Simone Leigh's Iconic Satellite, newly completed for the MFAH; new modern and contemporary exhibitions
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Simone Leigh's Iconic Satellite, newly completed for the MFAH; new modern and contemporary exhibitions
Joan Semmel, Hand Down, 1977, oil on canvas, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Christine Connal. © 2023 Joan Semmel / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

HOUSTON, TX.- On August 9th, 2023 Simone Leigh’s towering, 24- foot-high Satellite (2022), an edition for Houston of the artist’s signature work from the 59th Venice Biennale, was installed in front of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for modern and contemporary art in October. Satellite was the centerpiece of the artist’s project for the American Pavilion in Venice, epitomizing her exploration of the Black female figure through bronze and aligning closely to her vessels, which symbolize and honor Black women. The piece is sited adjacent to Cristina Iglesias’ water sculpture Inner Landscape (2020), at the entrance to the Kinder Building.

In addition, a suite of three thematic exhibitions drawn from the MFAH collections of modern and contemporary art will now be on view, beginning September 2. This the second series curated for the third floor of the Kinder Building, which opened in November 2020. Encompassing painting, sculpture, and photography; prints and drawings; and decorative arts, craft and design, the three exhibitions delve into these exceptional collections to address environmental, social and political themes.

Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair of the MFAH, commented, “When, at the opening of last year’s Venice Biennale, I inquired about the availability of Simone Leigh’s Satellite, I was thrilled to learn that the artist would have a cast made specifically for Houston. Now that the bronze has been released by the foundry, I am delighted to announce the installation of this powerful work, which I am certain will become an iconic presence in front of the Kinder Building. It is an honor to have Simone Leigh represented at the Sarofim Campus, where her work will be in the company of recent monumental works by Ai Weiwei, El Anatsui, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Byung Hoon Choi, Ólafur Elíasson and Cristina Iglesias.”

He added, “When the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building opened in November 2020, we considered it a triumph – not only for completing the Fayez S. Sarofim campus during the pandemic but for allowing us to showcase for our public, for the first time, the incredible depth of our modern and contemporary collections. With just over one million visits to our campuses this past fiscal year, our community appears to agree. The installation of Satellite, and this next series of installations in the Kinder Building, will highlight for our public the strength of our modern and contemporary holdings, the fastest-growing segment of our collection.”

Thematic Exhibitions Address Environmental, Social and Political themes

Contested Landscapes brings together a selection of contemporary artworks that reexamine the traditional genre of landscape through an ecological lens. By using diverse materials and innovative techniques, the featured artists, including Teresita Fernández, Richard Long, Radcliffe Bailey, Edward Burtynsky, Kent Dorn, Harry Geffert, Soledad Salamé, Jennifer Trask, Zana Briski, Studio DRIFT, and Dawoud Bey, reshape representations of geography, topography, and the environment to critically examine humans’ interaction with the natural world. In their works, landscapes become contested sites of power, acting as indices of larger cultural concerns, movements, and residual traumas, specifically as issues such as climate change and environmental justice stem from the social, political, and economic motivations of establishing control over geographic territories. Through September 8, 2024. Organized by Rachel Mohl, Assistant Curator, Latin American Art.

Hidden Histories explores the notion of anti- monuments through the work of several generations of artists from Europe, the United States, Asia, Africa, and Latin America who use innovative artistic practices to memorialize aspects of the lives of ordinary citizens or places that have been ignored, sidelined, or deliberately obscured by official accounts. Unlike traditional monuments, these works do not rely on fixed narratives, celebratory gestures, or grandiose materials. Instead, they employ a variety of unconventional means and strategies aimed at encouraging viewers to think critically about the past and its relevance for the present and future. Featured artists include Allora & Calzadilla, Michael Armitage, Paul Briggs, Jamal Cyrus, Gilbert and George, Zhang Huan, Tom Huck, Kahlil Joseph, Anselm Kiefer, Julie Mehretu, Oscar Muñoz, Vincent Valdez and Adriana Corral, Kukuli Velarde, and Marie Watt. Through September 27, 2025. Organized by Alison de Lima Greene, Isabel Brown Wilson Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Mari Carmen Ramirez, Wortham Curator, Latin American Art.

Love Languages considers how artmaking itself is a type of love language, exploring conceptual concerns and narratives beyond reductive perspectives that center eros as the ultimate form of attachment. By engaging the necessity of intimacy in interpersonal and collective relationships, works by artists including Dawoud Bey, Francesco Clemente, Nicole Eisenman, Louis Fratino, Ron Nagle, Anna Park, Joyce J. Scott, Rashod Taylor, and Billie Zangewa offer insights into the question, "How do we prioritize tenderness against debilitating social conditions?" Through September 27, 2025. Organized by Anita N. Bateman, Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art.

New Installations for Departmental Galleries Highlight Recent Acquisitions

Decorative Arts, Craft and Design In addition to the three thematic exhibitions on the third floor, the galleries on the second floor, which continue to be devoted to the individual departments of Photography, Prints and Drawings, and Decorative Art, Design and Craft, are being reinstalled. This new installation focuses on American Design of the 1920s and 1930s, one of the most creative eras for American design. Some designers responded to the visual delight of the modern city with its towering skyscrapers. Recent developments in transportation, the national obsession with speed, and the technology of streamlining also deeply influenced the designs of this period. In addition, the rise of the industrial design profession during this period forever changed the production of functional design, which placed increasing value on the aesthetics of the object. American Modern, 1920s and 1930s Design highlights furniture and industrial design from the period, including seminal objects by Norman Bel Geddes, Donald Deskey, Paul Frankl, Walter Dorwin Teague, John Vassos, Walter Von Nessen, and K.E.M. Weber. The installation also includes recent acquisitions by Helen Dryden and E. McKnight Kauffer, now on view for the first time. Through August 2024. Organized by Cindi Strauss, Sara and Bill Morgan Curator, Department of Decorative Arts.

Photography This new chronological selection of photographs begins with a recently acquired, exceedingly rare, and exceptionally well-preserved daguerreotype by Alphonse Eugène Hubert, Louis Daguerre’s assistant in the days leading up to the announcement of photography’s invention. Another major 19th-century acquisition on view is an album of photographic portraits that Julia Margaret Cameron made for her daughter and son-in-law and that descended in the family until its purchase by the Museum in 2021. A group of pictures by the pioneering Houston photojournalist Caroline Valenta—including a view of July 4, 1949, festivities at the dazzling, new Shamrock Hotel, the legendary Houston locale—caps a section devoted to mid-century female photographers. More recent years are represented by works by Cindy Sherman, Catherine Wagner, Gabriel Orozco, Lebohang Kganye, and many others. The adjacent galleries have large-scale contemporary works by Laurie Simmons, Marilyn Minter, Nan Goldin, Sze Tsung Leong, Chuck Ramirez, and others, as well as a rotating program of video art. Through January 2024. Organized by Malcolm Daniel, Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator, and Lisa Volpe, Curator Department of Photography.

Prints and Drawings A suite of independent sections highlights strengths of the museum’s collection. “Spectacle: Turn-of-the-Century Entertainment,” demonstrates how modern artists responded to the rapid growth of commercial entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Europe and the United States; “Screen, Ink, Pressure: The Screenprint Surge at Midcentury” exemplifies the flourishing of fine-art screen printing during the 1960s and ‘70s and includes a special focus on the medium’s particular relationship to contemporary social and political movements of that era. Finally, “Paulson Fontaine Press: Prints by Isca Greenfield-Sanders,” spotlights work that the New York-based artist created between 2006 and 2019 at the Berkeley, California, intaglio printmaking studio, which has a reputation for amplifying important, often underrepresented voices in the visual arts. Over the course of her almost two-decade relationship with the studio, Greenfield-Sanders has created prints that merge centuries-old techniques of painting and intaglio printmaking with late-20th-century photography and 21st-century photo scanning and retouching technology. Through January 2024. Organized by Dena Woodall, Curator, Prints and Drawings.

Nancy and Rich Kinder Building

Dedicated for the display of the Museum’s outstanding and fast-growing international collections of modern and contemporary art, the Kinder Building completed the decade-long expansion and enhancement of the Museum’s Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus when it opened in November 2020. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the 237,000-square-foot building has three floors of galleries, with additional exhibition space and a theatre on its lower level. Placed in and around the Kinder Building are major site-specific commissioned works by eight international artists: El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Ólafur Elíasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias, Jason Salavon, and Ai Weiwei.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Contested Landscapes
September 2nd, 2023 - September 8th, 2024
Hidden Histories
September 2nd, 2023 - September 27th, 2025
Love Languages
September 2nd, 2023 - September 27th, 2025

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