The Iconic Portrait Strand by Nestor Topchy

Aug 4, 2023 – Jan 21, 2024
Main Building

This exhibition presents 124 portraits made over the past twenty years by Houston-based artist Nestor Topchy (b. 1963). The small paintings, with their gold backgrounds, resemble Byzantine icons; however, rather than representing 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 thirty 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.

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

This exhibition is generously supported by Dillon Kyle and Sam Lasseter; Mary Hale Lovett McLean; Veronica and Douglas Overman; Beverly and Howard Robinson; John and Stephanie Smither Visionary Art Fund; Scott R. Sparvero; Friends of the Artist; and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.

The Iconic Portrait Strand by Nestor Topchy at the Menil Collection, Houston. Video: Jay Clark
Artist Talk: Nestor Topchy in Conversation with Timothy Morton | The Menil Collection, Houston. October 12, 2023