11/07/16 5:00pm

Trains over Texas setup at HMNS

A through-the-curtains peek at at the reassembly of about 2,500 sq. ft. of miniaturized Texas landscape (made by T W Trainworx for the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s soon-to-open model train exhibit) comes from a reader who snuck a glance on Thursday. The exhibit, which should open some time after the 2nd week of installation wraps up, looks like it’ll include hand-carved models of some of Texas’s less flat geographies, including the Balcones Escarpment and Texas’s own pretty darn grand canyon, Palo Duro. The official details on opening and closing dates aren’t out yet, but a behind-the-scenes event description on the museum’s website notes that the exhibit will also show off some more familiar Gulf Coast features like “oil country salt domes, prairies and wetlands.” Natural stone landmarks, like Enchanted Rock, and unnatural stone monuments, like the state capitol, will also be part of the display.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Tiny State Tour
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.

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Only Light Flooding Expected
09/12/16 4:00pm

Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Field, Houston, TX 77034

The exterior of the Lone Star Flight Museum’s new building is now taking shape at Ellington Field-slash-Airport-slash-Spaceport, per an update this morning from Ed Mayberry. The museum posted the construction photo above late last month, showing some of the walls now in place on the 130,000-sq.-ft. structure rendered below:

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Blown Inland by Ike
03/17/16 10:45am

For Sale sign at the Banta House, 119 E. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A for sale sign has appeared on the fence outside of the 1918 house on the northwest corner of 20th and Harvard streets, notes a reader. The 2-story brick-over-concrete home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as the Banta House, was listed for sale in February along with the Ink Spots Museum next door at 117 E. 20th. The 21,120 sq.ft. now mentioned by the sign as up for grabs and division appears to include the parking lot behind the 2 buildings, along with the land holding the blue house at 2005 Harvard St. (also penned in by the fence).

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Houses Divided
12/04/15 4:45pm

DUTCH MUSEUM EMBRACED BY ITS SWAMPY SURROUNDINGS Meanwhile, in Werkendam: The Biesbosch Museum in the Netherlands now appears to have merged with the extensive wetlands of the surrounding national park, following renovations this summer that blanketed the building’s sloping exterior with grass and herbs. The new vegetation flows directly into the landscape of the Museum’s created island (developed as part of the extensive “Room for the River” initiative, meant to address severe flooding in areas of the low-lying nation).  The Museum’s new exterior creates the illusion that sections of the landscape have been peeled up to form the building’s wedge-shaped exhibition spaces. [Dezeen]

02/09/15 11:45am

AND NOW, AN INCREASINGLY ABSTRACT VIEW OF WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WORK AT THE ROTHKO CHAPEL Alberto Sosa’s latest animated video interview of a starting-level employee in the Houston art world features visitor services and volunteer coordinator Yma Luis — and thousands of drawings. [Glasstire] Video: Alberto Sosa

01/29/15 3:30pm

Cleared Portion of Richmont Square Apartments, 1400 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston

The back third of the Menil-owned Richmont Square Apartments has now been cleared away. Left to dispose of: a below-grade swimming pool in the middle of the lot, plus a garage apartment behind the DaCamera building at 1427 Branard St., next door to the Menil’s Cy Twombly gallery. Swamplot reader and artist Bob Russell takes a break from creating his own satellite-imagery-inspired drawings to send in the above quick ground-level panorama of the sketchy spot where Johnston Marklee’s low-slung $40 million Menil Drawing Institute will be mapped out and filled in.

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Johnston Marklee Going Here
12/01/14 11:30am

TILDA GOES FULL MENIL Photo by Tim Walker of Tilda Swinton at the Menil Collection, HoustonFrom the looks of this W magazine fashion shoot with photographer Tim Walker, glacial space oddity Tilda Swinton managed to gaze upon and or fondle every objet d’art John and Dominique de Menil brought to Houston, be those treasures stashed away in their River Oaks home or on display in the Montrose museum. At the latter, while wafting through the South Seas galleries in a full-length Del Pozo coat, Swinton was in the mood to coo, ah and ooh. “They presumed art to be good for human dignity,” Swinton says of the de Menils to William Middleton, W correspondent and author of an upcoming biography on the arts patrons. “There is a practical magic that shows itself in the exquisite simplicity of each installation; there is nothing to get in the way of a direct relationship between the viewer and a work of art.” (With unfortunate results, in one high-profile recent case.) Swinton also donned “a painted metal corset by the London designer Johanna O’Hagan, a pair of black boots by Versace, and little else” in order to recreate Retour de la Belle Jardinière, Max Ernst’s 1967 reincarnation of his own La Belle Jardinière, a 1923 Surrealist near-nude that was later condemned as “degenerate art” by the Nazis and presumably destroyed. (The first Jardinière was itself Ernst’s reworking of a Raphael Madonna-and-Child painting by the same name.) The de Menils purchased Retour, thus affording Swinton and Walker the chance to shoot a retour of a retour of a retour of la Belle Jardinière. “This is the special magic of these collaborations,” Swinton tells Middleton, still clad in her skimpy Jardinière regalia. “There is not just a vague referencing of de Menil but also an immersion into her world. We’re crossing into a no-man’s-land between history and imagination, in an attempt to evoke her spirit, and the spirit of the world she inhabited.” [W ] Photo: Tim Walker / W magazine.

10/16/14 11:30am

ANOTHER IMPORTANT HISTORICAL SITE IN HOUSTON THAT DESERVES RECOGNITION Olympic Motel, 5714 Werner St., HoustonThe account may be a tad more florid, but Harbeer Sandhu’s satirical tale of an inmate-turned-entrepreneur’s plan to create a Houston museum dedicated to the private prison industry is only slightly more bizarre than the true story behind the birth of the Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest for-profit prison operator, in the still-operating Olympic Motel at 5714 Werner St. (less than a half-mile down I-45 from Gallery Furniture). Fences, barbed wire, and iron bars went up on the former hot-sheet motel in early 1984 to create the world’s first for-profit private prison, a detention center for 87 undocumented immigrants. Much has changed in the private prison industry since those humble feeder-road beginnings, where several detainees were able to escape by dislodging the air-conditioning units and climbing out through the holes. [Free Press Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photos: Harbeer Sandhu

09/30/14 10:00am

SNIFFING OUT THE SUBTLE SECRETS OF THE ROTHKO CHAPEL Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon St., Montrose, HoustonExploring the Menil’s quiet, deep-purple monument, the Chronicle‘s Leah Binkovitz turns up a couple new lines of investigation: “In a turn Rothko, with his proscriptions for proper viewing, could never have anticipated, the chapel has its own Yelp page. ‘Whatever, some people don’t like to think too much about life and what our place is and if you’re one of those people, this isn’t the place for you,’ writes Eric J. in his recent review, ‘You need to head on down to Moody Gardens for “Pirates” or whatever.’ Inside, there’s a collection of Rothko paintings — dark and turbid — that surround the viewer. When the sun sifting through the clerestory shifts, the purple panels shine like scars. People meditate on cushions on the ground or lean against each other on the benches. The occasional crinkle of a plastic bag breaks the silence. There’s a smell, a specific Rothko Chapel smell. That’s the first thing two dashing young men in khaki shorts comment on when they leave the chapel.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Ed Uthman [license; cropped]

06/27/14 11:15am

Future Site of Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, 607 Chenevert St., Downtown Houston

Chiming in with this morning’s Demo Report, which more formally announces the departure of a couple of old single-story buildings at 607 and 609 Chenevert St., reader Jack Miller sends in this photo of the scene yesterday a couple blocks north of the George R. Brown Convention Center and immediately south of Minute Maid Park. At the far left, an excavator is seen assuring that the former Houston Professional Musicians’ Association and Houston Precious Metals buildings from 1949 will indeed get out of the way in time for the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage to be built on the site.

Is this yet another story of older Houston buildings making way for the new? Maybe, but at a larger scale, it’s partly the reverse: Two houses from 1904 and 1905 were moved onto a portion of Avenida de Las Americas glommed onto the site 3 years ago, on a spot across Texas Ave. from the ball park (behind and to the left of the camera). And the photo below includes a glimpse (on the far right) of the 1919 Southern Pacific 982 steam engine scooted out of the houses’ way and settled in along the light-rail line on Capitol St.:

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Centering Our Cultural Heritage
03/12/14 1:30pm

Martel Building, Former Rice Museum, Rice University, Houston

The Brown Foundation has agreed to provide funds for Rice University to disassemble the corrugated campus building once known as the Rice Museum and reassemble it on a site in the Fourth Ward, the school’s student newspaper reports. A story posted last night by the Rice Thresher‘s Jieya Wen doesn’t precisely identify the intended new location of the building, but art professor and photographer Geoff Winningham tells her that plans are being developed to turn the metal-sided structure into a public art center on its new site: “The building was designed so that it can be disassembled and moved in parts,” he tells Wen. “The university has agreed to allow [the] building to stand for a couple more weeks [in order] to come up with the actual plan for moving the building.”

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A More Public Art Center
03/11/14 10:45am

Former Rice Museum, Rice University, HoustonAn excavator may now be parked onsite, but alumni objections have prompted officials at Rice University to delay demolition of the 45-year-old corrugated metal building identified as the “Art Barn” — but known for decades as the home of Rice’s School of Continuing Studies, and before that the Rice Museum. The university’s plan “is still to remove the building from campus,” a spokesperson tells Swamplot. But exactly what form that removal might take is now apparently up for discussion. Officials now plan to “explore a couple of options for removing the building.”

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‘Stay of Execution’
02/24/14 1:30pm

Former Rice Museum, Rice University, HoustonFormer Rice Museum, Rice University, Houston

Online arts publication Glasstire is reporting that Rice University’s public-affairs office has confirmed plans to demolish the University’s most famous metal-sided structure. Known since the mid-1980s as the School of Continuing Studies Speros P. Martel Building, the southern half of the 45-year-old duo was dubbed the “Art Barn,” and was originally home to the Rice Museum, a predecessor to the Menil Collection.

John and Dominique de Menil paid for the construction of both corrugated buildings in 1969, and selected the architects, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry. The structures were created to house Rice’s art and art history departments, along with the de Menils’ Institute for the Arts, which the couple moved from the University of St. Thomas after a dispute with that institution. The de Menils later left Rice to start their own little Menil Collection in Montrose. The simple, unassuming design of the structures they left behind became the inspiration and model for a series of “Tin Houses” — Galvalume-clad homes designed by Houston architects primarily in the West End and Rice Military area.

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But Andy Warhol’s Tree Will Stay
02/19/14 1:15pm

Proposed Menil Drawing Institute by Johnston Marklee, West Main St., Montrose, Houston

The Menil Collection released details of the low-slung design L.A. architects Johnston Marklee have put together for the new Menil Drawing Institute, which is being touted as the “first freestanding facility in the United States created especially for the exhibition, study, storage, and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings.” And staring at the renderings, the institute’s future sure looks bright. There’s the bright exterior walls, lit by the Houston sun; the white steel-plate roof that’s supposed to look like it’s hovering over the building and 2 surrounding courtyards — “rather like a folded sheet of paper,” in the architects’ words. But the inside of the building, where the drawings are displayed, it’s going to be dark.

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A New Menil, Facing West Main St.