Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston – 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红

We came down like the rain, hard and angular. I landed in Houston in the midst of a vicious storm, not long before air traffic control grounded all departing flights. This wasn’t in the forecast, I thought – but then the airwaves that weekend were full of shaky predictions: a big Blue Wave was coming, and it was going to break first in Texas. I had arrived for the opening preview of the new Menil Drawing Institute, four days before the US midterm elections.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, the city was far from prepared. Its low-lying sprawl flooded faster than anyone had expected; its highways became muddy estuaries. With 107 dead and more than 30,000 displaced, it remains tied for the costliest cyclone on record. On the ground, in this new storm, little seemed to have changed. As I dined downtown, the wind howled as it swept palms backwards in limbo poses. Rain flowed over low curbs and shallow gutters, with nowhere else to go. Houston’s flood control system, like its urban topography, is a patchwork that’s difficult to piece together – reflective, perhaps, of this largely unplanned city, with its low-lying suburbs and wealthy enclaves on higher ground.


Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红

South Elevation, Menil Drawing Institute, Louisa Stude Sarofim Building, Texas. Courtesy: the Menil Collection, Houston; photograph: Richard Barnes

The stately Menil Collection is nestled in one dry pocket, a residential neighbourhood known as the Oaks. Nearby River Oaks is home to George H.W. Bush, and the former residence of Dominique de Menil, the Collection’s founder and a visionary patron of postwar art. (The house itself, completed in 1950, is a modern marvel, from its Philip Johnson design to its luscious Charles James interiors. The two men’s contentious relationship might be the most productive queer catfight in the history of home design.) The Menil’s campus has always been as forward-thinking: from its landmark 1986 Renzo Piano building to its famously austere Rothko Chapel. The Drawing Institute, designed by LA-based firm Johnston MarkLee, is a sensitive addition to the museum’s campus. The low-slung roofline, formed from vast sheets of white-lacquered steel, zig-zags like accordion-folded origami paper. To the east and west, these sheets extend beyond the Institute’s exterior walls to form elegant veranda around square Zen gardens, planted with magnolias and chunks of zebra-striped marble. A third courtyard, to the north, provides ample light – and a garden view – for the curatorial offices that face it.

According to architect Sharon Johnston, the Institute’s design merges domestic qualities of the Menil House – a low profile and central courtyard – with the liturgical orientation of a church: a central nave-like axis the architects call ‘the living room’ fills the interior lobby with light, which pours in through glass walls and catches in the ceiling’s angular vaults. This hall is as ample as the only exhibition space, which adjoins it – a relatively small rectangular gallery with plastered windows and modulated lighting – making the Institute’s architecture feel more immediately open and inviting than its art. This is reflected as well by the many spaces tucked out of view, like the cloistered study centre and subterranean storage facility: enviable scholarly resources that will mostly remain hidden from the public. (The latter sits in a kind of ‘bathtub’, an elaborate flood-control system.)


Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红

Jasper Johns, Bushbaby, 2004, acrylic and graphite pencil on paper mounted on paper, 87 x 60 cm. Courtesy: The Menil Collection, Houston, © Jasper Johns and VAGA at Artists Rights Society(ARS), New York

As the fifth building on the Menil campus, the Drawing Institute is also the first freestanding museum dedicated to modern drawing in the United States. This is surprising, given the medium’s almost incomprehensible elasticity (though Menil curators define it by paper support). It seems fitting, then, that the Institute’s inaugural exhibition should be of the modern master Jasper Johns, whose works on paper and acetate are perhaps his most beguiling. Johns began drawing on plastic at least as early as 1966, and the exhibition features early examples of his iconic Numbers and Flags. Two remarkable charcoal body prints, Skin (1965) and Skin I (1973), show the artist’s face, palm and arm hair as if pressed against foggy glass. In later plastic drawings, such as Periscope (1977) and Farley Breaks Down (2014), ink pools in eddies, distorting Johns’s signature motifs into an oily mirage.

‘BIG OIL STRIKES GUSHER OF PROFITS’ read a front-page headline in The Houston Chronicle on the morning of the Drawing Institute’s private opening. Though founded in 1836 by land speculators, Houston has always been an oil town: when black gold was first struck there in 1900, its population doubled twice within two decades. Dominique de Menil was heiress to Schlumberger Limited, a drilling equipment corporation. The news seemed crowned by that night’s gala, a glitzy parade of silk cravats and flowing ball gowns. I scanned for a glimpse of the Bushes.


Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红

Cassils, Inextinguishable Fire, 2018, single-channel video, installation view, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston. Courtesy: the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; photograph: Alejandro Santiago

The other news that day was one of impending invasion: a young, telegenic congressman from El Paso was on track to become the first Democratic Senator from Texas in 25 years. Beto O’Rourke became an unlikely national sensation when he won the nomination to unseat Ted Cruz, a right-winger so vile even his conservative colleagues dubbed him ‘Lucifer’. Young, charismatic, frank and progressive, O’Rourke seemed a model of everything Cruz is not. And in bruise-blue Houston, his apparent popularity suggested a broader change was coming. Long-held Republican districts – including the Menil’s – were suddenly, for the first time, in play. A literal turf war unfolded in River Oaks, where sprawling mansions duelled their neighbours with lawn signs.

By some figures, Houston is the most diverse and fastest-growing city in the US – and so, tired of the gala’s white septuagenarian crowd, I set out for a nightcap at a local gay bar. Guava Lamp was mostly empty, but a succession of drag queens mounted a small stage as a group of their friends cheered them on. The crowd was mostly Hispanic, the soundtrack Selena and Celia Cruz. A small Day of the Dead shrine to famous divas burned by the corner of the bar, and one queen shared her story of coming to the US from Mexico as an infant, and learning about her heritage through what others had carried with them. When she finished Cruz’s swan-song, La vida es un carnaval, her face painted skeletal white, the MC switched the radio on by accident. ‘John Culberson is WRONG on healthcare.’ The crowd, too used to campaign ads, stifled a laugh.


Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红

Cassil, PISSED Alter, 2018, urine collected from the citizens of Houston, boric acid, acrylic, installation view, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas. Courtesy: the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; photograph: Alejandro Santiago

The first Republican to win Culberson’s district (the Texas 7th, which includes the Oaks) was George H.W. Bush – who died last Thursday – during his first run in 1967. It has been in GOP hands ever since. Wealthy Houston’s voting represented a shift for the Republican party towards fiscal and social conservatism. Culberson ads played nonstop on an AM channel in my Uber as I travelled to the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, a squat garage straddled by a parking lot, its asphalt cracking in the sun. There, the performance artist Cassils was erecting an irreverent monument to the election: a towering, refrigerated glass tank of urine, 200 gallons of it, collected from Houston residents. The piece (PISSED, 2018), a reference to the discriminatory ‘bathroom bills’ presented every year in the Texas Statehouse – to restrict the use of public lavatories to people of the corresponding birth-assigned genders – had a strangely religious visual effect (all references to Andres Serrano aside): it faced, opposite a long, narrow corridor, a huge projection of the artist doused in flames. The video, Inextinguishable Fire (2007–15), shows Cassils garbed in a ski mask and slathered in flame-retardant gel, as real fire slowly consumes the frame. No stranger to physical pain, Cassils has also melted ice with their naked body – Tiresias (2011), also performed at the Station – and re-enacted police beatings as solo choreography on the floor of a dimly light parking garage (Powers That Be, 2015), documentation of which screens in surround here. On my way out of the museum, an attendant dutifully handed me a polling place sticker. ‘I PISSED’, it read against the stripes of an American flag.

I came, I pissed, I voted. Though the Big Blue Wave never quite broke, Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives. Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz, but John Culberson was unseated by a young progressive named Lizzie Fletcher. For the time being, oil will continue to flow and rain will keep on pouring in this dysfunctional yet diverse metropolis. How Houston handles its ruptured demographics and turbulent climate may point the way for the rest of the country.

Main image: Jasper Johns, Untitled (detail), 1984, ink on plastic, 67 x 87 cm. Courtesy: The Menil Collection, © 2018 Jasper Johns and VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Evan Moffitt

Evan Moffitt is associate editor of frieze, based in New York, USA. 

PISSED Alter, urine collected from the citizens of Houston, boric acid, acrylic, installation view, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas. Courtesy: the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; photograph: Alejandro Santiago 


City Report /

Jasper Johns
Menil Drawing Institute
Art & Politics
Evan Moffitt
American Politics
The Menil Collection

我们像雨一样下着,又硬又角。我在一场猛烈的暴风雨中降落在休斯敦,不久,空中交通管制就停止了所有起飞的航班。我想这在预测中没有,但是那个周末的电视广播充满了不稳定的预测:一个巨大的蓝浪即将来临,而且它将在得克萨斯州首开纪录。我是在美国中期选举前四天来参加新梅尼尔画研究所的开幕式预览的。当哈维飓风在2017年8月袭击休斯敦时,这个城市还远远没有做好准备。它的低洼地势蔓延,淹没的速度比任何人预料的都要快;它的公路变成了泥泞的河口。由于107人死亡,30000多人流离失所,它仍然是有史以来最昂贵的气旋。在地面上,在这场新的暴风雨中,似乎没有什么变化。当我在市中心用餐时,风呼啸着,手掌向后摇晃着。雨水流过低矮的路边和浅沟,没有别的地方可去。休斯敦的防洪系统,就像它的城市地形一样,是一个很难拼凑起来的拼凑体——也许,反映了这个很大程度上没有计划的城市,低洼的郊区和高地上的富裕飞地。9.-2c6a2988.jpg Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红南海拔,Menil绘图研究所,路易莎学生萨罗菲姆大楼,德克萨斯州。礼貌:休斯敦的曼尼尔收藏馆;照片:理查德·巴恩斯。庄严的曼尼尔收藏馆坐落在一个干涸的口袋里,一个叫做橡树的居民区。在橡树河附近,乔治·H·W·布什(George H.W.Bush)的家,也是多米尼克·德·梅尼尔(Dominique de Menil)的故居。(这座房子本身于1950年完工,是一个现代的奇迹,从菲利普·约翰逊的设计到美味的查尔斯·詹姆斯的内部装饰。)这两个人的有争议的关系可能是家居设计史上最富有成效的怪异争吵。)梅尼尔的校园一直以来都是前瞻性的:从标志性的1986年伦佐钢琴楼到著名的简朴的罗斯科教堂。由总部位于洛杉矶的约翰斯顿·马克·李公司设计的绘画学院是博物馆校园中一个敏感的组成部分。低垂的屋顶,由大片白漆钢制成,呈锯齿状,像手风琴折叠的折纸纸。在东部和西部,这些床单超出了研究所的外墙,形成了围绕方形禅宗花园的优雅阳台,种植了玉兰和斑马条纹大理石。北面的第三个庭院为面对它的馆长办公室提供了充足的光线和花园景观。根据建筑师莎伦·约翰斯顿的说法,该研究所的设计融合了门尼尔住宅——一个低调的中心庭院——的家庭气质和教堂的礼拜取向:一个被建筑师称为“起居室”的中心中殿般的轴线,将室内大厅充满光线,光线通过玻璃墙倾泻而入,并被捕捉。在天花板的角形拱顶。这个大厅和毗邻它的唯一展览空间一样宽敞——一个带有石膏窗和调制照明的相对小的矩形画廊——使研究所的建筑比它的艺术品更直接、更吸引人。这同样也反映在许多被遮挡在外面的空间里,比如隐蔽的学习中心和地下存储设施:令人羡慕的学术资源,这些资源将绝大部分隐藏在公众面前。(后者坐落在一种“浴缸”里,一个精心设计的防洪系统。)18-2005_50_v02_m.jpg Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红 Jasper Johns,Bush.,2004,87x 60 cm的纸上装有丙烯酸和石墨铅笔。礼貌:纽约艺术家权利协会(ARS)的梅尼尔收藏馆,休斯敦,贾斯珀·约翰斯和VAGA。作为梅尼尔校园的第五栋建筑,画院也是美国第一个致力于现代绘画的独立博物馆。这是令人惊讶的,因为媒体具有几乎不可理解的弹性(尽管Menil的策展人通过纸质支持来定义它)。因此,该研究所的首次展览应该是现代大师贾斯珀·约翰斯的,这似乎很合适,他在纸和醋酸盐方面的作品也许是他最具欺骗性的。约翰斯早在1966年就开始用塑料绘画,这次展览的特点是他标志性的数字和旗帜的早期例子。《皮肤》(1965)和《皮肤I》(1973)这两幅引人注目的木炭车身照片展示了艺术家的脸、手掌和手臂的头发,仿佛被压在雾霭霭的玻璃上。在后来的塑料绘画中,如潜望镜(1977)和法利(2014),墨水在涡流中汇聚,把约翰的签名图案扭曲成油腻的海市蜃楼。《休斯敦纪事报》的头版头条标题写着“巨额油价吞噬利润”。尽管休斯敦是由土地投机者于1836年建立的,但它一直是一个石油城市:当1900年黑金第一次出现在那里时,它的人口在20年内翻了一番。多米尼克·德·梅尼尔是斯伦贝谢有限公司(一家钻井设备公司)的继承人。那晚的晚会,丝绸领带和飘逸的舞会礼服的华丽游行,似乎给这个消息锦上添花。我扫视了一下灌木丛。永不熄灭的火-卡西尔斯-解决方案-车站博物馆-亚历山大安提亚古-300dpi-1093.jpg Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红-Cassils,“永不熄灭的火”,2018,单频道视频,安装视图,休斯敦当代艺术博物馆。礼貌:艺术家和罗纳德·费尔德曼画廊,纽约;照片:亚历杭德罗·圣地亚哥那天的另一个消息是即将到来的入侵:一位来自埃尔帕索的年轻的电影议员有望成为25年来第一位来自德克萨斯州的民主党参议员。当贝托·奥洛克赢得提名以击败特德·克鲁兹时,他成了一个不大可能引起全国轰动的人物。特德·克鲁兹是一个右翼分子,甚至他的保守派同事都称他为“路西弗”。年轻、有魅力、坦诚和进步,奥洛克似乎是克鲁兹不是一切的典范。在青一块紫一块的休斯敦,他显然很受欢迎,这表明一个更广泛的变化即将到来。共和党长期控制的选区——包括梅尼尔选区——突然间第一次开始发挥作用。一场真正的地盘战争在橡树河上展开,大宅邸用草坪标志与邻居决斗。根据一些数字,休斯敦是美国发展最迅速、最多样化的城市——因此,厌倦了这场盛大的白人七旬老人聚会,我打算在当地的一家同性恋酒吧去喝一杯。番石榴灯大多是空的,但一连串的拖曳女王登上了一个小舞台,一群朋友为他们加油。人群大部分是西班牙人,原声带塞琳娜和西莉亚克鲁兹。在酒吧角落里,一位皇后讲述了她从墨西哥婴儿时期来到美国,通过别人随身携带的东西了解她的遗产的故事。当她完成了克鲁兹的天鹅之歌,拉维达没有狂欢,她的脸涂成骷髅白,MC意外地打开了收音机。“约翰·卡尔伯森在医疗保健上错了。”同样习惯于做广告的人群忍住了一笑。尿沉砂溶液-车站博物馆-亚历山大安提亚古-300dpi-1001.jpg Black and Blue and Red All Over in Houston - 休斯敦到处都是黑蓝红-Cassil,PISSED Alter,2018,从休斯顿市民收集的尿液,硼酸,丙烯酸,装置图,得克萨斯州休斯顿当代艺术博物馆。礼貌:艺术家和罗纳德·费尔德曼画廊,纽约;照片:亚历杭德罗·圣地亚哥——第一个赢得卡尔伯森选区的共和党人(包括德克萨斯州7号,包括橡树)是乔治·H·W·布什——他上周四去世——在他1967年的第一次竞选中。从那时起,它就一直在共和党手中。富豪休斯顿的投票代表了共和党向财政和社会保守主义的转变。卡尔伯森的广告不停地在我乌伯的一个AM频道播放,当时我正要去当代艺术博物馆,一个坐落在停车场旁边的矮车库,它的沥青在阳光下裂开了。在那里,表演艺术家卡西尔正在为选举建一座不敬的纪念碑:一个高耸的冷冻玻璃尿罐,200加仑,从休斯敦居民那里收集的。这篇文章(PISSED,2018)提到了德克萨斯州议会每年提出的歧视性的“卫生间法案”——将公共厕所的使用限制在出生性别相应的人群中——具有奇怪的宗教视觉效果(除了安德烈斯·塞拉诺之外):它面对着一个狭长的腐蚀。艾多尔,艺术家被火焰吞噬的巨大投影。这部视频《无法熄灭的火焰》(2007—15)展示了Cassils garbed的滑雪面具,并用阻燃凝胶涂抹,因为真正的火焰慢慢消耗了框架。对于身体上的疼痛并不陌生,卡西尔斯还用裸露的身体融化了冰——,也在火车站表演——并且在昏暗的停车库的地板上(Powers The.,2015)重新设置了警察殴打作为独舞的舞蹈。在我走出博物馆的路上,一个服务员尽职尽责地递给我一张投票站贴纸。“我猜到了”,上面写着一面美国国旗的条纹。我来了,我生气了,我投票。尽管“蓝色大浪潮”从未完全破裂,但民主党重新控制了众议院。贝托·奥洛克输给了特德·克鲁兹,但约翰·卡尔伯森被一个名叫丽齐·弗莱彻的年轻进步分子击败了。目前,石油将继续流动,雨水将继续倾泻在这个功能失调但又多种多样的大都市。休斯敦如何应对人口结构破裂和气候动荡,可能为该国其他地区指明了道路。主图:Jasper Johns,无题(细节),1984,塑料油墨,67x 87厘米。礼貌:纽约艺术家权利协会(ARS)门尼尔收藏,2018 Jasper Johns和VAGA


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