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Review of RED HOT contemporary Asian Art at the MFA Houston

MatisseMatisseMatissecloseup of entrance figure at MFA

July 24, 2007

Three days ago I attended the member’s preview of RED HOT, a collection of contemporary Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas. Unlike the preview of the French Modern Masters (see previous blog entry), this was rather sparsely attended. I got there around noon, having first met my middle son for a late breakfast at Waffle House. Like all of MFA’s exhibits, it was beautifully displayed and amply guarded.

The artists were from all parts of Asia, one in particular Dinh Q Le had been born in Southeast Asia, emigrated to US at age of 10 or so, studied art in the US, and then returned to Viet Nam. His work is intrigueing as it involves weaving of chromagenic prints with other materials including linen tape. The patterns and style of weaving is that of Viet Namese grass mats. The imagery includes ‘pop’ culture symbols and iconic figures–somehow it is sad–decrying the loss of a culture and country as the modern day world creeps in.

Other works included a pair of large boots about to step on an footprint of tiny people, large figures of pigs or people such as the one at the entrance to the museum as shown above. There is clearly a huge animae reference and much of the work seems cliche but with either an angry or sad aspect. It was overwhelmingly disturbing and I can only hope that life improves. Most of the pieces were quite large; there was no delicate china or dainty flowers. I saw just one abstract painting that suggested traditional Asian landscape, the rest were animae-pop culture imagery.

After that exhibit, I wandered around a bit and came across the contemporary art of Brazil. Now this work was absolutely delightful. Most of the work was paintings but there were a few sculpture or wall-hung sculptures. Most of these artists focused on color, pattern, and investigation of line and it’s interaction with other lines. I fell in love, and bought the book so I can pore over the images again.

Downstairs was a showing of a series of photographs of the Great Wall of China. Perhaps I felt disenchanted after the Asian Art exhibit but only two or three pieces really appealed to me.

I thought about why I liked/disliked the images I had seen that day. The similarity between the contemporary Brazilian work and the few Great Wall of China photos was a sparseness of line–a sureness of artistic intent–a rather cool command of the medium and the imagery–nothing seemed forced or frivolous or over the top or sentimental. The pieces by Dinh Q Le were complex but yet showed a mastery of the material and the imagery. Perhaps that is what I seek–mastery of content, image, and technique.

No day is complete for me at the MFA without a visit to my two favorite sculptures in the sculpture garden across the street—Matisse’s Backs, a set of bronzes illustrating artistic styles and Giacometti’s Matchstick Man ( I think it has another official name but this is what I’ve always thought of)

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