17 December 2007

Menil Collection, Houston

When the book, "1000 Places to See Before You Die" mentioned Houston's Menil Collection, I took note. Yesterday, HT and I visited this free repository of world-class art.

(I say "repository" because the Menil Collection is housed in several buildings and two chapels, all within easy walking distance of each other.)

The Menil Collection is amazing. For one thing, they really get modern art. The Rothko Chapel, part of the Menil Collection, is the most perfect display of Rothko's almost monochromatic canvases.

When I first entered the Rothko Chapel, it looked like a circular room with huge black canvases all around me. As my eyes adjusted and I sat and studied the works, I began to see the nuances of color in them. The non-physical rapport that I felt with the art can only be described as spiritual. The chapel is a remarkable display and beautifully designed.

Nearby, the Byzantine chapel mixes early religious art with contemporary design. To me, it felt as if the art was floating in mid-air. It's lovely!

The "witnesses" room is another unique feature of the Menil Collection. As a complement to the Menil's extraordinary Surrealist collection, this adjoining room features objects collected by Surrealist painters, or objects similar to what they owned. Until I saw these objects, including Native art from the Pacific Northwest, I didn't understand much about Surrealism. When I saw the clear inspiration for many Surrealist works... it made all the difference in the world.

The Menil Collection is in Houston's Museum District, and it is open to the public free of charge. It's an especially good place for children, because the art is displayed lower on the walls than in most art museums. The free brochures at each gallery also provide meaningful insights to help greater appreciate the art.

Check the museum's schedule before visiting; right now, it's open Wednesday through Sunday.