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Monday, October 02, 2023 — Houston, TX

A eulogy for Rice Gallery


Lenna Mendoza is the Thresher A&E Editor and a McMurtry College junior

By Lenna Mendoza     2/15/17 8:00am

For 22 years, the Rice Gallery has been a crown jewel for the arts at Rice. This semester will see the space’s final exhibition before the Gallery’s closure and apparent absorption into the Moody Center for the Arts, and that’s a move I can’t help but mourn.

Unique in its format for a university exhibition space, the large-scale, site-specific installations that graced the ground floor of Sewall Hall had a special effect. Rather than just pictures on a wall, the Rice Gallery offered experiences: a walk through a Los Angeles neighborhood in Ana Serrano’s “Salon of Beauty,” a mythical tapestry painted with Houston’s soil in Yusuke Asai’s “yamatane,” a crawl into a secret room with Thorsten Brinkmann’s “The Great Cape Rinderhorn.” When I covered Brinkmann’s installation last spring, I saw firsthand that these installations had a powerful effect, even on my friend who insisted he didn’t like art. They were huge, immersive and diverse works, and it’s hard to imagine losing that space.

Perhaps installations of a similar sort will be featured in the Moody Center, but the fact of the matter is that so much of the Rice Gallery’s potency depended on its location. The gallery is visible from the inner loop, located in a building in the academic quad and arguably the central piece of a building that is not primarily dedicated to art. Faculty and students who would not have ever visited the gallery at the very least walked by, at the best were pulled in. Simply put, the gallery was hard to ignore, and at a university where attention to and respect for the arts has been undeniably lacking, the location of the gallery was essential.

The Moody Center will offer more arts space centralized into a single building tucked away at the far end of campus, which will likely prevent the attention drawing effect the Rice Gallery excelled at. And honestly, I feel some trepidation about the “interdisciplinary” requirement for works in the Moody Center. If the problem is a lack of attention to and respect for the arts here, is the solution requiring that the arts make more room for other disciplines?

The future life of the space as a welcome center is a disappointing downgrade. Arts at Rice shouldn’t lose that prime real estate. It could be an upgrade in size, utility and visibility for the undergraduate-run Matchbox Gallery or the Emergency Room Gallery, both currently well-hidden in the same building. Still, the legacy of the Rice Gallery isn’t erased by its closure. Come out to the last exhibition by Sol LeWitt, a reinstallation of one of the earliest works created for the Rice Gallery, and have a look at the gallery’s online archives.

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