Evolution of Neglect: Scenes of Ruin and Ruins from the Menil Collection, 2014. Photo: Max Fields.

The Evolution of Neglect: Scenes of Ruin and Ruins from the Menil Collection at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014. Photo: Max Fields.

Past Exhibition

The Evolution of Neglect: Scenes of Ruin and Ruins from The Menil Collection

March 15, 2014 - April 27, 2014
Cullen Education Resource Room


Contemporary Arts Museum Houston’s Teen Council presents The Evolution of Neglect: Scenes of Ruin and Ruins from The Menil Collection, featuring a selection of photographs by fifteen artists. Through varying scenes that portray subtle signs of existence to depictions of barren landscapes, the exhibition traces the complex narrative of an evolving world through images of life and lifelessness.

Conceived out of conversations between Michelle White, Curator at The Menil Collection, and Jamal Cyrus, Education Associate and Teen Council Coordinator at CAMH, the partnership between the two organizations aims to present Teen Council with the exceptional opportunity to build a museum-quality exhibition. The Teen Council, who is employed by CAMH to help create programming for their peers, was granted rare access to the Menil’s unparalleled collection of contemporary art, focusing on their photography collection, and was empowered to organize an exhibition from the ground up, a process that is loaded with discovery and educational rewards.

Starting in fall of 2013 the Teen Council made several visits to the Menil, delving deep into its photographic collection under the supervision of Curatorial Assistant Susan Sutton and Collection Registrar David Aylsworth. The group digitally reviewed almost 2500 photographs to narrow down the selection to sixty images. They then looked at actual prints, and, after much debate and discussion, the Teen Council reached the final edit of thirty-three images in early December. The Teen Council began working in small groups, each of which built a scale model of the gallery space.

Artists in the exhibition include Ansel Adams, Tom Arndt, Peter Brown, Paul Caponigro, William Christenberry, Edward Sheriff Curtis, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, John Gossage, Clarence Andre Kertesz, John Laughlin, Danny Lyon, John McIntosh, Joshua Mann Pailet, and unattributed.

The earliest image in the exhibition is by an unattributed artist and dated 1871, and the most recent photograph is one by Tom Arndt taken in 2008. Black-and-white images by influential American photographer Walker Evans are shown, including several that portray signage that could be interpreted as possible warnings: “Damaged,” “Fresh Water,” and “Sex Maniac.” In John McIntosh’s color photos “Wonder” Wheat Bread and “Wonder” White Bread(both 1985), the iconic food is placed center stage showing nature in a highly processed state. Other photographers, such as Paul Caponigro and William Christenberry, depict dusty landscapes that appear untouched while others show buildings now in ruin.

According to the Teen Council’s exhibition statement, “The images frame a story familiar to all of us. They are a warning–a history, a fear that has haunted humanity since creation. Although there is an urge toward life, there is the knowledge of one’s own eventual demise. Tourists visit ruins until they are in ruin.”


The Evolution of Neglect: Scenes of Ruin and Ruins from The Menil Collection is organized by CAMH Teen Council, Jamal Cyrus, CAMH Education Associate and Teen Council Coordinator, and Michelle White, Curator at The Menil Collection.

Extended Media