Enlightenment Through Cultural and Artistic Influence:MFA Houston by Anthony Tran

1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

November 2010–In any major metropolitan city, I feel as though, the museum of fine arts is the best place to enrich your mind, in regards to both the cultural and art world. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston is a prime example of what I’m talking about, with its various displays of diverse forms of art, it is a nice place to go whether you are really into the fine arts or just an admirer of pretty things. The museum encloses a total of three hundred thousand feet, divided between five buildings, every inch dedicated to the display of art.

Over the course of the last two years my interest in the art world has grown increasingly fervent. After looking at a couple paintings that my friend showed to me online, I was awe struck at the beauty someone can create with just ordinary things. Watching my friend paint, I was amazed by the images she was able to create just by using the stroke of a brush. Following that incident I found myself looking up artists on the internet and reading art books at bookstores. I took a specific interest in photography and surrealist art. My next step was to visit a museum to see examples of the types of art that I was taking interest in. I wound up at the DMA, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Located in downtown Dallas , the DMA is where my interest in art was escalated exponentially. Here I saw great examples of art and photography, along with sculptures and artifacts. My interest became a fascination. Following the move to Houston I wanted to see all the landmarks around the city. The MFA was an obvious choice. Not only did I want to see what the museum had to offer, I also wanted to compare it to the museum located in my hometown; a little bit of city rivalry rearing its head.

From the outside of the museum, you do not expect much of the museum. From the front entrance you see a large flat building with large windows cascading as the front door. Once you enter the museum you see that it opens up into a rather colossal show room. As you look from left to right you notice that there are different exhibits that you can visit. When I visited the museum back in the summer time, there were large fifty foot murals on display in this display area. These murals were the museum’s current main display. The artist had taken normal everyday things and painted them, in fifty foot dimensions, so as to make them seem like foreign objects. Classified under the pop art genre, these murals contained great color schemes, and wonderful use of three dimension illusions. Using actual objects that were glued to the canvas, the artist managed to create a feeling that made the painting see as though it was coming out at you.

As I walked around this area I noticed that behind these large walls lay intricate hallways. Progressing on, pass the murals, into the hallways, I found myself coming upon another exhibit. This next exhibit dealt with black and white photography. The display had an interesting twist to it; the pictures that were being showcased were not taken by the photographer himself, but rather his followers. The pictures taken were of things that they felt were awe inspiring and sent them in to the photographer. The artist then chose about a thousand pictures, which would later be sent around the United States for exhibition. The pictures ranged from things such as landscapes, to pictures of children, all the way to nudes, providing a incredible array of variety for patrons visiting the museum exhibit.

Following the hallways I returned to the open room, and progressed down stairs. On the way to the underground tunnel that connects two, of the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston’s five buildings, I passed by more black and white stills. Not only that, but also smaller portraits similar to the fifty foot murals that were on display. Connecting the two buildings is a commissioned display known as the “The Light Inside.” A long hallway was lined with neon lights against walls set back from the norm, creating a feeling of emptiness. With changing lights and an elevated walkway, the tunnel makes you feel very confined, but in a large area, which I feel; creates a sense of emptiness. This exhibit fools your mind into believing that you are in a space bigger than you actually are. The hollow feeling acquired from the exhibit makes you feel as though you are floating through the room. It’s like a scene from a movie almost. The plain white backdrop which reflects the neon lights opens up the exhibit, making it seem as though the walls are farther away from you than they actually are. Due to the fact that the walls are set back, you can hear your own voice in the exhibit, almost as an echo. Walking through the exhibit, you can hear your voice refract off the walls, creating at atmosphere which is much much bigger than it actually is.

Riding the escalator in the second building, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here we saw paintings from the surrealist and impressionist genres. Paintings of old English ships and shipyards, young cherubs frolicking around, and scenes from the English country-side were displayed in one section of this building. These paintings were all commissioned in great detail, but for some reason, all look alike to me. Everyone was wearing white wig of hair, had puffy cheeks, and a red hue to their skin tone. Although very artistic and greatly respected, I do not endorse these paintings as something interesting to looking at.

As I continued walking around, I found myself in the surrealism section of this building. It was here that I was able to view paintings from my favorite genre. Paintings which seemed like they were ripped straight from your dreams were being showcased in this section of the museum. With incredible use of colors and stroke technique, creating awe inspiring portraits of everything from street scenes to animals, these paintings were the best part of my trip. One painting in particular caught my eye. This painting was of a street scene near an outdoor café in daylight. The painting was done in a swirling manner. It seemed as if the artist commissioned the painting, then took his hand and smeared it around the picture starting from the center and going out to the edges, making it appear as though the painting was spinning from the center. It was beautiful.

The Museum of Fine Arts is open to anyone and everyone. No one is excluded from viewing the magnificent displays of art located there. However, members of the museum receive a little more in regards to rewards then just any visitor. Art lovers of all kinds come here to take an interest in something that they find worthy of note. People of all races, age, and economic status come to the museum. The museum is free to all visitors on Thursdays, although some of the more exclusive exhibits still require you to pay to see. Visitors to the museum come in all ages and races. The last time I went I saw everything from students to senior citizens. I spoke to one of the visitors at the MFA; Julie, an art student at UH. She was there to see the exhibit of murals, which she was studying for an art class. She told me she liked the museum because it was quite, and she liked to use the exhibits to help inspire her own work. The artwork contained within the MFA is protected by guards of all ages and race, who all wear blue blazers with a crest on the front, and are armed with walkie talkies.

Located in the present day Montrose area, the doors to the MFA Houston first opened back in nineteen twenty-four . It was Texas ’ first museum of art, and the third museum to have opened in the southwest region. In nineteen twenty-six , the museum made an addition of two new wings to the existing building. Over the course of the next two decades, various artists began to donate the art to the museum so that it can be displayed to the public. In nineteen fifty-seven and fifty-eight, two more buildings were donated to the museum, along with the contents of both homes. In nineteen sixty-six, doors of Bayou Bend were opened to the public, the Brown Pavilion in nineteen seventy-four, the Glassell School of Art in nineteen seventy-nine, the Sculpture gardens in eighty-six, the Glassell Junior School of Art opens in ninety-four, and the Rienzi estate opened to the public in ninety-nine.

The MFA Houston is located in the arts district of Houston. The part of town in which the museum is set is known to Houstonians as Montrose, where you can find all the retro clothing shops. Here Houstonians can walk around the street finding various things to do in order to keep themselves occupied if the MFAH is not for them. They could just sit and relax in the park, or walk around and get a tattoo at one of the various tattoo shops, enjoy a meal at one of the multitudes of restaurants in the area, or buy clothes at one of the “buy and resell” shops that reside on Montrose.

My personal opinion regarding the MFA is one of great enthusiasm. I enjoy the fact that the museum has many varied types of art on display to the public, not to mention that it is free on Thursdays. I also like the fact that the museum also serves as an art school for those who wish to hone their skills as an artist. I feel as though, in order to keep the progression of the fine arts going, we need to start sculpting the artists of tomorrow; today.







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