A Chit-Chat With Michelle White, the Menil's Recently Promoted Curator
The Menil Collection. Richard Serra. A wedding. Lee Bontecou. Civil Rights photography. Leslie Hewitt.
What a life.
Michelle White has a hand on everything listed above as a recently minted Menil curator, a job she was promoted to last month. (About the one item that doesn't exactly fit in the list, we wrote something about it after her appointment was announced last month.)
White has been with the Menil for five years; her curatorial work can be seen in the "Seeing Stars: Visionary Drawing from the Collection," an exhibit that's on display through January 15.
White explains that the show ties into what she'd like to explore as a Menil curator.
"Something I'm really interested in is investigating aspects of our collection that aren't as well known and don't often go on view in the permanent collection gallery," she says.
White explains that "Seeing Stars" was realized as she looked through the museum's holdings of drawings and works on paper.
"I noticed a large group of work by untrained or visionary artists," says White, who adds that drawings are one of her focus areas. "The show is about that link to artists that were, for whatever reason, removed from mainstream society and how they would link up to our surrealist collection."
As far as specialty exhibitions, White is one of the folks responsible for putting together "Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective," a traveling exhibit that opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in April. The show is scheduled to post up at the Menil from March 2 to June 10, 2012.
White says that Serra, who's more often associated with minimalist sculptures and video art, will travel to Houston to craft a site-specific installation that will be stapled to a wall of the Menil for four-and-a-half weeks. The piece will be a work on canvas that's covered with viscous layers of paintstick, a crayon-like implement composed of water soluble paint.
White is also working with contemporary artist Leslie Hewitt, who is collaborating with cinematographer Bradford Young, to present a film that's a response to Menil's past exhibit "The Whole World Was Watching: Civil Rights-Era Photographs from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil."
"We'll be exploring larger themes of black migration of African-Americans from the south to northern cities in the early 20th century," says White, who helped put together "The Whole World Was Watching."
In the meantime, White will start getting her hands full with "On the Drawings of Lee Bontecou." The retrospective exhibition, like the Richard Serra show, will travel to nationwide venues that will be determined in the future.
Be patient, White says, because the exhibit won't open until 2014. "It kind of gives you a sense on how long it takes," she says.
Again, what an existence.