Arts / Museums

Mysterious Light and Video Show Engulfs MFAH — Can You Handle the Wonder?

NYC’s Swiss Art Favorite Tests All Your Senses

BY // 06.20.17
photography © Pipilotti Rist / Courtesy the artist; Luhring Augustine, New York; and Hauser & Wirth

Talk about a new way to experience a museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has just rolled out the latest iteration of its annual summer-time installations, renowned as social media phenomenon as well as top-notch chance to encounter a work of art beyond gazing at a painting on a wall.

First, a little history. Beginning in the summer of 2012, the MFAH started hatching immersive light-based experiences that to date, have lured new audiences and vastly expanded its brand. Most notably these have included James Turrell’s epic retrospective complete with mysterious chambers (2013), and exhibitions for Venezuelan master Jesús Rafael Soto (2014) and Japanese art + fashion ambassadress Yayoi Kusama (2016) that redefined the possibilities of the Law Building’s Cullinan Hall, while showing off in a grand manner MFAH acquisitions to its permanent collection.

But this summer’s exhibition could be its most crowd-pleasing yet — a pair of recent acquisitions by Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, fresh from her mid-career survey at the New Museum in New York City, which broke attendance records. Rist’s site-specific staging of Pixel Forest (2016) with its enchanting strands of ceiling-to-floor LED lights, 3,000 in number, is paired with Worry Will Vanish (2106), a dual-channel projection that melds the human body with nature and the cosmos.

Encounter these installations together, and the viewer has mostly definitely attained the utopian future of the art world. Add to that the presence of poufs to lounge on, and the museum becomes your own personal living room transformed into the ultimate sight/sound virtual reality (sans headsets).

The story of how the exhibition came to Houston dates back to the era of Peter Marzio, who reigned at the MFAH for nearly 30 years, before his untimely passing in 2010. Marzio and curator Alison de Lima Greene experienced Rist at a neighboring museum — the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2009, which was the Swiss artist’s breakout show in the U.S.

Flash forward, and this summer’s exhibition came to be when current MFAH director Gary Tinterow saw the artist’s latest installation at the New Museum last fall, and immediately texted Greene, his modern and contemporary curator, that the time for the Rist show was “Now.”

Holiday Gifting

  • Wayne Smith
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Elaine Turner - GiGi Flats
  • Asher Gallery
  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss
  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Cotton Club
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Cotton Club
  • Elaine Turner - Felicia Stole in Magenta
  • Museum of Fine Arts Houston
  • Wayne Smith
  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Bond No 9 - Candle

As Greene said during the media preview, watching an often jaded press pool succumb to the art, slink to the floor, and bask in the spectacle of Rist, “She absolutely affirms, we are one with nature.”

And don’t forget to employ the hash tag, #pixelforest.

“Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest and Worries will Vanish,” through September 17; tickets/info here.

Featured Properties