04/25/16 12:30pm

Fulton at Cavalcade streets, Northside, Houston ,77009

Stare directly into the snapshot above from the corner of Fulton and Cavalcade streets, which now bears a sun-saluting mural echoing a loteria card. The painting is part of the mini mural series that began appearing on utility boxes across the southwest side of town last summer, at which time only 31 of the boxes were slated for colorful fates. The current count is closer to 60 murals (per the photo-laden interactive map available here); additional artists were recruited last fall.

While the majority of the completed projects are still concentrated between 59 and 288 inside Beltway 8, more than a dozen are now scattered north and east throughout the rest of the Inner Loop — with a few further north around Greenspoint, 1 beyond the Beltway to the west in Westchase, and another as far southwest as Missouri City. Here’s another recent addition to the collection in Aldine, next to the Shipley’s Donuts at the southwest corner of Airline and W. Dyna drives:

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Blazing in Near Northside
03/21/16 12:30pm

Jamal Cyrus Art Blocks mural as 901 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The next piece of Art Blocks art was smoothed into place at the corner of Main St. and Walker this weekend, above the lightrail-facing side of inflation-aware Just a Dollar 19¢ & Budget Food Store. The mural, Jamal Cyrus’s Lightnin’ Field, is one of 4 that will be rotated onto the side of the 1929 building at 901 Main throughout the year leading up to next spring’s Super Bowl. The other projects to pretty up the Main Street Square area include the 60-foot-tall wooden Trumpet Flower that will grow between One City Centre and its parking garage, and the Color Jam street paint-up underway at the corner of Main and McKinney.

The signs for Just a Dollar 19¢ appear to have been artistically blanked as part of the installation; the convenience store, which opened on the corner in the early 1990’s in the former Krupp & Tuffly Shoes building, is shown above from the northbound Main St. Square light-rail station, between the restored facade of the Holy Cross Chapel & Catholic Resource Center (on the right) and the 46-story BG Group Place tower at 811 Main (on the left, across Walker St.). Here’s a twilight shot of the nearly completed mural, with a cherry picker still loitering in the bottom corner:

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Up on Main St.
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.

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Adventures on Wheatley St.
02/25/16 10:00am

CITY WILL PAY UP FOR OFF-BRAND BIRDS AT GRB George R. Brown Convention Center, Downtown, Houston, 77002After delaying the vote for 2 weeks, Houston’s city council has approved the reimbursement of Houston First for a bird-themed hanging sculpture that will come to roost in the updated George R. Brown Convention Center as its pre-Super Bowl renovations wrap up. The birds sparked an unanticipated funding debate earlier this month during which several councilmembers took issue with the already-partially-paid-for sculpture’s natural theme as not representative of Houston’s branding, which they asserted should revolve around NASA and global trade. “People come here, they don’t talk about the migration of birds,” said councilwoman Brenda Stardig. Others disagreed, pointing out that the city lies along the Central Flyway (one of the continent’s major bird migration routes) and draws flocks of birdwatchers annually. Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle reports that Stardig is now “comfortable with the project because Houston First has committed to explain the artwork’s meaning and to promote the Port of Houston, NASA and other items elsewhere in the renovated convention center. ‘I need to understand that we are telling the full story so someone that does visit understands that that does represent a migration of birds,’ Stardig said, ‘and not just [that] it was a beautiful thing they happened to see while they were in Houston.'” Meanwhile, artist Ed Wilson was caught off-guard when debate sprang up around assertions about his work’s meaning that he says came entirely from Houston First — Wilson says that the sculpture “is not a political statement, it’s not a branding statement, it’s just about the aesthetics, making something beautiful, activating the space, responding to the space and responding to the people coming through there.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

02/22/16 4:30pm

Rendering of Color Jam at Main at McKinney streets, Downtown, Houston, 77002

Here’s an idea of what the corner of Main and McKinney streets may look like in a few more weeks, as the installation of Jessica Stockholder’s Color Jam Houston proceeds. The above rendering faces south across the north-er of the 2 intersections between the Main Street Square light-rail stops, with its existing semi-neutral stripes and swirls joined by some brighter colors. Stockholder’s installation, modeled after a previous painting of the town for Chicago in 2012, is one of the Downtown District’s temporary Art Blocks projects intended to brighten up the area for the year leading up to the 2017 Houston-hosted Super Bowl and NCAA championship. The Art Blocks initiative also includes the 60-ft-tall Trumpet Flower that will lurk in the alley between One City Center and its parking garage.

A reader tweeted a photo of some of the first blocks of pigment, evidently maneuvered into place late last week:

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Art Blocked at McKinney
02/12/16 10:00am

ROTHKO CHAPEL LIGHTING COULD GET REDONE WITH FUNDS FROM ONLINE CLOTHING AUCTION Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon St., Montrose, Houston, 77006Reworking the Rothko Chapel’s lighting scheme is high on the wishlist of things to fund with proceeds from an online auction opening this Monday, David Leslie tells Cara Smith of the HBJ. While no specific plans to modify the space are set yet, the chapel’s executive director hopes changes over the next few years will help with “presenting the chapel in a holistic way that’s inviting, regardless of the day, time or lighting” — though Leslie also reflects that “the mystery of the chapel is that it does change with the light throughout the day, and it’s not static.” The auction is the brainchild of international socialite and chapel board member Lynn Wyatt, who will be putting some of her own high-end couture and art prints on the docket, alongside contributions from a few friends (including Wes Anderson, Elton John, and Tilda Swinton). Other items on the 1971 chapel’s maybe-to-do list: visitors services infrastructure for its 90,000-plus annual pilgrims, conference space, and some pool maintenance. [HBJ] Photo of the Rothko Chapel: Brandi Lynn via Swamplot Flickr pool

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:

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Sprouting Downtown
12/21/15 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HIP, TASTY, FUNKY, AND SAVVY HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING Mural near Market Square Park, Downtown, Houston“I think any time you need words on a sign or mural to declare that your city is hip or creative, it’s likely that your city is in reality struggling to be hip and creative. It means your surroundings and culture don’t already innately project that image.” [notsohip, commenting on Some Initial Feedback on an Elevated West Loop Lane; Rebranding Houston] Photo: Swamplot inbox

12/15/15 10:00am

Deluxe Theater, 3303 Lyons Ave, Fifth Ward, 77020

No fewer than 11 pairs of scissors reached to cut the ribbon in front of Fifth Ward’s DeLuxe Theater at 3303 Lyons Ave. as it formally reopened yesterday. The 1941 movie-theater-briefly-turned-art-gallery, which has sat empty since 1973, will now host plays, classes, and other community and art events put on by Texas Southern University; TSU jazz students performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The original facade and marquee have been restored and updated:

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Now Playing Off 59
12/09/15 4:35pm

A SEAWALL IN CANADA TAKES A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO COMBATING COASTAL EROSION Meanwhile, in Vancouver: Those familiar with Galveston’s frequent sand replenishment projects likely know that flat seawalls can exacerbate beach erosion by reflecting wave energy that would dissipate more readily in a natural sandy setting.  In response so-called king tides pummeling the coast of Vancouver, a Canadian landscape artist collaborated with a biologist and engineers to address beach erosion in a new way. Blending principles of ecology, hydrology, and aesthetics, Metamorphous incorporates boulders, plant life, and an angular a steel structure intended to rust away altogether in less than 100 years. The functional public art piece slows the flow of water as it rushes inland, causing sand to be deposited on the beach for the first time in resident memory. [Citylab]

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

05/04/15 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ART OF OBTAINING CITY PERMITS Moving House for Fifth Ward Jam“When Havel Ruck Projects was commissioned to create ‘Fifth Ward Jam,’ it was under the premise that it was temporary (although 5th Ward CRC decided to keep and maintain it). We needed to obtain a permit to move the shack we used for the piece to the empty lot where it stands today. With the help of Fifth Ward CRC, we met with city permit people and discussed that we were not creating a dwelling, but a work of art. They said we needed a building permit to move the house. We said it was our desire that we did not need a building permit after moving the house because it was going to be made into a work of art. So, saying they never have done this before, they wrote us up a creative permit that deemed the house a dwelling while it was being picked up and moved, but it would be officially deemed an ‘art structure’ after it was on the site, thus allowing us not to need building permits to construct the piece. With a little education and persuasion, the permit people can be pretty accommodating . . . seems back in the day, us artists did stuff and then apologized later.” [Dan Havel, commenting on Saving Houston’s Unzoned Artistic Spirit] Illustration: Lulu

06/05/14 10:30am

Kenan Ince Performing Rice, Ashby at Cafe Brasil, 2604 Dunlavy St., Montrose, HoustonRice U. math Ph.D. student, Boulevard Oaks resident, and poet Kenan Ince has been making the rounds of local open-mic nights with his brief ode to the as-yet-invisible but still-ominous spectre looming over 1717 Bissonnet St. known as the Ashby Highrise. The poem, entitled Rise, Ashby, begins with an epigraph clipped from a Swamplot story about the lawsuit that was filed by a few of the 21-story apartment tower’s Southampton and Boulevard Oaks neighbors last year. A video of Ince’s recent performance at Montrose’s Cafe Brasil (seen at left) has been posted on Youtube; you can read the poem — with its original, towering typography intact — below:

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Rise, Ashby
04/07/14 12:15pm

Installation of Tree and Three Flowers Sculpture on Kirby Dr. South of Westheimer, Upper Kirby, Houston

Here’s an overhead view of the installation over the weekend of the 38-ft.-tall, 7,000-lb. sculpture by James Surls on the previously treeless median between West Ave and the 2727 Kirby condo tower on Kirby Dr., just south of Westheimer. Assembled from bronze and stainless-steel components, Tree and Three Flowers was commissioned by the Upper Kirby District; it’s meant to move in the wind. It’ll join other Surls public works in Houston — at Rice University, in Market Square, and at the Parks and Recreation department headquarters on Gragg St. The Kirby sculpture went in on this base:

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Won’t Grow, but Will Move
02/04/14 10:15am

Statue of Chief Touch the Clouds, Reliant Arena, Reliant Park, HoustonThe Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo last Thursday approved the sale of its 18-ft.-tall painted but weathered bronze statue of Chief ‘Touch the Clouds’ from outside the Reliant Arena to an Oklahoma City suburb — for $50,000. The statue of the Miniconjou chief, who fought alongside his cousin Crazy Horse at the Battle of Little Big Horn, was donated to the Rodeo 16 years ago by its sculptor, Dave McGary. Reports that the Rodeo was looking to offload the sculpture from its perch about 300 yards southeast of the Astrodome surfaced late last year, a few months after McGary died of liver cancer.

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So Long, Chief