai Guo-Qiang comes to town to create a portal for the new Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery, unveiling at the MFAH%26#8217;s Law Building on October 17. The excitement swirls around Guo-Qiang%26#8217;s gunpowder drawings, blasted onto 42 panels, which will be created from live fireworks set off at a warehouse near Reliant Center in five sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 5 and 6. To attend (free), download a ticket from mfah.org.
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Collage Kings: The Menil Collection is the place to be when director Josef Helfenstein co-curates a major survey of the under-known Kurt Schwitters (1887 %26#8211; 1948), an important talent who inspired generations of collage masters from Rauschenberg and Twombly to heavily collected Texan Lance Letscher, whose show at McMurtrey Gallery coincides with the Menil%26#8217;s for the German collage king (Schwitters, October 22 %26#8211; January 30; Letscher, October 23 %26#8211; November 27).
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True Texans: Plan a Dallas road trip for the Nasher Sculpture Center%26#8217;s extraordinary retrospective for James Magee, an El Paso%26#8211;based artist (and poet) whose mythic Hill is one of the great works of land art on a scale with Smithson, Heizer and Turrell%26#8217;s creations. Utterly majestic and unflinching, it resides in a remote area outside Magee%26#8217;s hometown (through November 28) ... While you%26#8217;re there, head to Fort Worth for The Modern%26#8217;s 30-year survey of the emperor of Texas painters, Vernon Fisher, aka Mr. Pop Postmodern, whose canvases often need a Rosetta stone or storyboard to decipher their cinematic narrative (through January 2).
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Get Crafty/Astro World Anyone?: Hurry to Houston Center for Contemporary Craft for the biggest show of the year, the hotly anticipated %26#8220;Craft Texas,%26#8221; which spans a gamut of media and methods as it showcases the best and brightest stars in today%26#8217;s craft firmament (through December 30) ... You won%26#8217;t want to miss this weird little show: Bill Davenport%26#8217;s Optical Project is restoring the original model of Astro World, crafted by Ed Henderson (call 713.863.7112 for dates). Wander next door to see some mystery bags culled by the artist%26#8217;s sons, Phineas and Oscar, and Davenport%26#8217;s ongoing project: a pristine, gargantuan ball of yarn.
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Painter%26#8217;s Progress: Londoner Danny Rolph%26#8217;s high-voltage abstractions redefine 21st-century painting via inventive materials such as industrial plastic and collaged elements from his kids%26#8217; coloring books (Barbara Davis Gallery, October 15 %26#8211; November 6) ... Heights provocateur Wayne Gilbert is among the Texas talents selected for New American Paintings, an eagerly watched volume that prognosticates upon the most tantalizing contempo artists who tackle the medium of painting. Menil curator Toby Kamps juried this edition, which arrives this month (newamericanpaintings.com).
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Alternative Action/Rock %26#8217;n%26#8217; Roll: Some of the freshest shows around are being curated at the east-of-downtown, artist-run alternative space Box 13. Recommended: a micro exhibition by JoAnn Park that deals with hoarding and history, Kia Niell%26#8217;s glittering manufactured boulders, a soundscape by Lina Dib, and Ariana Roesch and Christoph H%26#252;ppi's collaboration in an old Kenmore (all shows through October 21) ... At Bering Art Collective, Houston painter John Jenkins takes on rock %26#8217;n%26#8217; roll in a show that spills over to actual electric guitars (October 9 %26#8211;%26nbsp;30).
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Bookin%26#8217; It at the Menil, Apama%26#8217;s New Museum: Have you been to the Menil Bookstore lately? The volume-centric destination gets a handsome redux as former Core Fellow Paul Forsythe takes the helm. Forsythe is well known to book-obsessed locals for running Brazos Bookstore from the %26#8217;90s till 2005 and for his own rare-book enterprise, Exquisite Corpse Booksellers. He now stocks the Menil Bookstore with out-of-print tomes, has added a children%26#8217;s section and has returned to the mission of its late founding manager, Sheila Rosenstein, who exhibited Houston artists. On the walls now, catch collagists Russell Prince and antiquarian David Lackey ... Respected Art Basel Miami Beach%26#8211;exhibited gallerist Apama Mackey shares news of her new nonprofit: A 501c3 is being formed for a Museum of Drawing [MOD], which takes drawing from pencil and paper to the video realm, and promises to be intriguing and innovative. Stay tuned %26#8230;
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Just in: A book signing for droll painter Sally Chandler, whose latest volume is toasted at Ouisie%26#8217;s Table Sunday, October 17, 4 to 6 pm (RSVP 713.528.2264).
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Images:
Seated figure, Tada, late 13th %26#8211; 14th century, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; %26#169; National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, courtesy Museum for African Art/Fundaci%26#243;n Marcelino Bot%26#237;n. Photo Karin L. Willis.
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JoAnn Park%26#8217;s %26#8220;Saving It for Later, Making It Better%26#8221; (detail), 2010, at Box 13
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