May 19, 2011

Houston Welcomes the American Association of Museums Conference!

The American Association of Museums (AAM), the world’s largest museum service organization, will hold its annual conference in Houston, bringing more than 5,000 museum professionals from around the world. The 105th AAM Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo™ will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center from May 22-25, 2011.
Houston is excited to host the AAM conference and showcase the city's diverse museum, cultural and educational communities. The AAM conference and its 170 thought-provoking sessions will afford attendees from more than 55 countries the opportunity to advance leadership, deepen professional practices and promote innovation in museums that serve children, families and lifelong learners as informal education institutions. This marks the first time that this event will be held in Houston and Houston’s museum community is ready.

The AAM 2011 Local Host Committee has planned lots of exciting events and activities in conjunction with the conference for the community. From the PODA Project and free community performances at Discovery Green to a community service project at the Houston Museum of African American Culture to the first ever AAM Public Session Track to the Art Car Parade......there are lots of fun ways for Houstonians to participate! Visit to sign up for blog notifications and keep up with all the exciting activities that are coming soon.

Houston is proud to host AAM’s first-ever Public Session Track, which extends beyond the traditional professional development and networking opportunities offered in the conference to sessions designed to build the relationship between museums and the communities they serve. Each Public Session Track is unique. Examples are a session for parents and caregivers, another for museum board members and trustees, another for folks who want a behind-the-scenes look at the world of collections and the role of the registrar in a museum. There’s also a special roundtable session for folks who want to get involved in our museum community….from donor to docent and everything in between.

May 13, 2011

What is your favorite piece in the exhibit "Lisa Gralnick: The Gold Standard"?

With the closing of Lisa Gralnick: The Gold Standard at the end of the month, we decided to ask the staff to share their favorite pieces from this expansive exhibition, which is comprised of Gralnick’s work from the past seven years. The show is up through Saturday, May 28, 2011. If you’ve visited the show, please share your favorites in the comments below!

Julie Farr, Executive Director, writes about enjoying the works in Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy. She loves that Gralnick honors the original intent of the gold by preserving people’s sentimentally charged objects as plaster artifacts of emotion.

Communications Director, Mary Headrick, is fascinated by all of Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy. "I like the dual effect of first seeing a piece that is visually intriguing and then reading the text, which gives each piece a deeper meaning. After you see a few pieces, the whole concept really clicks. They're all so clever. My favorites are probably Rhinoplasty, Zoloft, and the Italian Shoes.

Education Director, Carol Klahn, chose the Coin Collection Picture Gallery in Part III: Transubstantiation and the Historicized Object as her favorite because of her love of art history. She loves the ambiguity of the tiny paintings and that many of them seem to be variations on historical designs. She enjoys that there are many things that are familiar about the designs of the miniature gouache paintings, but that it is hard to pinpoint all of the influences. She also likes these because she is a fan of gouache paintings and loves the way they contrast with their gold frames.

An avid coffee drinker, Volunteer Coordinator, Marina Lewis enjoys Lisa Gralnick's #7 Starbucks Coffee. It reminds her of how expensive coffee can be and to enjoy it.

Lisa Gralnick, The Gold Standard Part I: #6 Zoloft (detail)
Plaster, gold and acrylic, Photo by: Jim Escalante

Curatorial Assistant, Ashley Powell, chose #6 Zoloft in Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy. She found the piece to be clever and a bit humorous because the artist has managed to put a price or value on happiness / mental health. She also likes the way Gralnick used only a portion of the gold needed to equal the monetary value on the medicine bottles, and with the rest of the gold she made a beautiful necklace with beads in the shape of Zoloft pills.

Asher Gallery Manager, Suzanne Sippel’s favorite is #4 Violin in Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy. She appreciates this piece because it was cast from Gralnick’s own violin and the investment the artist has in this piece because of that incredibly personal touch. She also identifies with this piece because Gralnick is displaying herself as not only an artist but a musician as well.

Lisa Gralnick, The Gold Standard Part I: #4 Violin
Plaster, gold, violin strings and acrylic
Photo by: Jim Escalante
Asher Gallery Sales Associate and Gallery Attendant, M’kina Tapscott, chose # 3 Cell Phone in Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy as her favorite because this piece works on multiple layers. It is a historical account of technology because of its dated and antique look, resembling a home phone of today more than a cell phone. The work is also a documentation of the price of gold at that time and how it has increased over the years.

Asher Gallery Sales Associate, Zoya Tommy, likes the #1 Sink in Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy because it is the focal point of the show. She is interested in the way it’s positioned in the show and the way it stands out because of its isolation. She also appreciates this piece because of its domesticity and she has seen other works that use sinks and finds it interesting to see how different artists work with this subject.

#17 Duncan Painting in Frame in Part I: Commodification and the Sensible Economy is Curator, Anna Walker’s favorite. She appreciates that it is a reference to an art object, a painting in this case, and how the value would usually be based on the image. However, Gralnick has removed the image, causing the viewer to confront how we value art. Walker also likes how well executed the gold corner of the piece is, from transitions in texture from canvas to frame.

Jenny Lynn Weitz, Web and Marketing Assistant, likes every single piece from Part II: Phenomenology and Substantialism because of the heavily personal stories behind each melted item. “I think that Lisa did a great job cataloguing the owner’s reasoning for selling their valuable gold belongings to her to melt, and then create the pieces for Part III. Through the label descriptions, we can see that some of the items in Part II are there because of broken marriages, deceased relatives, economic hardship, all of which are incredible emotional, intriguing… it makes me want to know more about all the previous owners, see pictures of them or know how they feel about this exhibition.”

View of Part II: Phenomenology and Substantialism
Photo by Jack Zilker

Nyala Wright, Associate Director of Fundraising, chose the Fourteen Unusually Small Rings in Part III: Transubstantiation and the Historicized Object because of their delicateness and beauty. They make her wish she had tiny fingers so she could wear them.

If you've had a chance to visit the exhibition share your favorite below. We hope you will stop by to see this great show before it closes May 28!

May 5, 2011

Curator Anna Walker on Texas Biennial Art

You may have been reading about different exhibitions around Houston that are participating in the 2011 Texas Biennial.   Our exhibition, Joan Son – Part Geometry, Part Zen: A Personal Exploration through Paper, is part of this event. However, the Texas Biennial is new to Houston and began as an artist-driven event in Austin, Texas, that has grown to include many cities across the state.

The other weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a Contemporary Arts Curators’ Meeting in Austin, co-hosted by the 2011 Texas Biennial and Arthouse at the Jones Center. (The day of panels and discussions was well covered by Kelly Klaasmeyer of Glasstire.) While the Curators’ meeting was productive and engaging, I wanted to take time to share a few images of work I saw over that weekend. Hopefully, you will find your way up to Austin in the coming weeks and be able to see some of these great shows.

Debra Broz is trained in china restoration and has work in the current exhibit, New Art in Austin, at the Austin Museum of Art. Pictured here is lepus loprachoa (cockatoo hare). Other works from her Oddities series include feeding, pictured below.

Debra Broz, lepus loprachoa (cockatoo hare).

Debra Broz, feeding.

On display at the Pump Project Art Complex is work by Gabriel Dawe, as part of the 2011 Texas Biennial. Dawe creates large-scale installations with sewing thread, a material traditionally used in “women’s work,” and had an electrifying piece in the corner of the space. A piece from plexus no. 4 at the Dallas Contemporary is pictured below.

Gabriel Dawe, plexus no. 4.

Also part of the 2011 Texas Biennial, Margarita Cabrera’s project, Florezca, involves selling indigenous Mexican folk art and craft from a repurposed taco truck.  Cabrera works at the intersection of contemporary art and collaborative social projects, and all of the proceeds go back to the artisans to promote fair labor and trade.

Right here in Houston, Box 13 is a place to go to see more great work by artists from the 2011 Texas Biennial. I particularly like the upstairs installation by Laurie Frick, A long walk thru cardboard, pictured below.

Laurie Frick, A long walk thru cardboard.

Anna Walker, Curator
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft