Houston has become a welcoming destination for diverse immigrant populations who contribute to the city’s inclusive and thriving arts scene.
Since the Moody Center for the Arts opened on the Rice University campus in 2017, the many diverse art exhibitions held there have reinforced the city’s commitment to illuminating the human experience through the arts. .
On June 3, the venue will open a solo exhibition of works by Texas-born, New York-based multidisciplinary artist Baseera Khan. Titled Baseera Khan: Weight on History, the exhibition will feature pieces that offer a thought-provoking critique of existing power structures and a vision of alternatives.
Khan, 42, was born in Denton, Texas to an Indo-Afghan-East African family. The artist identifies as an American Muslim woman and uses the pronouns they/them.
Today they live and work in Brooklyn, but still live in Texas. “The state, and especially Houston, impacted my art,” says Khan. “The whole art scene there, including the music, helped me find my voice to develop and grow.”
The list of galleries featuring Khan’s work is long. A short selection includes galleries in New York as well as Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Aspen, Tucson and Munich, Germany. Khan’s work is also in many permanent museum collections, including Columbus, Paris, San Francisco, New Orleans, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Visitors to the Khan exhibit on the Rice campus are in for a treat. It includes a ‘constellation’ of unexpected mediums such as carpets and textile garments, sculptures that spin, light up and walk through, and even the sound of Khan’s own music, which bring the unique point of view to life. of the artist. .
“I do work in many ways; this is why I consider it a “constellation of works”. A constellation helps create a “universe”, they say with a smile.
Khan fearlessly explores complex issues such as commodification, politics, and the human body through pop culture and architecture. Moving seamlessly, they shine a light on the ways in which marginalized populations are ignored or misrepresented.
Visitors will see a work titled Acoustic blanketsa sculptural garment composed of a thick, sound-absorbing material and featuring circular openings that recall both the politicization and the protective character of the garment. Second Skin is a large sculpture resembling a classical column partially lined with Kashmiri rugs. Combining Western and Eastern design elements, the work conveys a sense of opulence while referencing historical tensions.
The Moody commissioned Khan to create new work specifically for this show. painful arch expands Khan’s interest in architecture by using common materials to render a traditional Islamic arch decorated with images of the artist’s body climbing the structure. The juxtaposition of references raises questions about equity, access, and how architecture is used to exercise power.
“I hope visitors can feel the weight of painful arch while understanding its weightlessness,” says Khan. “In some ways, we need to know our history. But at the same time, we can’t let it define us.
Khan has been producing art for many years, but was never sure he could use it to express his views on culture, society and power.
“For a while I drove a waffle food truck so I could keep making art. I wasn’t sure I could talk through [my early artwork], but I knew I had to keep going. Its important to me. Very young, I needed to express myself. It’s always been a struggle, but I’ve learned that my art can certainly [speak for me]says Khans.
The stunning design of the new Moody Center building offers all sorts of exhibition opportunities, they note. “The gallery space is beautiful. I chose works for the exhibition that would honor the space, the walls, the light, and not compete or cover it. The whole site is remarkable. »
Alison Weaver, executive director Suzanne Deal Booth of the Moody Center for the Arts, notes that the building, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, is very well suited to host innovative exhibitions of
artists like Khan.
“Our mission to foster interdisciplinary conversation through the arts is made possible by the flexible gallery and performance spaces within. We look forward to sharing how Baseera’s work has transformed the [building’s] architecture in a unique and memorable way,” says Weaver.
All exhibits and programming at the Moody Center for the Arts are free and open to the public. The Centre’s mission is to encourage creative thinking and original expression, nurture innovation, and promote cross-campus and community collaboration through encounters with the arts. It is designed to connect the arts at Rice to the greater Houston community and beyond.
What: Baseera Khan: Weight on History
When: June 3–August 27
Or: Moody Center for the Arts, Entrance 8 on University Blvd.
This article appears in the May 2022 issue of OutSmart magazine.