MFAH Plays to Music Lovers with The Sounds I See: Photographs of Musicians

July 25, 2008

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is turning its Cameron Gallery into a stage this fall for contemporary guitarists, classical performers, jazz artists, country singers, and rock stars. The Sounds I See: Photographs of Musicians, opening Sept. 20, presents more than 90 photographs from the museum’s permanent collection, most of them never previously exhibited. While some of the photographs are formal portraits, the exhibition focuses on those taken during performances in auditoriums, nightclubs, and symphony halls.

The centerpieces of the exhibition are two series of photographs being shown
for the first time: 44 close-up portraits of contemporary guitarists by Ralph Gibson and 19 photographs of French singer Edith Piaf in performance by Emil Cadoo.

In his series on master guitarists, Gibson concentrates on close-ups of hands, face and instrument. Some of his subjects are well-known—Andy Summers of the Police and jazz artist and innovator Les Paul—while others are best known to other musicians. The MFAH has published the series in a book, State of the Axe: Guitar Masters in Photographs and Words. It will be on view in the gallery and available in the MFAH Shop.

Piaf, who died in 1963 at age 48, was one of the most legendary singers of the 20th century. She famously wore a black dress while performing so that her facial expressions and her hand gestures were dramatically emphasized. Cadoo (1926-2002), an African-American photographer who moved to France after World War II, made this expressive series of photographs in the last years of Piaf’s life.

Complementing the Gibson and Cadoo works is a selection of more than 30 photographs from other collections within the photography department’s holdings. Many of them also are being shown for the first time. The musicians portrayed represent musical genres ranging from classical to country and rock to jazz, with icons such as Little Richard, Duke Ellington, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley, Woody Guthrie, Garth Brooks, Selena, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, ZZ Top, Mick Jagger, Igor Stravinsky, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Minnie Pearl, and Willie Nelson. Among the famous photographers are Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, Edward Steichen, and Geoff Winningham.

“This exhibition showcases the variety of images of musicians in the collection taken by a wide-ranging group of photographers,” said Clint Willour, guest curator of the exhibition. “Whether taking classic portraiture or documenting a performance, each photographer has captured revealing moments in the life of their subject.”

The Sounds I See will be on view through Jan. 19, 2009 in the Cameron Gallery of the Audrey Jones Beck Building, 5601 Main Street.

The Caroline Wiess Law Building of the MFAH is located at 1001 Bissonnet and the Audrey Jones Beck Building is at 5601 Main Street. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; and Sunday from 12:15 – 7 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday, except for holidays. Admission to this exhibition is included with general admission to the museum. General admission is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children 6-18, students, and senior adults (65+); admission is free for children 5 and under. Admission is free on Thursday, courtesy of Shell Oil Company Foundation. Admission is free on Saturday and Sunday for children 18 and under with a Houston Public Library Power Card or any other library card.

For general information, call 713-639-7300.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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