An underrated gem of Texas art – Rice University’s Moody Center always surprises with striking exhibits and a wondrous $30 million space


RThe Moody Center for the Arts at Ice University celebrates its fifth anniversary this spring. Iconic installations marked the early years of the Moody Center. Five years ago almost month for month, PaperCity first reported on the $30 million think tank and installation space that we described as “a brilliant addition to the Texas cultural landscape.”

That would be the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University.

Alison Weaver, Executive Director of the Moody Center Suzanne Deal Booth, is the founding director of Rice’s innovative visual and performative think tank. Weaver is also involved in the university’s public art program (Photo by Geoffrey Winningham)

Flash forward, and as a new decade rolls on, we consider some of the transformative exhibitions the Moody’s has staged – often paired with interdisciplinary and collaborative elements and events. Remarkably, thanks to the Moody, Rice has come full circle. The center added vitality to the corner of the Rice campus that bears the imprint of de Menils and at the time was the Art Barn, teaming up with avant-garde activity.

Officially the Institute of the Arts founded by Menil, it has captivated audiences with shows like Andy Warhol’s “Raid the Icebox.” The metal clad art barn was the precursor to the Menil collection.

The Moody, always free and open to the public and Rice’s student population, reflects part of Menil’s DNA, in the militant stance of its programming. Located at the south end of the university near a leafy neighborhood bordering Rice Village (entrance to Stockton off University Boulevard), the 50,000-square-foot Silver LEED-certified structure was designed by architect Michael Los Angeles-based Maltzan (whose famous for his elegant and sensitive projects that alleviate homelessness in collaboration with the Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles.).

The building appears to be levitating. Its second-story brick walkways nod to the university’s architectural past, hovering above the ground floor’s floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Three load-bearing stainless steel and glass lanterns evoke the abstract oak trees that are the calling cards of the campus.

“Nature and Politics” by Thomas Struth, Spring 2017. (Photo by Nash Baker)
“Nature and Politics” by Thomas Struth, Spring 2017. (Photo by Nash Baker)

It’s what happens inside that has made the Moody more than a work of architecture, but a vital place for Houston’s arts ecosystem.

Two main gallery spaces along with an intimate gallery for viewing videos provide a mutable stage for presenting ambitious exhibitions – those that vary between installation-oriented solos and group exhibitions bordered on prescience and provocation.

Curatorial honors alternated between three brilliant women with chops of art: Alison Weaver, executive director of Suzanne Deal Booth, curator Frauke Josenhans and associate curator Ylinka Barotto. All of the above notwithstanding, the Moody’s, being on a college campus (but easily accessible), is still not on every artsy sidekick’s radar.

But he deserves to be as you will see in all the remarkable art exhibitions he has organized.

“Flowers and People Can’t Be Controlled But Live Together – A Whole Year in an Hour” by Teamlab, Spring 2017. (Photo by Nash Baker)

A Moody Top 10 – Unforgettable exhibits from the Centre’s first 5 years

“Thomas Struth: nature and politics”, spring 2017

“Teamlab: Flowers and people, cannot be controlled but live together – A whole year per hour”, spring 2017

“Mickalene Thomas: Waiting for a Prime Time Star”, Fall 2017

“The island universe of Josiah McElheny”, spring 2018

“Radical Revisionists: Contemporary African Artists Confronting the Past and the Present”, Spring 2020

“States of Mind: Art and American Democracy”, Fall 2020

“Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 years of inspiration”, spring 2021

“Moody Project Wall: Gerardo Rosales”, Fall 2021

“Kapwani Kiwanga: The sand recalls the shadow of the moon”, fall 2021

Now on display: “Soundwaves: Experiment Strategies in Art + Music,” through May 14.

Learn more about the Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University’s exhibition schedule, programming, and special events performances, click here.

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