By Jill Patir
Last month, Houston-born artist MEL CHIN launched a traveling retrospective exhibit that spans four venues with a staggered speaking series. Mel Chin: Rematch is a mixed media exhibit that includes sculpture, video, drawing, painting, collage, and both land and performing art. By dispersing the collection across four sites, Chin was hoping to avoid a chronological presentation. The demonstration’s 60 artworks showcase the extensive range of subject matter and talent that his artwork encompasses. Chin describes the survey as an opportunity to revisit, reframe and battle his previous conceptions. “Points of view established in the past are no longer up to date,” he says. “It’s time for a rematch.”
The 31-piece collection on view at the Blaffer Art Museum focuses on Chin’s most well-known, science-based projects, namely Revival Field, in which he worked with agronomist Rufus Chaney on a unique set of sculptures that used phytoremediation, or metal-accumulating plants, to absorb toxins from contaminated soil, as a reductive technique. This can be compared to the way a sculptor carves away marble to create a masterpiece. Rematch at CAMH focuses on Chin’s work from the early 1970s, as well as his iconic and moving animation 9/11–9/11, created in 2007. The exhibition at Asia Society Texas Center shows a deep connection to the artist’s interest in the culture, history and aesthetics of Asia. The interactive aspect of the display, KNOWMAD, allows visitors to experience mapping, borders, nomadism and the encroachment of technology. The Station Museum of Contemporary Art will present a study for the proposed State of Heaven, where an oversized, floating, hand-knotted carpet serves as a symbolic and sacrificial sky, and is placed under a directive that parallels the actual destruction of the ozone layer.
Throughout his career, which successfully spans over four decades, Chin has worked on several site-specific, research-driven and collaborative projects in which he has partnered with scientists, fellow artists and community members. Various pieces from Rematch will be on display through March 21 at the Blaffer Art Museum and through April 19 at both the Contemporary Arts Museum and Asia Society Texas Center.