Friday night Art Attack was invited to an exclusive first look at the newly remodeled Blaffer Art Museum on the University of Houston's Main Campus. The Blaffer has been under construction for roughly a year racking up a price tag of about $2.3 million, which for all intents and purposes is not much to reconstruct an art gallery of this magnitude.
The preview had two functions. The museum wanted to give guests a little taste of what's to come; the official grand reopening gala will occur on September 21. The second and more important reason, was to introduce potential UH students and the community to what will be the museum's first collaborative project. In conjunction with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Blaffer has invited Scottish artist Lynn McCabe to lead an unprecedented, semester-long "Social Sculpture Workshop" for UH students and interested persons.
As exciting as it was to be one of the fortunate firsts to view the new space, the literal view was limiting. And not quite finished. We were warned multiple times to stay off the white walls, as they were still wet with paint.
If you have passed by the outside of the Blaffer recently, the façade has evolved into a windowed parallelogram (sort of). It's even more stunning on the inside as the light seeps into to the bright white open space. Plus, from the inside you do not have the unfortunate 1970s-looking brick eyesore that is the actual building.
Thin tubes of light cover the ceilings, making for a modern, yet classy feel. On the second floor, a balcony overlooks the main gallery, which will most likely look amazing when it is filled with works of art. Unfortunately, as my camera snapped away, I was reminded that these pictures were not kosher for print. They are trying to keep things under wraps until their big launch. So you will have to just wait to see the place for yourself, perhaps when the gallery has its first public exhibition on October 12.
As mentioned, the primary incentive for opening the doors (just a crack) was to give prospective students a glimpse at the cooperative course being offered between Blaffer and the university. The workshop, "Rooms to be (Ms.)understood" will feature a variety of lectures, performances and workshops with McCabe at the helm along with visiting artists and academics.
The class aims to examine societal and cultural viewpoints in art through early 1970s feminist writings and performance. The course will look at the lesser known school of feminism from philosopher Luce Irigaray, with excerpts of her texts literally written on the walls and a panel discussion of her work in mid-November. Additionally, the workshop will host several out-of-town artists such as Wynne Greenwood and Leslie Labowitz-Starus with both in-person and Skype seminars.
McCabe is a fiery Scot who speaks enthusiastically and quickly when describing her work and the upcoming course. She has a BA from the Glasgow School of Art and her MFA in Social Practice from California College of Arts. Combining fine arts and social practice fits nicely with her background.
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McCabe mentioned multiple times that this course was not just for students of the University of Houston, but community members were also invited to take part. She emphasized a that she doesn't want people to drop in for a class, but remain committed to the entire semester or a good part of it.
McCabe hopes that by the end of the course the class will have created a publication. Much of the work produced will be a product of the involvement of the students and potentially an organic progress. McCabe stated that she saw each class literally "manifesting itself onto the walls."
The concept is unique and the collaborative model is a first for the museum. They hope that if this design is successful, where a working artist's current exhibition is used as a method for education, it will be replicated.
For more information on Lynn McCabe's workshop, "Room to be (Ms.)understood" call 713-743-2043 or visit Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at www.mitchellcenterforthearts.org