10/10/18 11:30am

AN OPENING-NIGHT BRAWL AT CAM STARTED WITH A FEW LOAVES OF BREAD One highlight of Pete Gershon’s new book about Houston’s ’70s and ’80s art scene is his description of the all-out melee that erupted in the Contemporary Arts Museum’s upper gallery at the opening night of an exhibition put on by Spanish artist Antoni Miralda in 1977. Notorious for his work with food, Miralda, writes Gershon, had “hung color photographs of brightly hued macaroni, labeled huge mounds of salt and sugar with garishly flashing neon signs, and showed videos . . . of food being prepared and eaten in restaurants from around Houston.” The centerpiece was “four thousand loaves of bread dyed with food coloring” which performers placed “on a 175-foot row of benches bisecting the exhibition space.” Following some nibbling and “the playful tossing of slices,” one “notorious troublemaker from the St. Thomas art crowd,” picked up a loaf and chucked it carelessly, hitting a 6-year-old girl and knocking her to the ground. A fellow attendee dragged him out the back entrance to teach him a lesson, but it was too late: “inside the gallery the scene quickly escalated to a full-scale, Texas-sized donnybrook, with flying bread and flying fists.” Fifteen minutes later, management had cleared the room “and mopped up the blood,” adds the museum’s then-director. But his boss worried about the mark it’d left — not just in the minds of those who disapproved but, worse, the ones who “eagerly entered the fray.” Perhaps, writes Gershon, “they thought this happened at CAM all the time.” [Arts and Culture Texas; interview with Pete Gershon] Photo: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

08/30/18 2:30pm

The newest work showing at Hiram Butler Gallery occupies a special position on the grounds: It’s right outside along Blossom St., facing the townhouse that River Pointe Church owns and uses for events. (Its main religious campus is in Richmond between Ransom Rd. and 59.) Artist Robert Rosenberg designed the sign for that spot specifically, and Melissa Eason put it together. It now fronts the row of 4 parking spots at the edge of gallery’s property.

Since the church moved in across the street at 4513 Blossom in 2015, those parking spots — along with the rest of the block — have been seeing a lot more car traffic than they used to:

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Religious Art
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:

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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.

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Street Art Taken Apart
09/29/17 11:30am

It may have been erected on a one-way northbound street in Lower Midtown, but this new sculpture now standing in front of the oak trees outside the San Jacinto St. entrance to the Bermac Arts Building just south of Cleburne was designed to flag down visitors from Downtown: Quilt Peace, constructed of powder-coated-steel, marks the entrance to the offices and exhibition space of the Community Artists’ Collective, where the Jubilee Quilt Circle meets twice a week to stitch works by hand or with the computer-controlled longarm flatbed stitcher onsite. “Quilt Peace is our tribute to the November 2017 International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center,” explains artist Michelle Barnes — who also happens to be the Collective’s executive director. “. . . We want to demonstrate our connection with quilting to the thousands of convention visitors.

Photo: Community Artists’ Collective.

Quilt Peace
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:

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Watch the Wrecking Ball
07/21/17 10:30am

IN WHICH THE OWNER OF THAT MANNEQUIN-PACKED HOUSE IN RICHMOND ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS AND THE REST OF THE COUNTRY’S “I’m just trying to sell my house,” says the long-time artist resident of 4302 Colony West Dr. in Richmond (the mind-boggling contents of which sent no fewer than 10 readers scrambling to send the listing to the Swamplot tip line earlier this week).  “No, I’m not a hoarder. I could go down the list of things people are accusing me of. Yes, I own a weird business, but artists are weird, and if you find a normal artist [they’re] probably not a good one.” Those answers are all prompted by questions from Marcelino Benito, who toured the house this week for KHOU after the listing went nationally viral. The house and its contents have been viewed millions of times and have made the news in such far flung locations as St. Louis, MO, (where local station KMOV referred to its interior decor as ‘the stuff of nightmares‘) — in addition to being gawked at by readers of both the Huffington and the New York posts. As for what seems to be another burning question on the minds of some of the folks calling in with actual offers on the home — “Will you leave a mannequin for me?” — the owner’s answer appears to be a furrowed eyebrow or 2 and a “well . . . okay.” [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 4302 Colony West Dr.: HAR

06/23/17 4:45pm

The folks behind a newly-announced condo project called Mandell Montrose have recently stuck some signage on the lot at 2312 Commonwealth St., a couple of readers tell Swamplot this week. That property isn’t actually adjacent to either Mandell St. or Montrose Blvd., but it is almost directly between the 2; it’s also the site formerly slated for the cancelled Flats on Fairview condo midrise (which Paul Takahashi reports this week were called off due to construction cost issues, despite having met some sales goals). Takahashi says the new project will aim for 7 stories for a total of 24 units. And underscoring the split-the-geographic-difference theme, the Hyde Park project is being developed by Midtown Uptown Development Partners.

No renderings are out yet of the new plans, save for some probably-not-to-scale brick facade showing up on the background of the building’s sales website. (A physical sales center should be opening some time next month, however.) The rendered design of the cancelled Flats midrise, meanwhile, has found new purpose as part of a striking departure from the classic Houston scary midrise artwork vernacular:

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Mandell Monstrose
06/02/17 12:45pm


The partially ruined former Jefferson Davis Hospital nurses quarters at 1225 Elder St. — until very recently in the running for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places — was recommended for demolition at last week’s Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting following a public hearing the day before. The building, tucked west of the elevated freeway tangle where I-45 splits from I-10 near Downtown, would have joined the nextdoor former Jefferson Davis Hospital itself on the historic registry — instead, it looks like the structure will finally meet meet the ‘dozers after its long slow decline, accelerated by damage from a fire in 2013 that lead to last year’s semi-collapse.

Next door, the 4-story hospital structure (built in 1924, and replaced by 1938 with another Jefferson Davis Hospital where the Federal Reserve building now stands on Allen Pkwy.) cycled through various modes of use and disuse until its early 2000’s restoration into the Elder Street Artist Lofts, which serve as low-rent apartments and studios for artsy types. That redevelopment, of course, involved carefully digging around the dozens of unmarked graves turned up on the surrounding land, which beginning in 1840 had served as the second city cemetery (and as the final resting place for a hodgepodge likely including  Confederate soldiers, former slaves, victims of the 1860s yellow fever epidemics, people who died in duels, Masons, and a variety of others). The hospital’s name is still carved above the lofts’ entrance:

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First Ward Fire Damage by HFD
06/01/17 2:00pm

Construction started yesterday on the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, going up in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s former parking lot north of Bissonnet St. at Main. That’s the curvy-roofed structure itself visible in the rendering above — the drawing shows the expected view of the building from the rooftop garden of the already-under-construction nearby replacement for the formerly glass-covered Glassell School (whose underground parking garage opened up when the surface lot closed last week). Both of the new buildings were designed by Steven Holl Architects — here’s where they fall on the map, along some of the other big changes in the works for the Museum’s campus:

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Museum District Parking
04/14/17 6:00pm

THE EASTER BUNNY AND THE TAXMAN COMETH Amanda Parer's Intrude installation, 1600 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002It doesn’t look like there’s too much rain on the schedule for Tax Day this time around, but Swamplot’ll be off Monday anyway, shoring up any potential leaks. Enjoy your weekend, whether it’s filled with hunts for Easter eggs or for that basketful of missing W-2s, and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday for the regular real estate tomfoolery. Photo of Amanda Parer’s Intrude installation: Swamplot inbox