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Zilkha Gallery

A Better Yesterday

On View: May 20 – September 3, 2017

Opening Reception: Friday, May 19, 2017 | 6:30–9PM

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past” is a truism today, originally from the lips of our great, philosophically-minded comedienne and actress Lily Tomlin. It means simply that we need to radically accept that whatever traumas we have lived through are part of the life experience that created us, and we must build from there. The past is a neutral building block that should engender no emotion from us other than gratitude for who we are today. Still, creative people cannot help but muse over alternate realities that might have been and, through the telling, make sense of the actual narratives. And while such musings can veer toward the pathological in the cases of Jack Early, JooYoung Choi, and Lily van der Stokker, these artists remake aspects of their pasts with glee. A Better Yesterday presents three personal histories and stories that are remade as ambiguously fictional situations.

JooYoung Choi will create a complete alternative universe in which every visitor will need to play a part. Adults will remember when the characters on children’s television needed their help to be saved—whether that help involved drawing, dreaming, or singing along.

Jack Early will present Jack Early’s Life Story in Just Under 20 Minutes (2014), a multimedia installation with the artist’s ups and downs recounted with a Garrison-Keillor-like simplicity and playing from a customized yellow Victrola. The show will also feature his family recreated as life-size pillow sculptures.

Lily van der Stokker is a Dutch artist whose medium is large-scale wall paintings that might resemble childlike illustrations but always speak of the complexities of adult lives and the weight of our pasts. Many of her subjects deal with nostalgic reverie, remembering the past fondly and creating a rosy colored picture that hints at melancholia and loss. The artist intends to create a new work specifically for this exhibition.

In the era of reality TV and near constant, multifarious forms of therapy, it’s refreshing to celebrate the aspect of artistic creation that makes cold, grey facts of past events into a mutable material for joy.


A Better Yesterday is organized by Bill Arning, Director.

Educational materials:
Family Review of A Better Yesterday
Teacher Guide to A Better Yesterday


A Better Yesterday exhibition trailer

Tours Available: 
Age Restricted Tour: 

images + video

Lily van der Stokker, "Useless Movement," 2010 JooYoung Choi, "The Daily Veritas – Stepping on the face of madness," 2015 Jack Early, Maudie, Aunt Lib, Jack and Bernice on the front porch, 2017. Lily van der Stokker, Jack and Lily Live Together 5 Years JooYoung Choi, "CWTV Presents: Pleasure Vision Ultra-Feature Deluxe Edition" JooYoung Choi, "CWTV Presents: Pleasure Vision Ultra-Feature Deluxe Edition" Lily van der Stokker, "Jack Is 60, I Am 44, Design for Wall Painting and Couch" JooYoung Choi, "Quantum Soup—Spacia and Amplexus: All There Is That Is Real Is t Jack Early, "Magical Surprises" (detail,) 2015. Jack Early, "Magical Surprises," 2015 (detail) Jack Early, "Magical Surprises" (detail,) 2015. Jack Early, "Magical Surprises" (detail,) 2015.


A Better Yesterday is generously supported by Fergus McCaffrey, New York. This program is supported as part of the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, and is also made possible in part by a grant from the Mondriaan Fund.

This exhibition is made possible by the patrons, benefactors, and donors to the Museum’s Friends of Steel Exhibitions:

Director’s Circle
Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen
Fayez Sarofim
Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim

Curator’s Circle
Mr. and Mrs. I.H. Kempner III

Major Exhibition Circle
A Fare Extraordinaire
Bergner and Johnson Design
Jereann Chaney
Barbara and Michael Gamson
George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation
Blakely and Trey Griggs
Leslie and Mark Hull
Jackson and Company
Beverly and Howard Robinson
Michael Zilkha

Perspectives Exhibition Circle
Ruth Dreessen and Thomas Van Laan
Glen Gonzalez and Steve Summers
Leigh and Reggie Smith
Mr. Wallace Wilson
The Susan Vaughan Foundation, Inc.

The catalogue accompanying this exhibition is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston.

Funding for the Museum’s operations is generously provided by Melissa Kepke Grobmyer, Louise Jamail, Dillon A. Kyle, Catherine and George Masterson, Elisabeth McCabe, Fayez Sarofim, and Robin and Andrew C. Schirrmeister III. The Museum receives partial operating support from The Brown Foundation Inc. of Houston, the Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Museum District Association, the Texas Commission on the Arts, The Wortham Foundation, Inc., and Art Market Productions.

CAMH also thanks its artist benefactors for their support, including Chris Beckman, Michael Bise, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Mel Chin, Julia Dault, Jules de Balincourt, James DrakeKeltie Ferris, Mark Flood, Barnaby Furnas, Theaster Gates, Jeffrey Gibson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Camille Henrot, Jim Hodges, Joan Jonas, Jennie C. Jones, Maya Lin, Julian Lorber, Robert Mangold, Beatriz Milhazes, Melissa Miller, Marilyn Minter, Nic Nicosia, Angel Otero, McKay Otto, Joyce Pensato, Enoc Perez, Gavin Perry, Rob Pruitt, Matthew Ritchie, Dario Robleto, Ed Ruscha, Jacolby Satterwhite, Cindy Sherman, Shinique Smith, Al Souza, John Sparagana, James Surls, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Carrie Mae Weems, William Wegman, Haegue Yang, and Brenna Youngblood.

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