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For Art’s Sake

By Mimi Faucett Trahan

Photography by Cameron Gardner

01.30.19

New CAMH curator Rebecca Matalon brings her diverse experience and big ideas to Houston.

Rebecca Matalon was destined for a career in the arts. Not only by way of her upbringing in New York City, where she was surrounded by some of the finest museums in the country, but also because of her family. Her mother was an art director and both of her maternal grandparents were creatives.

Matalon briefly studied photography at Bard College; however, during her time there, she was less interested in making photographs and more interested in group discussions and “crit.” “I realized I was perhaps better at analyzing than making my own work,” she says. And after a particularly inspiring art history class, Matalon swapped her concentration to art history.

Fast-forward to today and Matalon is a veteran art curator, having spent the last five-plus years at MOCA in Los Angeles—first as a curatorial assistant, then associate and, finally, as assistant curator. And this month, the 33-year-old will move to Houston to start her new gig as curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.

During her time in L.A., Matalon collaborated with artists like Mickalene Thomas and Zoe Leonard, among others, and organized such prolific exhibits as 2015’s Tongues Untied, which looked at works made during the HIV/AIDS crisis. In addition, she was a curator at JOAN, a not-for-profit exhibition space she co-founded, dedicated to presenting the work of under-recognized artists. “I’m looking forward to new conversations and a new city,” she says. “And to being a part of an institution that’s smaller in scale but much more experimental and that pushes boundaries.”

Matalon says she was drawn to CAMH’s rich history of supporting experimental arts, artists of color and women, from the hiring of its first professional director in 1955, a woman, Jermayne MacAgy, to the museum’s annual event, Another Great Night in November, where the new curator was first introduced. Of her plans in the new role, stayed tuned, Matalon says: “I certainly have a few ideas up my sleeve.” Lucky us.