The Moody Center for the Arts’ spring program celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel by presenting a unique group exhibition and original programs in recognition of this important milestone in the history of Houston and the arts at Rice. The season will honor the legacy of John and Dominique de Menil by highlighting the influence the Rothko Chapel has had on both artists and the public since opening in 1971, with special acknowledgement of the exhibition Marden, Novros, Rothko: Painting in the Age of Actuality mounted at Rice University in 1975.
Take a curator's tour of the exhibition here.
“Dominique and John de Menil had a vision for Houston, as symbolized by the Rothko Chapel, that has resonated with generations of artists. After 50 years, the Chapel remains a powerful source of inspiration for creators around the globe, not only from an aesthetic point of view but also from a humanistic one,” explains Associate Curator Frauke V. Josenhans.
Titled Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 Years of Inspiration, the exhibition is on view from January 22 – May 15, 2021, in the Moody’s Brown Foundation, Central and Media Galleries, as well as outdoors under the Pitman Oculus. Organized in two sections, the first section will restage the historic exhibition Marden, Novros, Rothko: Painting in the Age of Actuality organized at the Institute for the Arts at Rice University by Harris Rosenstein with the support of Dominique de Menil in 1975. The original works by Marden and Novros will be reunited for the first time since 1975, recreating the immersive experience that viewers had upon first seeing them installed at Rice.
The second section of the exhibition will highlight recent works by contemporary artists of different ages, nationalities and backgrounds as a means of exploring the wide-reaching influence of the non-denominational Chapel and the enduring nature of its legacy through various media and aesthetics. The featured artists are Sam Gilliam, Sheila Hicks, Shirazeh Houshiary, and Byron Kim.
Connecting the past with the present, Artists and the Rothko Chapel will not solely place the Rothko Chapel in its historic context, but will also offer new perspectives by including contemporary artists for whom the Chapel has been a generative source of inspiration that deeply nourishes their own practice. By presenting these artists together for the first time, and in the context of the Chapel’s 50th anniversary, visitors will have the opportunity to see these artists, as well the Chapel, in a new light.
Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 Years of Inspiration is accompanied by a full-color catalogue.
The Moody Center for the Arts will organize a series of interdisciplinary programs responding to the exhibition,
which will take place in tandem with the Rothko Chapel’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in the spring of 2021. For
more information on the Chapel’s program, please visit: http://rothkochapel.org
The exhibition will feature work responding to the Rothko Chapel by the following six artists:
Brice Marden (b. 1938, Bronxville, NY) is known for his subtle chromatic compositions that combine Minimalism, the immediacy of Abstract Expressionism, and the intuitive gesture of calligraphy. His first visit to the Rothko Chapel in 1972 triggered a life-long engagement with the chromatic and material aspects of the Rothko panels. The small version of The Seasons was included in the 1975 exhibition Marden, Novros, Rothko: Painting in the Age of Actuality at Rice University, and will be shown in dialogue with more recent works by Marden, exhibited here for the first time.
David Novros (b. 1941, Los Angeles, CA) has created monumental, chromatic and abstract paintings since the 1960s. His works create a spatial cohesiveness, emphasizing that painting and architecture are part of the same viewing experience. Following the invitation to respond to the Chapel, he created three Rooms that were included in the 1975 exhibition Marden, Novros, Rothko: Painting in the Age of Actuality that will be reunited at the Moody for the first time since their inaugural display.
Sam Gilliam (b. 1933, Tupelo, MS) has pushed the boundaries of Color Field painting since the 1960s with his canonical Drape paintings, which engage with both the material and the surrounding space in unique ways. He has exhibited his large-scale works around the globe, notably at the 2017 Venice Biennale and currently at DIA: Beacon. His recent large-scale watercolor paintings evoke the style of lyrical abstraction while engaging with deeper topics such as civil rights and equality, which have been central to the Rothko Chapel’s mission since its inception.
Sheila Hicks (b. 1934, Hastings, NE) is a pioneering fiber artist who blurs the boundary between painting and sculpture with her vibrant, polychromatic textile works, which she creates in many shapes and sizes. Travels to investigate the artisanal fabrics of Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia have deeply informed her art and her creative process. Hicks’ work has been shown in various international exhibitions, notably the 2017 Venice Biennale and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, in 2018. Her large-scale textile sculpture The Questioning Column will be displayed outside the Moody, in dialogue with the building’s architecture and the surrounding landscape.
Since rising to prominence as a sculptor in the 1980s, Shirazeh Houshiary’s (b. 1955, Shiraz, Iran) practice has expanded to encompass painting, installation, architectural projects and film. Her monochromatic painting FlareUp is composed of delicate patterns, combining influences from diverse cultures including Islamic architecture and calligraphy, Western modern art, as well as nature and science. Her video work Breath addresses questions of spirituality and perception, and its immersive viewing experience echoes that of the Chapel.
Byron Kim (b. 1961, La Jolla, CA) creates paintings that are situated between abstraction and representation, hovering between conceptualism and pure painting. Works like his Night Sky and Black Wave paintings appear to be abstract fields, but upon closer inspection they reveal an engagement with color and vision, as well as with questions of human identity and existence. Kim is creating new work for the Moody exhibition that further engages with socio-cultural questions of abstraction. Byron Kim will also be the spring 2021 Leslie and Brad Bucher Artist-in-Residence, participating in the cultural life of Houston and Rice University either in person or remotely, as pandemic protocols permit.