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Fresh faces around campus: Conversations with the Moody Center’s new associate curators

Channing Wang/Thresher

By Lily Wulfemeyer     9/10/19 10:23pm

Last month, the Moody Center for The Arts hired two new associate curators: Ylinka Barotto and Frauke Josenhans. 

Alison Weaver, executive director of the Moody Center, expressed hopes that the new appointments will further reinforce the Moody Center’s mission.

“[We] have the opportunity to broaden the conversation across fields of research and to engage diverse communities, both on and off campus,” Weaver said. 

Barotto shares an enthusiasm for these initiatives. 

“Together with the rest of the Moody [Center] team, I look forward to collaborating with the student body, bringing exhibitions that stimulate conversation and supporting programming that fosters a new way of experiencing art,” Barotto said. 

Before accepting the position at the Moody Center, Barotto worked as an assistant curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where she assisted in curating multiple exhibitions and proposed acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection. 

“As for my curatorial practice, I truly enjoy art historical research,” Barotto said. “However, I can say that my real passion rests in working with living artists and raising questions, enriching dialogue and exploring narratives through their work.” 

Barotto, who was born in Italy, holds a Master of Arts in curatorial studies from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, and has worked toward a Master of Arts thesis on Italian feminism at Hunter College in New York. 

In addition to joining the Moody Center team, Josenhans is also donning the hat of art history lecturer. During her career as curator, Josenhans said she worked on topics from the 19th century to contemporary art, with a focus on global modern and contemporary art. “Exile and Art, 1900-present,” the course she is teaching this fall, is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates who want to learn more about curatorial work. 

“What I would like to do during my course is ... encourage critical thinking about the connection between sociopolitical events that can trigger exile, and the visual arts,” Josenhans said. “Again, it is an opportunity to emphasize how art is relevant and not disconnected from its time and context.”

In addition to her extensive professional experience, Josenhans has completed degrees at Sorbonne University, the Ecole du Louvre and most recently earned a doctorate at  Aix-Marseilles University where she studied German painters active in Southern France. 

“I hope that my international profile and experience will help to further a more global dialogue, but I am also eager to connect with the local arts scene here in Houston,” Josenhans said. “And I will certainly try to use all the wonderful resources that Rice has to offer for my work at the Moody [Center].”

Why the Moody Center?

“[The Moody Center is] an experimental platform for creating and presenting works in all disciplines,” Barotto said. “What really excites me is the opportunity to continue generating relevant projects and exhibitions and encouraging dialogue among artists, students and audiences.”

For Josenhans, who is leaving her position as the associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Rice environment might feel familiar. Josenhans said she was immediately drawn to the opportunity to join another university institution.

“What attracted me to the Moody [Center] is the great potential of this relatively young institution that proposes new ways to interact and collaborate around the visual arts,” she said. “It really offers a unique platform to engage in important topics such as how art and galleries can remain relevant in a fast-changing society.”

For both Barotto and Josenhans, the Moody Center’s placement in Houston is particularly compelling. 

“What attracts me to Houston is its diversity, the vibrant art community and its important historical legacy,” Barotto said. “Houston is a vibrant city that is growing and changing every day, which makes it an exciting place for art and the discussions around the questions art raises.”

Rice Students and the Moody Center

In the past, the Moody Center has faced criticism from the Thresher Editorial Board,  as students questioned the choice to build the Moody Center before much-needed classroom facilities; most recently, the Moody Center has been critiqued for its “inaccessibility” to Rice student artists

Josenhans is no stranger to working with students and said she hopes to improve Moody’s collaboration with the student body in future endeavors. 

“I had undergraduate and graduate students assist me with various projects, from research and exhibitions to publications,” Josenhans said. “ I look forward to [working] with Rice students and see[ing] how their ideas and experience will help shape projects.” 

Although it is Barotto’s first time working for a college or university, she said she is also looking forward to learning from Rice students and curating relevant content for them. Additionally, Barotto and Josenhans shared words of advice for students exploring careers in the arts. 

“The art world can be an intimidating place, but it shouldn’t be,” Barotto said. “It needs people who are creative and who are not afraid of critical thinking and experimentation. My advice is to never stop learning — through reading, seeing exhibitions and performances, attending talks, meeting with artists and peers, doing internships and getting hands-on experience with multiple projects.”

Upcoming Projects

Josenhans is already beginning work on “Symposium: Sol LeWitt Today,” the Moody’s 2020 summer exhibition, and an “international project” corresponding with the Rothko Chapel’s 50th anniversary in 2021. 

Barotto is also making plans for her tenure. In particular, she sees modern art as a powerful tool to encourage dialogue and forward the goals of the Moody Center.

 “My interest in contemporary art has always focused on an interdisciplinary approach in terms of media, but also on the empowering way that it encourages debate,” Barotto said. “Broad representation of people and ideas — a multiplicity of voices — is the key.” 

Both associate curators envision a fruitful future of collaborations across the campus and the city. 

“I worked at different institutions [in the past], ranging from private, civic, to university museums, and I must say that working at a university gallery is truly a great pleasure that provides a unique creative and intellectual stimulus,” Josenhans said. “Rice has amazing resources and is located in close proximity to various other cultural institutions in Houston — I look [forward] to collaborating with many of our neighbors.”  

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