Growing up in New York with a painter father and novelist mother, Alison de Lima Greene spent many afternoons in museums and art galleries. Now, she’s the Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the MFAH. We asked her to share her five favorite works of art from the MFAH collections.
1) Pipilotti Rist Worry Will Vanish Dissolution / Pixel Forest Transformer
Stepping into this environment is as beguiling as Alice’s travels through Wonderland. Worry Will Vanish Dissolution maps the ways human anatomy is at one with larger systems of nature. Its extraordinary soundtrack offers a point of departure for Pixel Forest Transformer, which comprises 3,000 hanging lights that echo and complement the video’s music and color sequences.
2) Yayoi Kusama Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity
In translating her childhood trauma into works of art, Yayoi Kusama addresses the human need to tap into wonder and the infinite. This intimately scaled installation is a meditative and singular experience illuminated by golden lights that ignite and then fade away. Reflective surfaces on all sides create the illusion of a vast universe encompassing every direction.
3) Anish Kapoor Cloud Column
In Houston, where the drama of the sky is always captivating, Cloud Column allows us to gaze at the heavens above and contemplate how we position ourselves to the world around us. Standing over two stories tall, the highly polished stainless-steel sculpture reflects not only MFAH visitors, but also every nuance of light and changing surroundings on the plaza. Cloud Column presents a dynamic visual play between convex and concave surfaces, as its concave core reflects the world upside down.
4) Giuseppe Penone Albero folgorato (Lightning Tree)
The landscape has always provided inspiration for Giuseppe Penone, particularly in the life cycle of trees. Albero folgorato (Lightning Tree)—one in a series of monumental bronzes cast directly from actual trees—renders an electric strike through the brilliant gold finish in the upper branches. For Penone, gold represents a natural source of self-contained light. As he explains: “This is why I used it—to highlight forms that have been molded by light.”
5) Pablo Picasso Woman with Outstretched Arms
As a child, Pablo Picasso amused his sister by making paper cutouts of animals and figures—some of which are still preserved today. Decades later, Picasso returned to the practice for this sculpture, using the playful shorthand of steel mesh and black paint to identify the figure’s features and gender.