Six Must-Attend Events: January 3–5
The state's top offerings, from Pop Art cave relic paintings to awe-inspiring NASA imagery set to an out-of-this-world symphony.
I Am a Camera
In this era of smartphones, many people take the time to crop and color-correct even their selfies and photo-bombs and believe they know a good photo when they see one. So they may revel in—and even learn something about their craft at—“Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos Into the Digital Age,” on exhibit through this weekend at the Harry Ransom Center.
The show draws from the center’s 200,000-piece collection of prints from Magnum Photos, the international photographic cooperative founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim Seymour, and George Rodger. Magnum changed the game for photographers, giving them more freedom to pursue their interests and set editorial agenda. That makes this exhibition not just a display of the best of the best photojournalists and artists documenting our life and times but also an affirmation of the power of a unified front. The emphasis on ways photography has evolved during the shift from long-lead print photojournalism to the now-now-now digital age may inspire point-and-click hobbyists who had previously considered the barriers to becoming a professional photographer insurmountable.
Harry Ransom Center, Jan. 3–5, hrc.utexas.edu
The actor George Takei, known for his role as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series and films, has resurrected his career through social media. He uses his new platform as the king of memes both for causes like gay rights and for less serious purposes like random-humor one-upmanship with his former colleague William Shatner. The Fort Worth Symphony will back Takei for a night of his finest material on Saturday during “Sci-Fi Spectacular,” a performance dedicated to out-of-this-world movies including Star Wars, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. When Takei is not telling anecdotes about those pictures, the early days of Star Trek, and the multicultural vision of the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, he may recite the climactic speech by Klaatu, the alien from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. (“Join us and live in peace. Or pursue your present course—and face obliteration.”) Perhaps there will even be memorable Twitter fodder for audience members, which Takei could then retweet.
Bass Performance Hall, Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m., fwsymphony.org
In a profile for his alma mater, Trinity University, Matt Magee, a French-born, Texas-educated artist, said that his greatest influences were the rocks, arrowheads, and other artifacts that he and his father, a geologist, would collect during drives through the Southwest when Magee was a boy. Looking at Magee’s oeuvre is like observing a Pop Art version of those relics, with some of his pieces loosely resembling the Native American pictographs on the walls of the caves he may have wandered through in his youth. This is the last weekend of “Circa 1994,” Magee’s exhibition at Hiram Butler, the gallery that represents the conceptual artist James Turrell. The show consists of design-friendly works from the early nineties, when Magee, then primarily a sculptor, made a foray into painting. That shift in medium was so successful that it freed up Magee not long ago to quit his day job as the chief photo archivist for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Hiram Butler Gallery, Jan. 3–4, hirambutler.com
The Art of Warfare
The exhibition “Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor,” open through this weekend at the San Antonio Museum of Art, shows how the ancient Japanese warriors, who endured from the twelfth century into the late nineteenth, did their killing. About six dozen pieces, including helmets (kabuto), face masks (menpo) and the essential samurai sword, depict assassins obsessed with aesthetics. Samurai—the name translates to “those who serve”—lived by a strong moral code (bushido) enforced with martial arts. That duality will be accentuated this weekend with two programs: a screening of Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 film Throne of Blood, a Samurai take on Macbeth; and the San Antonio poet Laurie Ann Guerrero’s Haiku Hike, a roving presentation through the museum focusing on the literary art form of the Samurai.
San Antonio Museum of Art, Jan. 3–5, samuseum.org
West, the site of the fertilizer plant explosion last spring, will long be in need of healing, financially but also spiritually, which is something James Hand, a throwback honky-tonk crooner and West native, can help with on Friday when he knocks out songs from his latest album, “Mighty Lonesome Man.”
The Continental Club, Jan. 3, 10 p.m., jamesslimhand.com
“The Planets and the Earth,” the Houston Symphony’s real-time soundtrack to NASA images superimposed onto a huge screen, promises to be an enjoyably long, strange trip, bound to peak during the performance of Richard Strauss’s epic “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”
Jones Hall, Jan. 9, 11, and 12, houstonsymphony.org