Curatorial Internships

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


Alec Aldrich

The 2017 IFPDA grant to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has provided me with a significant mentorship experience in the field of fine prints. I have worked with prints at other public institutions like the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the IFPDA fellowship in Houston under the supervision of Associate Curator Dena Woodall was my first opportunity to take the lead on my own curatorial project. Over the course of this ten-week fellowship, I learned how to navigate the complex eco-system of a major art museum, all while expanding my knowledge and appreciation of the history of printmaking.

I created an online exhibition for the Google Art Project called Funny Faces: Satirical Prints and Drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which will go live in August-September 2017. Drawing from the museum’s rich collection of satirical prints, the exhibition explores the visual language of satire, and charts a path from the seventeenth-century grotesques of Ribera to the political satires of Thomas Nast in nineteenth-century America. The museum houses over one-thousand Nast prints, so it was a treat to look at those prints, and others, in person. To realize this ambitious summer project, I had to work closely with the Learning and Interpretation, Marketing, and Photographic Imaging Services departments. I also reached out to the artistic community of Houston to produce a live-caricature video, in which a photograph of Thomas Nast is reimagined to comic effect. In all, this project was a real opportunity for curatorial leadership. And since my specialty is seventeenth-century Dutch prints, I was exposed to a whole new aspect of the history of printmaking, too.

The upcoming exhibition “Paper Trail: Art History Meets Science” and a planned catalogue of the museum’s Straus Collection likewise offered intriguing research opportunities. Highlights include corresponding with the National Library of Israel to learn more about a recently acquired—and extremely rare—eighteenth-century view of Jerusalem etched by Johann Daniel Herz, and investigating the eating habits of seventeenth-century Dutch society for a catalogue entry on Rembrandt’s etching, The Pancake Woman. I also created a standardized citation guide for print reference series like Hollstein and Bartsch. Unlike older print departments in New York or London, Houston’s department—founded in the 1990s—had no established standard. This effort enhanced my familiarity with these vital resources for the study of fine prints.

The 2017 IFPDA fellowship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gave me a critical professional boost at an important early stage in my career. It is my hope that other students of fine prints will have the opportunity to work with Dena Woodall in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in the summers ahead.