Whether you’re visiting a new city or just going home, a break from school is always a good excuse to see museums. While in Houston, Texas over spring break I visited two amazing art collections: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Menil Collection. Later in the week, while at my parents’ home outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the world renowned Foto exhibition.
I will just give you a glimpse of what I saw, hopefully encouraging you visit the museums and experience their wonderful art collections.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Composed of two distinctly modern buildings, one designed by Mies van der Rohe and the other designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, were designed some 40 years apart. The Moneo building houses a collection that includes Greek and Egyptian sculpture, and an assortment of impressionist and religious paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. The collection of impressionist paintings was beautiful. Impressionist work allows the viewer to escape into a fairytale land that seems so remote from the world we live in.
An excellent exhibit of Bill Brandt’s photographs was on display as well. Brand, a twentieth century British photographer, focused his artistic attentions on British society, nudes, and landscapes. He elegantly treated his nude photographs as if they were landscapes, emphasizing the curves and undulating forms of the human body.
Across the street the Mies building houses a blockbuster exhibition on relics from Pompeii. The relics consisted of metal objects like jewelry and utensils. Copies of frescos, wall paintings found inside houses, were also shown giving a glimpse of artistic ability and quality of the time. It was fascinating to view remains of a destroyed city.
The Menil Collection
It is the fusion of the tangible and intangible.
-Dominique de Menil, 1987
The Menil Collection, the art collection of John and Dominque de Menil, is known as one of the most important private collections amassed in the twentieth century. A combination of medieval masterpieces; surrealist paintings and drawings; and paintings from world renown artists such as Mark Rothko, Rene Magritte, and Pablo Piccasso make up this collection. Only small portions of the collection are shown at one time in intimate rooms. Traveling shows are also shown. A unique roof system with skylights and large windows in sections of the building allow natural light to flood the interior. A truly one of a kind collection and space, this museum is worth traveling to Houston to see.
The Milwaukee Art Museum
Hopefully, many of you have been fortunate enough to at least see pictures of the Milwaukee Art Museum if you have not been able to visit it. It is an exceptionally designed building by Santiago Calatrava. Lake Michigan provides an excellent backdrop to the museum’s breath-taking skyline.
Currently, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s showcase exhibition is Foto, Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945. Showing until May 4th, this exhibition is a must-see. This show highlights the rise of photography in central Europe in the years following World War I through World War II years. Progressive artists as well as amateurs eagerly grasped on to photography as a form of expressing thoughts of the modernity that was springing up around them. Mass media and consumer economies forced an agrarian society in modernity. Photography became a way for artists to comment on society and tell the story of post-war Europe. Strong photography programs were established in art schools and commercial studios. As we’re all very aware, the Bauhaus was in the forefront of the photography movement.
The photographs on display show an array of photographic technique and styles, including: photomontage, portraits, urban scenes/buildings, surrealism, activist documents and landscapes. Photographs by Laszlo Moholy Nagy as well as his wife, Lucia Moholy were featured in this exhibition.
The beautiful composition of the photographs as well as the unique styles made this exhibition one of the best I’ve seen. The fact that when you look at a photograph you can see and feel what the photographer saw and felt is what makes this medium of design truly mesmerizing.