Arts / Museums

Famed Corpus Christi Museum Reopens Even as Harvey Limits its Contact with the Outside World

The Art Must Go On

BY Catherine D. Anspon & Catarina Williams // 09.03.17

“The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today” currently graces the walls of the Philip Johnson- and Ricardo Legorreta-designed Art Museum of South Texas (AMST) in Corpus Christi. And remarkably, the museum has reopened in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s rampage through South Texas.

By reopening, the Corpus Christi museum is giving art goers two finals weekends to see the blockbuster which traveled from Texas from the prestigious halls of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C..

The D.C. museum is the organizing institution that every three years casts a wide net across the U.S. for the tip top of examples of the almost lost art of portraiture. In 2016, an astounding 2,500 submissions — from emerging talents to Yale-educated notables  — were considered. The media submitted and ultimately selected are as diverse as the subjects of the portraits, spanning traditional oil painting, to Old Master-level drawing, photography, sculpture, and even digital animation and video.

The competition is named after the late Virginia Outwin Boochever, a docent of the National Portrait Gallery who dedicated her life for nearly two decades to sharing her knowledge and love of art with NPG visitors; the beloved volunteer passed away in 2005, leaving a generous bequest to fund the competition.

Intimate encounters with subjects and their implied stories, often intensely investigated, reflect the diversity of 21st century America. The exhibition at AMST features 43 finalists, addressing topics that are affecting our nation and world today.

The portraits probe gender, race, poverty, gay rights, migration, deportation, border issues, and family. The resulting images — searing, poignant, intense, ambiguous, or compelling — seem perfectly matched for our time.

A committee of august invited curators, critics, and artists oversaw the 2016 judging including the incomparable Jerry Saltz, senior art critic at New York magazine; John Valadez, a Los Angeles.-based realist painter and muralist; Helen Molesworth, chief curator at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA); photographer Dawoud Bey, professor of art at Columbia College, Chicago; and National Portrait Gallery chief curator Brandon Brame Fortune and colleague Dorothy Moss, the NPG’s curator of painting and sculpture, who served as Outwin competition director.

Four Texas finalists made the curatorial cut: documentary photographer Marti Corn, a 2015 Houston Arts Alliance Grant recipient; painter Gaspar Enriquez, a retired high school art teacher from the El Paso area; painter Rigoberto A. Gonzalez, art professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, Harlingen (seen at Art League Houston in a 2012 solo, “Baroque on the Border”; and Fort Worth-based Sedrick Huckaby, Texas’ 2018 2D Visual Artist of the Year, recently profiled here for his ongoing social sculpture dedicated to his late grandmother.

Catch this remarkable ode to the face of contemporary America, and the courage of one hurricane-impacted coastal community and its museum to forge ahead. “The Outwin 2016” remains on view at the Art Museum of South Texas through Sunday, September 10.

Friday, September 8, 6 pm, hear Texas headliners Sedrick Huckaby and Rigoberto A. Gonzalez present insights into their creative process.

Note: the museum ‘s Internet access and phone lines are still down, but AMST will be open regular hours.

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