PaperCity Magazine

February 2018- Houston

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Page 59 of 83

LEFT: CATHERINE D. ANSPON. RIGHT: DALLAS McNAMARA. T he exhibition that opens this month at Cherryhurst House could be called "The Ripple Effect." Or "The Dean and Dan Show." But that would be too tongue-in-cheek for a work of art that is alternately challenging, enchanting, conceptually rigorous, tactile, anti-intellectual, and rooted in the history of art. It's a haunting, hypnotic experience that questions the concept of the domestic and the mundane — surprising the audience and injecting wonder, a commodity often lacking in modern life. Behind this immersive work are two Houston creatives whose combined CVs top half a century of art-making: Dan Havel and Dean Ruck of Havel Ruck Projects. The pair is best known for their traffi c-stopping Inversion project along Montrose Boulevard in 2005, a public-art piece that mined decrepit bungalow classrooms slated for the wrecking ball to create a site-specifi c ephemeral sculpture. One frosty afternoon in the New Year, I stepped inside Ripple as the artwork was taking form. Picking my way gingerly through dusty rooms within the 1930s-era bungalow, multiple vignettes were visible, undergoing metamorphosis: marvelous swirls of cutaway sheetrock in a ripple pattern that gives the sculpture its name; passages of honey-colored shiplap; vestiges of faded wallpaper blooming with roses; islands of fl oor boards fl oating at varying heights to become stairs of unexpected sturdiness; cutouts in the ceiling and fl oor that led to vistas of cavernous spaces suggestive of prehistoric caves or aging attics; and a mirror whose refl ection we won't reveal. I returned two days later, to connect with Havel and Ruck. Armed with power and hand tools and aided by their occasional assistant, Houston painter Tod Bailey, the artists were laboring in various areas of the 1,300-square- foot structure. Havel says of the construction/ destruction endeavor six months in, "It's one of the more marathon projects we've taken on. There's a lot of real estate to cover." They have known the patron who made it possible, Dallas McNamara, for nearly a decade. Ruck notes about the project, "To have the luxury of a year … You think it's a lot of time, but we're fi nding out it's not. We've bumped its opening date back a couple times already." Havel interjects, "It's one of those projects, every day we fi nd something new. It could go on forever." Cherryhurst House co-curator Paige Ramey points out that the creators of Inversion and the upcoming Ripple — which unveils this month in a bungalow next door to Cherryhurst's main house and salon space — have been seen as "artists brought in only when a demolition is happening." Indeed, the pair's calling card has been architectural transformations of modest domestic structures, usually staged days or weeks before the bulldozers roll in. While certainly not under-known in the Houston art world (Art League bestowed Texas Artist of the Year honors in 2014), Havel and Ruck have often been off collectors' radar due to the fl eeting nature of their works of art. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, owns Trespass 4416, which was completed in a rogue manner in 2007 when the artists salvaged scraps from a condemned property in the West End, but most of their greatest hits live on only in memory. Case in point is the recent Sharp, staged in the fall of 2016, which turned a middle-class ranch dwelling in Sharpstown into a golden abstract sculpture redolent of a spaceship. Visitors to Ripple are in for a unique experience, says co- curator Barbara Levine, a former SFMOMA exhibition director, who underscores the notion of "dialogue." She and Ramey are both denizens of the school of "slow art," seeking engagement, deep looking, and conversation. Levine describes the installation sculpture by what it's not: "It's not a fun house, and no reference to Hurricane Harvey." She and Ramey, along with Cherryhurst benefactor/ founder Dallas McNamara and Havel Ruck themselves, plan something unheard of: a year-long iteration for Ripple. Ruck mentions the need to keep with a timeline; the opening date has been fi rmly announced, and "we have a couple of other projects we need to get to [including a commission this May for Sam Houston Park involving historic row houses]." He CHERRYHURST HOUSE MAKES RIPPLES BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON. PORTRAIT DALLAS McNAMARA (continued on page 65) Havel Ruck Projects' Dean Ruck and Dan Havel at work on Ripple, at Cherryhurst House 58 Ripple in progress Havel Ruck Projects was here.

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