Contemporary art has a unique way of weaving together powerful visual experiences with intellectual and emotional stimulation. “It’s gets you in your heart and your mind,” explains Linda Shearer. Unfortunately, many of us feel a bit out of our comfort zone with contemporary art.
Ms. Shearer, lead instructor for the upcoming class, “Contemporary Art Matters,” will draw from her experience as an art historian, educator, former contemporary art curator and museum and arts organization director to remove potential barriers to understanding contemporary art. She recognizes that today’s art may seem a little confusing for people. “Once you break away from realistic art, the meaning may not be immediately clear for an audience. People take that in different directions, and it’s possible they may feel the artist’s intentions are not serious or sincere,” she explains. “But even Warhol, who put his finger on the American zeitgeist, was hard for people at first. There is value in understanding the full picture – gaining context for art with which we’re less familiar.”
“The more you learn about the time period, the artist and their goals, the more you come to understand the art and get excited by it,” she says. As Ms. Shearer puts it, digging deeper is worth it.
“When you’re confronted with a great work of art, everything comes together in a way that’s almost inexplicable.”
Along with several other experts from the Houston arts community, she will share a Houston perspective on contemporary art and provide an enlightening art history foundation for understanding contemporary art’s origins.
Ms. Shearer has played an important role in Houston’s art scene and the broader world of contemporary art. She has served as executive director of Project Row Houses, interim director at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, director of the Williams College Museum of Art, and as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. “Houston is unique in its open embrace of all kinds of arts organizations from modest pop-ups to those with major international acclaim,” she says. She points out the power of contemporary art to “touch on a cultural moment of realization, perhaps responding to political actions or putting a voice to common experiences of a generation.”
Course participants will learn about various historical moments and their influence on contemporary art. For instance, a lesser known, but pivotal historical moment took place in Houston, when the DeLuxe Theater in the Fifth Ward hosted the “DeLuxe Show” in 1971. Sponsored by the Menil Foundation, it was one of the first racially integrated exhibitions of contemporary artists in the United States at a time of nationwide controversy. It has recently been renovated under the auspices of Texas Southern University, and we can look to it as we continue the dialogue that began years ago.
Because we have such a vibrant art scene right in our own backyard, participants will head to the Menil Collection and Project Row Houses for guided field trips during the course. “It’s important to get that experience. It gives a window into the work being done today – in context,” says Ms. Shearer. Instructors will also share opportunities for participants to explore exhibitions in Houston on their own.
The seven-week course, which begins September 14, will help you formulate answers to your own questions about contemporary art. We hope you’ll join our expert guides, Linda Shearer and renowned community artists and other experts, to continue this conversation and expand your view of contemporary art.
- Toby Kamps, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil Collection
- Jamal Cyrus from the Houston-based artist collective, Otabenga Jones & Associates
- Alison Weaver, executive director of the Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University
- Regina Agu, Houston artist and co-director of Alabama Song
- Gabriel Martinez, artist/organizer/educator and co-director of Alabama Song
- Ryan N. Dennis, public art director, Project Row Houses
- Linda Shearer, lead instructor, art historian, educator, former contemporary art curator and museum and arts organization director