PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston October 2020

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T his season, the vaunted Menil Collection reopens with not one, but two prescient exhibitions, each one years in the making: "Virginia Jaramillo: The Curvilinear Paintings, 1969-1974," and "Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon." Both exhibits, on view into the summer of 2021, arrive at a time when big ideas, social engagement, and movements to save the planet and redress the role of women in art history have pressing urgency. Catherine D. Anspon conducts a Q&A with the force behind these dual shows, Menil senior curator Michelle White. First encounter with Virginia J a r a m i l l o ' s p a i n t i n g . Michelle White: I have long been aware of Virginia's work. She was the only woman and Latina artist in "The De Luxe Show," organized by the Menil Foundation in 1971 [in Houston's De Luxe Theater, Fifth Ward] — an important show that dealt with abstraction among a multiracial group of artists — and through her inclusion in Menil DoubleheaDer: Climate Calamity + Power Femme some really groundbreaking exhibitions about race, beginning with "Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960– 1980" in 2011 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. On the exhibit timing. Planning her exhibition was first about the 50th anniversary of "The De Luxe Show." Secondly, we were excited to participate in a nationwide initiative called the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC). Hundreds of art organizations around the country are organizing shows that confront questions about exclusion in the arts and to promote equality. For Virginia, the fact that this is her first museum solo show at 81 years of age is telling! So many artists have been left out through art history. My hope as a curator, and through initiatives like the FAC, is that we can recognize the power of exhibitions and museums to change the way we think about the past. O n J a r a m i l l o ' s p a i n t i n g s i n p o s t - w a r a b s t r a c t i o n . What I think makes this work unique is the artist's incredibly lyrical use of line and color. The way she activates the surface of these dense and saturated fields of color by slicing through the pigment with thin dancing and curving contours is magnificent. On Allora & Calzadilla. All artists transform the gallery. While Maurizio Cattelan — and I'll also add Robert Gober, Mona Hatoum, and Luc Tuymans, among many others — have installed their work in incredible ways here … we have never done a project on such an ambitious scale, with all work conceived for our space. The Menil presentation is the first major solo show by the artists in Texas. How do you see the a r t i s t s c o n n e c t i n g with museum-goers? What could be a more fitting analogy for 2020 than a heightened atmosphere of bewilderment? This work is truly about the immediate present, and by adopting the strategies of disorientation that define historical surrealism, captured by the idea of noon being this fleeting time when shadows disappear and peculiar things happen in the glaring light, the artists certainly want the audience to be able to have an experience that might illuminate … this strange moment in time. How this show came to be. I was first introduced to the artists by their friend and former Contemporary Arts Museum Houston curator Dean Daderko. They were flying through Houston en route to a show in Canada, and I truly tackled them. I had been following their work for quite a while and have long been impressed by their ability — through performance, sound, and sculpture — to illicit the idea of the uncanny: making the familiar strange. Virginia Jaramillo in her Spring Street studio, New York City, 1968 from top: photo DaviD regen, © allora & CalzaDilla; Courtesy glaDstone gallery, nyC anD Brussels. photo mitChell trout; Courtesy the artist anD hales, lonDon anD nyC. Allora & Calzadilla's Graft, 2019, at The Menil Collection 80

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