The Iconic Portrait Strand by Nestor Topchy

Aug 4, 2023 – Jan 21, 2024
Main Building

This exhibition presents more than 100 portraits made over the past 20 years by Houston-based artist Nestor Topchy (b. 1963). The small paintings, with their gold backgrounds, resemble Byzantine icons; however, rather than represent religious figures, Topchy depicts friends and colleagues in the art community. His materials are traditional, and he applies red clay, powdered marble, gold leaf, pure pigments, and egg yolk on small wooden panels. The artist has explained that his approach connects the past to the present and lends a unique effect to his contemporary subjects: “To paint a mortal in the sea of gold light, alone—is to propose a saintliness that dwells within all people.”

Topchy has worked in Texas for more than 30 years. Known for his use of diverse mediums and attention to craft, his art explores the mystery of the ephemeral through sculpture, painting, performance, and architecture and is deeply influenced by Zen philosophy, Ukrainian folk art, sacred geometry, and the historical language of the Dada art movement. This will be the first museum presentation of Topchy’s ongoing series of contemporary portrait icons.

The Iconic Portrait Strand by Nestor Topchy is curated by Michelle White, Senior Curator.

This exhibition is generously supported by Mary Hale Lovett McLean; and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.