PaperCity Magazine

February 2017 - Houston

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 19 of 159

18 Catherine D. Anspon reports on a multi-million-dollar art acquisi- tion spree that changes the game for downtown Houston, just in time for the big game. Y ou could say the Super Bowl is just for ardent NFL fans — those who wear cheeseheads or wave terrible towels, mak- ing sacrosanct the fi rst Sun- day in February to commune with their TVs or travel thousands of miles to attend the biggest public spectacle since the glad- iators ruled the Colosseum. But the Super Bowl is more than that; it's America's game, part of our shared cultural con- sciousness. For the metropolis anointed as the offi cial Super Bowl host city, the boon is huge — a deluge of high-paying high rollers to fi ll hotel rooms, Uber and cab it, wine and dine on sumptuous fare complemented by appropriate cocktail consumption, and shop, shop, shop. But there's more: In Houston, art also gets a seat at the table. As Super Bowl LI roars into town (even the name has a Roman ring), part of its nine-fi gure economic impact infi l- trates our art world. Houston's reborn Avenida Houston — downtown's just unfurled allée of hotels, restaurants, and revamped convention center, rimming the verdant expanse of Discovery Green — has a multi-million-dollar art com- ponent front and center. Houston First, working with revenues from the hotel occupancy tax and funds from the municipal art program, commissioned 13 primarily Houston artists for permanent, site-specifi c artworks for the George R. Brown Convention Center, com- pleted at a price tag of $2.5 million. Houston Arts Alliance facilitated the selection and served as project manager for the two most atten- tion-getting sculptures: the works by Ed Wilson and Joe O'Connell, both of which share a bird theme, a metaphor for Houston as a place for epic migration. The most expensive is a fountain/ water feature — a ki- netic steel bird crafted by Tucson-based artist Joe O'Connell and collabo- rative Creative Machines — that cost $1.5 million and anchors a corner of the Avenida. But, hands down, the show-stopper is long-time Houston artist Ed Wilson's In the Clouds, The soaring 67-foot mobile has a price tag of $830,000 with its 200 perforated metal forms, hand-fabricated at the artist's studio in the Itchy Acres cre- ative enclave north of 610. In the Clouds is both ethereal and dramatic, equally engaging for daytime convention visitors as for those partaking of Avenida's booming nightlife dining and park scene. Stroll through GRB on any afternoon, and the stain- less- steel ab- stract avian and cloud forms bounce and amplify light; from dusk onward, the effect changes completely, thanks to Wilson's collabora- tor, Christina Giannelli, a Houston-based genius with stage lighting who has em- ployed her talents from the Metropolitan Opera to the Houston Ballet, HGO, and TUTS. Gianelli layered LED projections onto Wilson's two tons of steel artwork, making it appear to dissolve into a vapor of color. Pay attention during segments of the Super Bowl broadcast, during which George R. Brown will be the offi cial back- drop representing the City of Houston, and you will no doubt see Wilson's ga- lactic swirl of illuminated birds, making the ultimate art statement to an estimated 115 million viewers. (The story of how Wilson won, lost, and re-won the com- mission, capably covered by Glasstire, is too complicated to detail on this page. The controversy ultimately yielded a good outcome and fostered a needed dialogue about the importance of Houston artists for our public art program. It also made Wilson, a low-key man of metal, an un- likely media star and hero.) Rounding out the visual additions to George R. Brown are 11 other creations by Houston talents, including Ben Woitena's photo works resembling family albums, extolling plant and wildlife; tile murals by Reginald C. Adams, Rhonda Radford-Ad- ams, and Any Malkan; and digital sam- plings of urban life and nature by Shane Allbritton. Houston First gets points for diversity and also range of aesthetics: Gonzo247's bold street art wraps a large column, while Pablo Gimenez-Zapiola's sublime trio of photographs, the under- stated Night Trees, mine the surreal landscape of Houston after dark. NASH BAKER SUPER BOWL ART MANIA Ed Wilson with his Soaring In the Clouds, 2016, at George R. Brown Convention Center

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - February 2017 - Houston