01/05/18 12:30pm

How’s this for a twisting story line? An architect commissions a famous artist to create a site-specific drawing in a house he has built for himself. The artist, who never touches his own works, creates exacting instructions that installation artists follow to create the 30-ft.-tall artwork in the living room of the home. The artist dies. A few years later, the architect dies, offering his home and the majority of his extensive art collection to a local but world-famous museum of which he was a trustee. The museum decides to sell the home and add much of the art to its collection, but there’s a problem with the wall drawing. It can’t be moved, and the museum is stymied by a restriction: It is not allowed to sell any artwork that has been bequeathed to it.

Here’s where the plot — and the drywall mud — thickens: the museum, unable to remove the artwork from the home without destroying it, comes up with an alternative plan. It will plaster over the drawing, rendering it unrecoverable.

Years later, the purchaser of the home is telling this story to a houseguest — who in a fit of curiosity grabs a dull knife and starts chipping away at the wall. The white coating flakes off. To his and his host’s surprise, a tableau of blue, red, and yellow appears: a fragment of the original drawing underneath.

What is this? The first 20 minutes of a new Wes Anderson movie, an episode of Columbo, or the setup for a Siri Hustvedt novel? No, its just the state of play at 1202 Milford St. in the Museum District. The artist is Sol LeWitt. The museum is the Menil Collection. The home is the former residence of Houston architect Bill Stern. And the plotline is still in progress:


The Unerasing
10/09/17 1:30pm

Somebody carefully disassembled the recently installed quilting sculpture in front of the Bermac Arts Building at 4101 San Jacinto St. just south of Cleburne St. late last week, leaving behind a patchwork of colorful powder-coated-steel pieces on the former bus-stop platform next to the sidewalk. The 8-ft.-tall blue, orange, magenta, yellow, and metallic silver sculpture, called Quilt Peace, was erected at the site on September 20th. It was meant to remain there for 3 months — through next month’s International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center — before being moved to a different Midtown site.


Street Art Taken Apart
09/27/17 1:00pm

If you’ve ever wished you could watch a wrecking ball go wild inside a convenience store, here’s your chance. A crowd gathered outside the former 4949 C-store at the corner of Bissonnet and Shepherd over the weekend to watch artist Trey Duvall’s kinetic demolition installation in action. The installation features wrecking balls connected to computer-controlled motors mounted on the ceiling wreaking havoc on what remains of the interior. Or, as Duvall puts it, “Two high-torque mechanized double pendulums . . . impact shelving systems, soda machines, retail racks, drink coolers, and walls to create an evolving and unpredictable landscape of detritus.

If you can’t stop by for your own personal evening viewing of any portion of the 15-day-long endeavor (it’ll be in action through October 6), there’ll be live-streamed video of the action available online. You can watch nightly from 6 to 9 pm from a link on the project website.

This video by Duvall shows some of the first blows:


Watch the Wrecking Ball
04/06/17 11:30am

Retail Center planned for 628 E. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

628 E. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

628 E. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008Retail plans along the stretch of E. 11th St. west of Beverly St. look to be moving in a more concrete direction once again — SRS has started advertising available square footage in a double-decker strip center planned on the eastern half of the block. The design for the site has been totally overhauled since the original ads for a Park Place on 11th development (the weathered signage for which is still hanging around on the property, and has been for the better part of a decade.)

The potential footprint of the retail space spreads all the way from Beverly St. to just east of metals brightener Bright Metals of the Heights.  A leasing siteplan shows the center insulated from the 11th St. traffic by a breathable dual layer of parking spaces — and even a triple layer on the Beverly St. side:


2X 11th
02/07/17 10:00am

Owl Sculptures by Dan Mabry, Kelvin St. at University Blvd., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

Rice Village, Houston, 77005The sculpted birds above are now staring intently in various directions from just south of the entrance ramp for the Rice Village’s rooftop parking lot between University Blvd. and Amherst St. The new bird-studded cage hangs around the upper half of the Kelvin St. access staircase for the lot, previously shielded from prying eyes by a since-removed blinder of brick (as pictured second above at the start of the work last year, before much of the paint-up or knock-out action had taken place on the eastern side of the structure). The birds are the work of Californian metalworker and periodic perched bird sculptor Nathan Mabry. Changes to the building roughly align with the older renderings of the remodel, though the space was previously depicted with an extra new window (along with some ghostly stand-in art): 


Kelvin St. Bird Cage
12/27/16 3:30pm

Painting by Ken Mazzu

Artist Ken Mazzu’s been back at the easel and back on the Houston demolition beat lately, finishing up some new works to be featured in next month’s building-themed art show at the William Reaves / Sarah Foltz Fine Art Gallery at 2143 Westheimer Rd.. The show will feature some of Mazzu’s paintings of ’round-town teardowns, along with works of 2 other Houston-focused artists (late photographer Jim Culberson and living painter Richard Stout). The gallery will even host Houston archi-historian Dr. Stephen Fox for a talk about The Changing City on the 14th.

Mazzu’s had a lot of subjects to choose from since a set of his demo-themed canvases went on display back in 2013; he sends over some previews of new pieces, including the scene above commemorating the disassembly of the former Downtown headquarters of the Houston Chronicle. Other recent works feature newly-parking-lotified 509 Louisiana St., the dissolution of the octagonal Solvay mid-rise, a pile of post-blow-up downtown Foley’s debris, and more:


New Works Retrospective
11/02/16 11:00am

2iPM009 rendered in Buffalo Bayou Cistern

The Cistern, Buffalo Bayou Park near Sabine St. at Memorial Dr., Houston, 77007The rendering up top shows the sort of scene that visitors can expect if they wander into the 1920’s leaking-water-reservoir-turned-public-art-space buried alongside Buffalo Bayou after December 10th (and before next June): Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernández’s 2iPM009 projection, adapted from flat-walled origins to fill the 2-acre space (and going by the name Rain). As for what they’ll hear — that’d be an accompanying soundtrack of snaps, claps, and other meteorologically-inspired noisemaking from Slovenian choir Pertuum Jazzile. The original piece is part of the Museum of Fine Arts’s permanent collection; the adaptation will be the first temporary art installation in the column-studded space, which opened for tours in May.


Only Light Flooding Expected
09/29/16 11:00am

Dalia Rihani Heights Homes Illustrations

Recognize any of the images above? They’re each depictions of actual houses in the Heights area (yes, even that really skinny one in the top right corner) as drawn by local designer Dalia Rihani, who tells Swamplot she’s long been fascinated by her neighborhood’s architectural landscape. Rihani started out planning to draw 1 home per week as an outside-of-the-9-to-5 creative outlet — but says she’s found herself doing it much more frequently than that, and has since been taking commissions to illustrate specific houses as requests started to pour in. She’s also been turning the graphics into post cards that she’s sent to some of the home’s owners, as a reader showed Swamplot:


Sketchy Activities
07/29/16 12:30pm

THE ART GUYS SAY BYE, BUY, FOR NOW art-guys-byeRecently dissolved arboreal polygamist duo The Art Guys is holding what it’s labeling a Final Sale through August 15 on its website, which currently declares that The Art Guys are not artists. Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing, whose antics under the name have included navigating Houston in various configurations, encouraging visitors to explore a Garden Oaks median strip, and conducting the sounds of the Ship Channel, spoke with Molly Glenzter — who writes this week that the pair still has other plans and ideas, but won’t be executing them under the Art Guys guise.  The pair mention the possibility of creating a virtual drawing of Houston by sending people walking around town with a special path-tracing smart-phone app: “It’s so poetic,” Galbreth tells Glenzter, but the company that makes the app hasn’t shown interest in sponsoring the project. And their imagined sculpture of a randomly-chosen Houstonian hasn’t gotten funding yet, either — “Our culture is just at low tide right now,” Galbreth says. [Houston Chronicle, The Art Guys; previously on Swamplot] Image: theartguys.com

06/10/16 11:00am

Spirit of the Confederacy Statue, 1000 Bagby St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002

Spirit of the Confederacy Statue, 1000 Bagby St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks snaps a fresh photo of the Spirit of the Confederacy, the well-labeled century-old statue standing around by the lake on the west side of Sam Houston Park (near the split of Allen Pkwy. into Lamar and Walker streets downtown).  The statue’s placement was funded in 1908 by Houston’s still-active Robert E. Lee chapter of the national United Daughters of the Confederacy and is inscribed to “all heroes of the South who fought for the principles of states rights.” Despite the statue’s unambiguous Confederate sympathies and nearness to City Hall, the bronze statue has largely flown beneath the radar of the past year’s scrutiny of Houston school and street names.


Sam Houston Park
03/01/16 11:30am

Art Guys Situation #4, Wheatley St. at Pinemont Dr., Garden Oaks/Oak Forest, Houston, 77091

Here’s the southernmost end of the newest work from the Art Guys: the designation of an existing ‘designated natural area’ in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest as part of their series of situation sculptures. The grassy median strip along Wheatley St. between Pinemont Dr. and Tidwell Rd. is evidently one of the no-mow zones labeled by the city’s parks and recreation department that spurred complaints in 2011, when area residents alleged that newly planted trees had blocked sight lines and created hazardous driving conditions.  According to the city’s website, the zones are carefully placed to “help promote the natural regeneration of the urban forest.

As for techniques employed by the artists: per their other pieces in the series, the duo appears to have left the area alone. They have, however, provided GPS coordinates and a Google map to help visitors avoid losing their way.


Adventures on Wheatley St.
02/29/16 3:00pm

Mural at former Heights Finance Station Post Office, 1050 Yale St., Houston Heights

The recently dumped Heights Finance Station post office at Yale and 11th streets was treated to a makeover this month, as demolition looms on the horizon. If all goes as planned, the building will eventually be brushed aside to make way for the younger-and-likely-prettier Heights Central Station mixed-use shopping center headed for the site; until then, it’s playing canvas for some Houston graffiti artists, including Wiley Robertson (one of the usual suspects behind giant love notes spotted around town).

A reader sends a fresh batch of lunchtime snapshots of the mural, which seems to have been wrapped up in the last few days:


Love Is In The Aerosol
02/01/16 5:00pm

Trumpet Flower Painting Event, Market Square, Downtown, Houston, 77002

Preston St. was closed down Saturday afternoon between Travis and Milam, as hundreds of people showed up to Market Square to paint the reclaimed strips of wood that will compose Patrick Renner’s upcoming Trumpet Flower installation.  The sculpture is designed to loom 60 feet above the space between One City Centre and its parking garage downtown (off Main St. Square and Fannin, between Lamar and McKinney).

Renner, of far-more-horizontal Funnel Tunnel fame, is slated to install the towering cone by the end of March, as part of the Art Blocks project planned to jazz up Main Street Square leading up to the 2017 Superbowl.  The tip of the structure will stretch down from the top of the garage and flare out into a furnished canopy shelter at street level. A tiny model of the installation was on display at a side table during the painting free-for-all:


Sprouting Downtown
07/16/15 4:00pm

THE PARTS OF TOWN WHERE THOSE STREETCORNER MINI MURALS ARE POPPING UP Mini Mural by 2:12, Stella Link at Latma Dr., Woodside, HoustonIf you’re wondering where you can find more of those painted-over traffic signal control boxes —- like the one pictured here, which just appeared at the corner of Stella Link and Latma Dr. in Woodside — there’s a . . . website for that. UP Art Studio, the mural project’s instigators, has pics up of more than 2 dozen of the altered streetcorner cabinets colorfully transformed by artists so far, as well as an interactive map for scouting them out. The project is restricted (so far, at least) to the southwest part of town inside the Beltway. In all, 14 artists have been commissioned to reimagine 31 metal boxes. [UP Art Studio] Photo: 2:12