Moody Center for the Arts announces its inaugural season

Internationally celebrated artists working at the intersection of art, science and social engagement to be featured

A wide-ranging international program will inaugurate Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts when this new transdisciplinary lab for creativity opens to the public Feb. 24, 2017.

Thomas Struth's "GREAT, Armstrong Hangar 703, Palmdale" is among the photographs of his solo show "Nature & Politics," one of the inaugural exhibitions at the Moody Center for the Arts.

Thomas Struth’s “GREAT, Armstrong Hangar 703, Palmdale” is among the photographs of his solo show “Nature & Politics,” one of the inaugural exhibitions at the Moody Center for the Arts.

From the opening day through mid-May 2017, the Moody will be filled with projects, works and events by artists including Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Struth, Diana Thater, inaugural artist-in-residence Mona Hatoum, the Tokyo-based digital “ultra-technologists” of teamLab, and New York City’s Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre.

“We’re honored that so many world-renowned artists will be joining us during our inaugural season, both to present their work and to use the Moody as we’ve envisioned it, as a platform for creation and interaction,” said Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director of the Moody.

She noted that the striking architectural design for the 50,000-square-foot, $30 million Moody is by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

“Michael Maltzan’s extraordinary design makes our building the perfect vehicle for the cross-disciplinary projects that our artists, the Rice community and the public will now realize together,” she said. “We look forward to launching our first season dedicated to the crucial intersection of art, science and social engagement — globally significant themes we’re ideally poised to explore at Rice University.”

Among the first noncollecting art institutions built specifically for interdisciplinary collaboration, the Moody is conceived as an experimental platform for creating and presenting works of all kinds — a place where new modes of making can flourish in flexible teaching spaces, and visitors can engage with artists from around the country and the world, Weaver said.

Rice President David Leebron said, “We are excited to see the Moody Center for the Arts taking shape on our campus. With this announcement of the inaugural season, we can begin to see the facility and the program come to life. At Rice, we are proud of our strong reputation in the sciences, engineering and the professions and equally proud of our success in the arts and humanities, which contribute in essential ways to every education and every intellectual endeavor. The Moody Center is a stake in the ground for our continuing arts commitment, and we look forward to welcoming everyone from Houston, across the nation and abroad to the Moody.”

The inaugural season

New York City's Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre (seen here in "Logbook") will perform a site-specific work at James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace for the opening of the Moody.

New York City’s Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre (seen here in “Logbook”) will perform a site-specific work at James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace for the opening of the Moody.

The Central Gallery of the Moody will be the site for the first installation in the United States of Eliasson’s “Green Light — An Artistic Workshop.” Initiated by the Danish-Icelandic artist in March 2016 in collaboration with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) in Vienna, “Green Light” addresses the international refugee crisis and the ongoing phenomenon of economic migration both metaphorically and practically. “Green light” testifies to Eliasson’s belief in the agency of contemporary art and its potential to initiate processes of civic transformation.

On a metaphoric level, the project gives the green go-ahead light to asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants by inviting them to participate in an extensive multi-faceted program of shared learning. This includes a workshop for the construction of stackable, modular green lamps, designed by Eliasson and made from recycled and sustainable materials, as well as language courses, seminars, artist’s interventions, screenings and other initiatives that respond to the needs of the participants. The proceeds of the sale of “Green Light” lamps will be donated to partnering nongovernmental organizations that assist refugees and migrants.

An integral component of the project is that university students and members of the public are invited to join the refugees and migrants in this collaborative process of artistic fabrication and learning, creating a space for exchange and encounter between people from different geographic, social, economic, linguistic and educational backgrounds. As an educational and creative center located in Houston, now one of the most diverse cities in the United States, the Moody is especially suited to host “Green Light” and the public discussions that the project aims to generate. The Moody’s partner organization will be the nondenominational Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston.

The premier art exhibition space of the Moody, the Skylight Gallery, will present “Nature & Politics,” featuring recent photographs by Struth. Based on an exhibition that was co-organized by the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the High Museum in Atlanta, the Moody’s presentation will concentrate on Struth’s images of sites of scientific research and manufactured landscapes. The photographs bear witness to very specialized imaginations: Whether it is the technological developments that made space travel possible, experiments in plasma physics or industrial facilities such as offshore oil rigs or blast furnaces, all owe their existence to the ideas and designs of experts. The artist will be present for a panel discussion during the opening weekend, when the Moody will inaugurate interdisciplinary conversations about technology and research — important and timely topics of global significance — and how our experience of them shapes our perceptions of the world.

During the Moody's inaugural season, visitors to the two Media Arts galleries will experience works by the Japanese art collective teamLab, including the interactive digital installation "Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled by Live Together - A Whole Year per Hour."

During the Moody’s inaugural season, visitors to the two Media Arts galleries will experience works by the Japanese art collective teamLab, including the interactive digital installation “Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled by Live Together – A Whole Year per Hour.”

The Reception Gallery at the Moody, which welcomes visitors into the building, will pay tribute to Houston’s renown as the site of NASA’s mission control with an installation of “The Starry Messenger” (2014), a nine-monitor video wall by artist Thater. This spectacular and encompassing work presents a changing vista of the Milky Way filmed in the Griffith Observatory Planetarium in Los Angeles, shot from below the massive Zeiss star projector. In partnership with the Rice Space Institute, the work will be at the center of a series of cross-disciplinary conversations about the technology of space exploration and the impact it has on life on Earth.

In the Moody’s two Media Arts galleries, visitors will encounter interactive digital works by the Tokyo art collective teamLab, including “Flowers and People, Cannot Be Controlled but Live Together — A Whole Year per Hour” (2015). Immersive and hypnotic, their large-scale installations consist of computer-generated visuals that change at the visitor’s touch, releasing constantly evolving images of natural forms in an interplay of art, digital technology and the human presence.

In the Moody’s Studio Theater, the innovative Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre will conduct a weeklong residency during the Moody’s opening. The residency will result in two to three site-specific dance performances, presented between Feb. 24 and 26, in response to the James Turrell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace nearby on the Rice campus with live choral music performed by an ensemble from Rice’s Shepherd School of Music. A talk with artistic director-choreographer Dušan Týnek about his creative process and interest in Turrell’s work will take place at the Moody during the opening weekend. Other presentations that will follow in the Performance Space include a production of “Proof” by David Auburn, in collaboration with Rice’s departments of Visual and Dramatic Arts and Mathematics, and a performance of Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s “An Iliad,” with original music composed and performed by students from the Shepherd School.

Weaver said the Moody is proud that its first artist-in-residence will be Hatoum, the internationally acclaimed Beirut-born Palestinian artist whose work in sculpture, performance, video and installation was recently the subject of a major survey exhibition at London’s Tate Modern. Underscoring the Moody’s collaborative goals within Houston’s rich cultural scene, Hatoum will devote her residency in part to developing works for a major exhibition, her first in the United States in 20 years, at the Menil Collection Oct. 6, 2017-Feb. 25, 2018. Hatoum will appear, together with scholars from diverse fields, in a panel discussion about her work and will participate in a sculpture class at Rice’s Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts.

The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson will stage his "Green Light - An Artistic Workshop" in the Moody's Central Gallery. The interactive project, a partnership with Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, addresses the international refugee crisis and economic migration.

The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson will stage his “Green Light – An Artistic Workshop” in the Moody’s Central Gallery. The interactive project, a partnership with Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, addresses the international refugee crisis and economic migration.

Rounding out the schedule of activities housed in the Moody will be five new interdisciplinary courses developed for Rice undergraduates. Information on these evolving courses, developed under the rubric of “art plus,” is available at https://moody.rice.edu.

Designing the Moody

Maltzan’s contemporary design, with its bold geometric shapes and inviting transparency, will make the Moody a beacon on Rice’s campus while affirming the mission to foster connections across disciplines, Weaver said.

Maltzan, founder and principal of Michael Maltzan Architecture Inc., said of the building, “The interior of the Moody is designed to foster a sense of openness and possibility. The double-height creative open studio at its heart can be imagined as an interior quad, echoing the other quads found throughout the Rice campus. This interior landscape brings the most diverse programmatic functions into contact with one another, while opening views out to the campus. This emphasis on transparency extends to the building’s exterior, whose brick-clad upper story seems to float over an entry level encased in floor-to-ceiling glass. With pedestrian paths cutting across the site’s open lawn and into the building, a set of stairs on the north façade turning back to form an interior amphitheater and the cantilevered mass of the second story creating covered walkways below, the Moody will be one of the most active social spaces on the Rice campus and a welcoming facility for all.”

Development of the Moody is made possible by a $20 million grant from the Texas-based Moody Foundation, a charitable organization with an emphasis on education, social services, children’s needs and community development, with additional generous support from the Brown Foundation and other donors.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.