“Lessons from Below”

Houston galleries are frothing at their collective mouth for an Otabenga Jones & Associates exhibit. They’ll have to wait. Instead of mounting their own show, the group chose to curate “Lessons from Below” at the Menil Collection. Otabenga Jones member Jamal D. Cyrus says, “One of the main ideas behind Otabenga Jones is [the role] of an educational body.” The group (Cyrus, Robert A. Pruitt, D. Jabari Anderson and Kenya F. Evans) raided the Menil’s vast collection searching for works that dealt “specifically with the black image and the western world,” Cyrus says.

They chose more than 60 pieces, including photographs and paintings depicting civil rights activists, masks, African headdresses and slave documents, as well as works by Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell. The members also brought in objects from their personal collections, including records, toys and other mementos. “There is a record we got on Ebay next to this Andy Warhol piece. So, it’s kind of putting all these things on the same level in certain regards,” Cyrus says. “Ideally, we want the pieces in the exhibition to be a catalyst or some kind of springboard to have a broader discussion.” To that end, the Menil will host a series of lectures to accompany the exhibit. “We just saw this as a really good opportunity to, one, use the space and to, two, bring in these really dynamic activists as well academics and scholars to address some of the things we wanted people to think about.”
Wednesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Starts: Sept. 13. Continues through Dec. 9, 2007


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