“Imaginary Spaces”

“Imaginary Spaces” takes viewers to places they have never seen — or, more correctly, could never see. The latest exhibit at the Menil Collection spans three centuries with 30 paintings, sculptures and works on paper depicting invented environments — some are rather inviting, and others scream, “steer clear.” Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Carceri d’Invenzione (Imaginary Prisons) is a series of etchings the artist dreamed up during the midst of a fever-filled illness. Inspired by the ruins of Venice and Rome, Piranesi’s structures are hopeless trappings where hallways and stairwells twist and turn into the darkness. German artist/architect Hermann Finsterlin imagined buildings shaped like cacti and snail shells, defying the Bauhaus’s strict geometrical doctrines in the 20th century. Also on view are preliminary sketchings of site-specific projects by Claes Oldenburg, Dennis Oppenheim and Christo; other imaginers include “New York Five” architect John Hejduk, artist Michael Heizer and painter Giorgio de Chirico.

Today the Menil will pair up with the Aurora Picture Show for “Space in Early Twentieth-Century Cinema,” a special film event on the museum’s lawn. University of Texas research fellow Peter Mowris will introduce a series of short films tackling abstract conceptions of space, such as Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, René Clair’s Entr’acte, Hans Richter’s Ghosts Before Breakfast and Viking Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale. Screening starts at 8 p.m. Regular exhibition viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Through March 1. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit www.menil.org. Free.
Wednesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Starts: Aug. 15. Continues through March 1, 2008

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