The Menil Collection Houston
Through Feb. 28, 2010
The Menil Collection’s new exhibition is meant to seem “a bit creepy,” said Julia Ramey in The Houston Press. Full of artworks that feature fragmented, chopped up, and otherwise jumbled body parts, the show draws in viewers with a dollop of shock value. “There’s everything from disembodied bits of Egyptian sculpture to a 15th-century finger reliquary.” But the exhibition’s high points are drawn from the museum’s own holdings in modern art—particularly surrealism. Pablo Picasso “shattered and then reconstructed the painted female form.” René Magritte’s portraits obscured or eliminated certain body parts (particularly faces), or recombined them in unexpected ways.
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This “whirlwind fun-house tour through art history” displays a healthy sense of black humor, said Douglas Britt in the Houston Chronicle. The jokes start with the first work on display, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Division and Multiplication of the Mirror (1975–79). “A large mirror cut in half lengthwise—frame and all”—it sits in a corner and reflects back fragments of the viewer. Elsewhere in the exhibition, skulls and wigs from pre-revolutionary France sit side by side with African crafts and sections of Roman sculpture—“a torso here, a leg there.” Two hand-shaped curtain loops from the 19th century seem unnecessarily chilling for their pedestrian purpose. And in Robert Gober’s Untitled (1999–2000), a little girl’s “unnaturally long, skinny beeswax legs” hang down into an industrial sink. One emerges from the wall, mysteriously; the other has two feet. It’s the show’s most hauntingly weird work, “hands down.”
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