Sunday, May 29, 2011

Creative Reuse At New Houston Permitting Center

Just read an article on Glasstire by Carrie Schneider who cites the propensity of Houston artists to make art from recycled materials. Worth reading for the overview she gives of the many folks who make junk their medium of choice. I would love to show her Dean Ruck and Dan Havel's new work at the Houston Permitting Center.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More To Come After The Long Weekend

Next Wednesday and Thursday more artists will install their work at 1002 Washington Avenue. Gonzo 24/7, Jesse Sifuentes and Geoff Winningham will all be filling those insets/reveals built into the sheet rock at seven difference locations throughout the building.
I've gone nuts for weeks remeasuring those insets and comparing the measurements with the sizes of each piece of artwork. I think we are going to be all right, but I am not one to believe in numbers, whether they be of inches, feet or dollars and cents. Let's hope that each piece will fall into place with incident. We don't want to be hacking away at the newly painted sheet rock. Not that we would. There would simply be a delay and a change order. But we won't go there. All the insets have been checked and rechecked. I do know that Geoff and I think that one of his insets is an inch off. We'll soon find out. Enough of this paranoia.
By the end of next week, the second wave of installations should be successfully concluded and then the week of June 7, Serena, Kaneem and I get our work in place. Here is Serena's pit at the bottom of the interior staircase where she will install a series of monitors that will show a continuous display of the Houston sky via three cameras already installed on the roof of the building. There are big windows at the top of the stairway above level 4 so one can look up and then down to the basement and see blue sky. I love her concept.
Metalab's lobby piece is coming together in stages as subcontractors complete work. I can see the outlines of their piece and need to talk with them again to ascertain their schedule.
Bill Neuhaus, JB White and Susan McMillian and I met with Kaneem one day last week to talk about her installation. She brought a group of her burlap columns and it soon became evident that we'd need to 'place' the ceiling hardware and hooks that will hold these floating columns as she installs. They cannot be set in place ahead of time. She'll have to put one up at a time and then another and then another, arranging them as she goes along.
Still wondering if she'll had sound to these soft columns. Sure would surprise people if they brush against them and heard tiny bells. We'll see if she goes there.
After we met with Kaneem, I toured the building with Robynn Sanders, beginning in the basement where she and Susan and I discussed painted wall text using all the 'recycle' words I've collected in five different languages. I spoke of spirals and blocks of chunky letters and she immediately began to sketch out something for organizing the words. It looks terrific.
Sure will be fun to see her paint this wall. I've gone back and forth with one idea and then another for using these words, but I think we've almost hit upon it and I am excited.
My text walls are different from the work of most of the other artists. I've 'thought up' the ideas, but am not actually hand crafting any of the text interventions. Have collaborated with S.O. Creatives on most of the text interventions. They can actually take ideas and get them into a form that then be fabricated. A&E Graphics is working on two walls, one behind the bank of cashier's (is that a pun of sorts?) on the lobby floor. I got a dozen or more vintage blueprints and maps copied in high resolution and I wanted them in a giant montage with the words FINAL and APPROVAL overlaid on the surface of the blueprints like giant rubber stamps. S.O. Creatives made that happen and A&E Graphics will make the 'wall paper' that will be installed on June 8 if all is on schedule.
Bob Card made a text wall. He's taken recycled and salvaged woods and made then into a 5 ft by 8 ft bar code that reads GREEN - if you can read bar code. This 'text' will be installed on level 4 as you enter the main admin offices. Bob's included wood from the old Warwick Hotel, mahogany flooring from a home in River Oaks, mesquite and pecan.
I've had to reposition my sign language walls that will have brightly colored plexi hands that say things like "Code spoken here with skill, nuance and great authority." That statement is an approximation of what I remember writing several months ago.
Here's Sherri Oldham measuring the height for installing the plexi hand movements. They projected the images of the hands on to the wall so get the right scale and placement.
Two of the walls I chose for installing sign language are now blocked with more cubicles. The place is going to be a warren of offices. They are assembling the cubicles on level 4 and will work downward.
I understand there will be over 500 folks working in the building every day plus another couple hundred who come and go and are mostly in the field. That makes 700+ employees in this facility. I think some begin to move into their new spaces by June 17.
Oh, and Aggie Eyster is cutting out letters from old coffee cans. They'll spell out recycling sorts of words in English and Spanish and we'll install them high up in corners of random walls throughout the building. We'll also be hanging plexi clouds here and there with messages about code and recycling. These will be small interventions 'in the back of the house' so to speak.
So we have a really busy couple of weeks, the culmination of over a year's planning and work. Can't wait to see everything in place.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Warren of Cubicles and Some Civic Art

The building is humming. Cubicles are being assembled on level 4. I can already tell that every floor is going to be jammed with people and I've had to rearrange two of my sign language text walls because now desks will be positioned in front of the very walls that appeared open on the plans just two months ago.
Almost seven hundred city employees are moving into this facility in June from a half dozen different locations in Houston.I just reread an article about this project that was published in the Houston Business Journal over a year ago. City council approved the purchase of this 86 year old rice warehouse in March of 2009 with the intent of consolidating departments in a fully 'green' building. Happy to say, the building is currently tracking for gold LEED certification.
The city made a good call, opting to rehab an existing building. How often does Houston even think about using or reusing what is already here. We are so inclined to raze a site and get a start anew. However, the city chose differently. Not only is a good use of funds, but the city sends a strong message about the importance of recycling and sustainability. On that note, the facility will also house the city's Green Building Resource Center (GBRC) where the public can explore ways to build and live 'green.'
So, now that I've given the context for this building project, the cost of which totals just over $23,000,000, I'll talk more about what took place today on behalf of the civic art component in this facility. BTW, by city ordinance 1.75% of the construction budget of a public building is dedicated to public art. That number becomes my budget. In another month, when the building opens to the public, you'll see that Houstonians got tremendous bang for the buck.
This afternoon, several of us met with Kaneem Smith who is creating a fanciful sculptural piece made with hand sewn columns of recycled burlap coffee bags.
She is stitching and painting on these bags and they will hang in clusters in the open space between two large corrugated air flow ducts in the main lobby.
Kaneem's piece could be seen as an unusual choice for this public space. However, it offers recycling and repurposing messages that we consider an important aspect of the public art in this building. We know Kaneem's work is also going to be approachable, touchable. Folks will want to interact with these brightly colored floating columns.
Today, JB gamely climbed up on a ladder to show the rest of us how a column or two would hang. We agreed that placement of almost two dozen columns would have to done 'in the moment' of installation. So the hardware that does into the ceiling to hold each floating column will happen as we watch and direct the installation piece by piece. A good decision. Can hardly wait for June 9 when all this will take place.
Next I met with Robynn Sanders who will paint the intricate flowing text, using recycling words in five different languages spoken by Houstonians. The work speaks to both Houston's cultural diversity and to the universal theme of 'going green.'
I've been collecting translations for a while now. I found the translators through word-of-mouth (is there some sort of pun there?) and discovered that each translator was honored to play a part in this project and to have their community represented in a City of Houston building.
A lesson here. We widen our circle by inclusion. Houston is one of the more culturally diverse cities in this country. In a small way, a wall of text wall will celebrate this fact in a very public building.
Aggie Eyster's etched metal panels are now all installed in the 'meet and greet' reception center on the north side of the lobby and at the lobby security desk. They look terrific and there is nothing like her work here in Houston.
Dean Ruck and Dan Havel's assemblage is almost completely installed. I see workmen standing in front of it. I hope they are marveling at its baroque creativity.
So that was it for civic art on Wednesday.
Much more to come next week when five installations will get underway. And then we'll wrap them all in plastic to shield from dust and move in scuffs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Barcode For GREEN

Bob Card has almost finished a five by eight foot bar code of recycled and salvaged woods. The woods include mahogany from a River Oaks home and an exotic wood from the old Warwick Hotel. Also native Texas woods - mesquite and pecan.
If you can read 'bar code,' this piece says GREEN. He'll install it in early June on Level 4 of the new Houston Permitting Center as one of my 'text interventions.' The woods are beautiful. Bob has labelled each strip of bar code with the wood's origin. He's created an elegant, sophisticated piece.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dean Ruck and Dan Havel: Day #3

The building was so quiet this morning. Dean and Dan were there with one watchman in attendance. It was the first time that I've been at this construction site when it's been quiet. We had the place to ourselves. Didn't even seem imperative that I wear a hard hat and really, I couldn't have done so, because Manhattan's basement office was closed. Extra hard hats locked away. All was shut down.
Dean and Dan were at work repositioning one of the largest segments of their assemblage. They'd put it up on the wall and then saw that there was some movement. So they took this giant mass of metals down from the wall and and for an hour, Dean reworked the slice of wood from which it would hang.
Took both of them to lift it back on to the wall, so I turned maneuvered the lift up and then down again while they held on to the piece of many metals.
I stayed far longer than I thought I would, because I very simply became totally involved in watching them work. And taking closer looks at the arrangement and colors and textures of all the various metals. Infinitely surprising and very beautiful.
Wish we were making a video of their installation and for that matter, videos of all the other artists at work. We've definitely missed an opportunity. Perhaps we can at least interview each artist during this month of installing.
Here are more photos of Dean and Dan at work today.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dean Ruck and Dan Havel: Day #2

Yesterday Dean and Dan delivered their assemblage for the new Houston Permitting Center and the sum of its parts covered almost the entire floor space of the Green Building Resource Center. Today, they began to reassemble the pieces on the wall itself.
Here's the first segment of Dean and Dan's work going up. Lots of effort being made to secure each piece. It will not tumble from this wall, even though it appears to be exploding out from it.
There is plenty of beauty in the details. I imagine that folks will look at this piece for great lengths of times. There is just so much to see. Unbelievably intricate. I can see already that the art will make this building sing. I have no doubts.
I asked Laurie Perez to come and photograph the process. We have too little documentation of all the artists' projects, but we will get plenty of installation photos.
There is so much beauty in the details. What is not to love here? for instance, this embellished torpedo/watermelon like object. And I like the blue masking tape with numbers delineating where all of these individual segments will go. There are endless things to explore in this work.
We left at 3:00 this afternoon. Can hardly wait until tomorrow.

Dean Ruck and Dan Havel: Installing

Dean and Dan hired Crate Works to bring their beautiful and baroque wall assemblage to 1002 Washington Avenue yesterday. The moving process took the whole day and two trips to load and unload all the sections of this artwork.Their piece is among the first two being installed in this 80 year old brick warehouse that has transformed into the new Houston Permitting Center. Besides tracking for LEEDS gold rating, the building will be home to over a dozen new civic artworks.
We will be installing from now until mid-June. The days will be busy. I am off to the site now and Laurie Perez will be there early this afternoon to take photos of Dean and Dan at work.
Agnes Welsh Eyster's etched metal panels are being installed as part of the mill work which includes the imposing 'meet and greet' reception center and the lobby security desk.
It has begun.