Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Art In Progress

Wonderful to see what a dozen artists are producing for the new Houston Permitting Center at 1002 Washington Avenue. The building opens to the public in early summer. Here's a preview of some of the art work that will make this public building unique in Houston. This has been a very satisfying project on which to work. Especially now that we begin to see the work take form.
Here's Dean Ruck and Dan Havel's piece. It's huge, baroque and extravagant. All assembled from recycled metals including a bouquet of trumpets and coronets. I'm loving it.
Jesse Sifuentes's murals are near completion. I photographed him and the work a week ago at Texas Southern Universtiy where he teaches ceramics and mural painting.
I love the way Jesse included coffee cups amongst the magnolias as a reference to Houston's East End coffee processing plants. His second mural will be installed on the lobby level across from a coffee shop.
It truly has a coffee theme, beginning with the ships that bring green coffee into the Port of Houston (the only green coffee port west of the Mississippi). From there, many of the green beans go to plants in the East End, the biggest two being Maximus Coffee and Sara Lee. The beans are roasted in many different ways for many different brands. Then the roasted beans are shipped all over the country. But I digress simply because I know something about the coffee industry here in the East End. Jesse's mural tells the coffee story in pictures.
Then there is Gonzo 24/7 who's having a very good painting year. He was commissioned to paint the wall of the parking garage below the downtown public library. He spent over a month in Nigeria last fall as one of a team of artists recruited to create work for a privately owned oil company. And now he's in the middle of painting two murals for the Houston Permitting Center.
There's way more than all of this. Metalab Studio is creating an electronic piece for the building lobby with a screen that shows where folks are congregating on the lobby floor because it's connected to six devices attached to six concrete columns that will register CO2 levels. The more people within breathing distance of a monitor the more movements will show on the screen near the main entrance. I guess folks will discover just how their movements affect the big screen. Along the top of this screen is another smaller screen that will be hooked into the facility's system that records heating and cooling levels, electricity generated and use so that viewers can see in-the-moment this building's energy consumption.
It is Serena Lin Bush's piece that gives me goose bumps every time I look down the four story stairwell in the center of the building and tell someone standing next to me that they will see the Houston sky on monitors placed at the bottom of those stairs. Why will they see sky in the basement? Because there will be three cameras up on the roof recording Houston's sky moment by moment and monitors in the stairwell pit to display what the camera record. There are real windows at the top of the staircase, so one can look up and see blue and then look down and see that same blue too. Here is Serena's rendering and here is Serena.
Dick Wray's iconic piece is just about ready to be installed. His piece is constructed from a series of black powder coated laser cut panels that will become an envelope over the exterior elevator shaft at the front of the building. We chose Dick to create a memorable image for the building's exterior, that would identify this facility. Well, he certainly did that. He didn't live to see the final product, but we can point to it and say that this is Dick Wray's only piece of civic art and Houston is lucky to have it.
There is still more. Kaneem Smith is constructing a series of hanging structures pieced together with burlap coffee bags. She'll stamp and paint on them and as a group, they will form an organic mass of columns. They will be installed near the big windows in the main lobby. We sometimes liken her piece to a mud daubers creation, those cone shaped mud homes built by wasp-like insects. Have you ever seen them under the eaves of your house? Except that Kaneem is adding color so they'll not look like mud. I am hoping that they may all just sway slightly as you pass by them.
There is more. You've seen Agnes Welsh Eyster's etched metal panels for the lobby reception desk. Here is another glimpse.
And then there is my work which is all about language. I don't have images yet, but I can tell you that I've spent many hours listening to conversations among the various plan reviewers, inspectors and their clients. An entire wall will be covered with excerpts from these conversations.
Another wall or two will have a running line of acrylic hands making statements in sign language: "Fewer problems down the road, if you solve the issues today." and "The code connects all the dots." and "Communication is the art of finding common ground."
In the basement there is a long corridor, perhaps 60 feet long, where I will install a running powder coated metal strip with laser cut out words in several languages. The words will all be re-words: "recycle, reuse, repurpose, renew, revise, reboot, retread, retry, remember, resume, rely, refasten, repose, relive, redo and so on." By the time that a person walks the entire length of the corridor, they'll have a pretty good idea that 'recycle' is the message.
I'll soon have some images to show. I'm working with S.O. Creatives and it's a real collaboration we've got going.
Ah, one other text intervention will be a large bar code made of reused Texas woods fabricated by Bob Card at Greenwood Bay. All the wood he uses is recycled Texas wood. He'll use many kinds of wood for this bar code, so we can see the variety of Texas woods. We are considering several words for a bar code translation right now: recycle, green, permit and approve. Also 1002, which is the street number of the facility. So there you have it. Not as much fun without images, but that will come.
Then there are Geoff Winningham's photo murals on sheets of metal. They are exquisite. His biggest mural will be three panels in width on the stairwell in the Green Building Resource Center. Lots of daylight streaming in on this image of Buffalo Bayou from two big windows.
This civic art project is unique in that it's an experiment or a pilot of sorts. in There has never been a selected artist hired to serve as a member of the architectural team, planning and coordinating a team of artists creating work especially for a building. It's been terrific because I can bring so many different artists' work into one public facility. There will definitely be a lot to see and experience. The artists are creating really good stuff. And for a space where it will be totally unexpected. I think folks are going to be surprised.