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A bueno new home for Latin American art (San Antonio). Plus: Dan Flavin’s artful neon (Houston); music fans go bock to the future (Shiner); the queen of the Lion King roars back with The Flying Dutchman (Houston); and Porgy and Bess, you is my show now (Austin).
THE MAIN EVENT
A Grand Opening
Every Texan should know that it’s impossible to understand north-of-the-border culture without taking a good look at the thirty centuries or so of south-of-the-border artistic output. Texas institutions, however, have been largely reluctant to provide the proper instruction (the Art of the Americas galleries at the Dallas Museum of Art being the notable exception). All the more reason, then, to applaud the new Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, opening October 24 at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The three-story limestone-and-brick wing will have computer workstations to guide visitors through a three-thousand-year panorama ranging from pre-Columbian ceramics and Spanish Colonial liturgical silver to Latin America’s politically impassioned modernism (right, Panamanian wooden staffs). But what will really put this Rockefeller Center on the map is the former vice president’s collection of Mexican folk art, augmented by the collection of San Antonio artist Robert K. Winn. From ferocious carved masks to gemlike ceremonial portrait jars, these modest artifacts echo not only the waves of faiths and regimes that have washed over an ancient land but also the persistence of a native culture so deeply rooted in the soul of the Americas that we ignore it at the peril of never fully knowing ourselves. MICHAEL ENNIS
Flavin of the Month
For all its storied accumulation of Byzantine treasures and Surrealist fantasies, Houston’s Menil family is likely to be best remembered centuries hence as the Medici of minimalism, the principal patrons of some of the most exquisitely reductive art of our time. With Rothko’s monochromatic chapel, Barnett Newman’s proto-Minimalist Broken Obelisk, and a separate gallery devoted to Cy Twombly’s ethereal abstractions already in place, the Menil complex near the University of St. Thomas adds what was, sadly, the final commission for both fluorescent-light sculptor Dan Flavin, who died in 1996, and patron extraordinaire Dominique de Menil, who passed away at age 89 last December. The Dan Flavin Gallery at Richmond Hall, a renovated grocery store two blocks from the Menil Collection, is adorned both inside and out with Flavin’s trademark light fixtures, bold geometric strokes in vivid yet strangely delicate electric hues, 1972–1975). In celebration of the October 30 opening, the Menil Collection will also host “Dan Flavin/Donald Judd: Aspects of Color,” a joint exhibition that illustrates how the close friends, both of whom disdained the term “Minimalism,” used stripped-down forms and industrial technology to create transcendental effects of light and color. MICHAEL ENNIS
Forget milk. Got beer? You will on October 17 if you make the pilgrimage to the little town of Shiner, when the Spoetzl Brewery (the brewer of Shiner beer) hosts the fifth-annual Bocktoberfest concert. The all-day showcase of Texas music features Robert Earl Keen (left), the modern Texas troubadour who will make his third Bocktoberfest appearance; alt-country Austinites Reckless Kelly; the Ugly Americans, who have received handsome praise for their new funk-rock CD, Boom Boom Baby; the incessantly touring guitar rocker Ian Moore; Marcia Ball, whose Gulf Coast rhythm and blues can shake up any house; and Dallas rockabilly king the Reverend Horton Heat. Be forewarned: The desirable patches of grass usually fill up quickly—last year the beautiful fall weather brought out more than 25,000 folks relaxing on blankets and lawn chairs—so stake out your spot near the stage early. Because of the crowds, the brewery itself will be closed, but—never fear—the taps outside will be pouring. Let the good times flow! KATY VINE
Charting Her Course
Julie Taymor is not afraid to take chances. Who would have imagined that she could transform a Disney cartoon into that Tony award–winning Broadway musical The Lion King? Never idle during her twenty-year career, the director-designer is now busier than a lion cub in a wildebeest stampede. She is currently in Rome directing Anthony Hopkins in a film version of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, but fortunately she has found time to direct Houston Grand Opera’s October 23 season opener, The Flying Dutchman, a coproduction with the Los Angeles Opera. And once again, Taymor is taking chances. In Wagner’s opera a heroic, self-sacrificing woman gives her all to save a self-destructive lout, a Dutch sea captain who has been seized by the devil for swearing he could round the Cape of Good Hope in a storm. Every seven years the Dutchman has one night to find a woman who will be true till death, and only the Norwegian maid Senta can save him. Taymor tampers with the maestro’s well-worn plot by adding two silent but highly visible characters who symbolize the psyches of the Dutchman and Senta, a restless old man who wanders at the bottom of the sea and an adolescent girl who frantically paints a portrait of the only man she can love. Taymor has also supplied spectacle galore, and HGO has assembled the world’s reigning Dutchman, bass-baritone Franz Grundheber, and the largest male chorus in HGO history to sing the ghostly crew. Anchors aweigh! CHESTER ROSSON
Shall We Dance?
It seems the world has gone gaga for Gershwin—George, that is—judging from the scores of tribute concerts scheduled this fall: Orchestras from Illinois to Israel are planning Gershwin programs to mark the centennial of the composer’s birth. Perhaps the most innovative of these events is the Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s production of Gershwin’s 1935 folk opera, Porgy and Bess, which makes its Texas debut at the Paramount Theatre in Austin October 29 after premiering last month at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Set to Miles Davis’ 1958 recording of selections from the opera, the two-act ballet is choreographed and directed by Tony award nominee Hope Clarke, who staged a touring version of Porgy and Bess for Houston Grand Opera in 1995. Legendary jazz pianist Dick Hyman has contributed new piano pieces to the production, but it remains true to the tale of the doomed love affair on sweltering Catfish Row. If Gershwin ever thought his legacy would not survive into the next millennium, someone should get word to him that it ain’t necessarily so. ERIN GROMEN