At the March 29 Cigna Sunday Streets HTX along Westheimer, OffCite teamed up with photographer Rashed Haq and his family to continue the Love Is Everyday project. As I noted previously on OffCite, public displays of affection (PDA) are a barometer for a healthy public realm. PDA shows that people feel safe and open to sharing beauty and joy. Houstonian’s penchant for private life undermines the flowering of our fullest potential, and this project is a playful intervention.
We invited passersby at the Westheimer Sunday Streets to display affection for the camera. All the participants, including notable figures like Mayor Annise Parker and writer Lacy Johnson, signed an agreement that their photographs could be shared. The photographs were taken in front of the once-muraled Mary’s wall (now Blacksmith coffee shop) and Chances (now Hay Merchant), gay and lesbian bars that were at the center of Houston’s queer community. The participants show a continuation of Montrose counterculture, we hope, by paying homage to those sites with locked lips, side hugs, and other affections. Enjoy this selection. You can see more of the photographs Saturday, April 18, 5 pm – 9 pm at the Spring Street Studios Spring Biannual Art Opening (1824 Spring Street, Studio #213).
Also mark your calendars for Sunday Streets at 19th Street in the Heights on April 26 and Navigation Boulevard on May 17.
The new issue of Cite (96) has been mailed and will be available soon at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. Below is an introduction to the issue by guest editor Ronnie Self.
Museums may be our best patrons of architecture, allowing and even encouraging experimentation while demanding more exacting design.
Cite 96 looks at four art spaces — one realized, one ongoing, and two on the boards — one in Fort Worth and three in Houston. The four are the recently completed Piano Pavilion for the Kimbell Art Museum, the projects for the neighborhood and buildings of the Menil Collection, the ever-evolving
community of Project Row Houses, and the designs underway for the campus and buildings of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH).
All of these institutions, varied in size, structure, and mission, are ambitious and provide a range of ideas and approaches for art spaces. They also offer an extraordinary collection of architecture that is well worth study and discussion. With that in mind, Raj Mankad and I invited three writers (Christopher Hawthorne from Los Angeles, Walter Hood from Berkeley, and David Heymann from Austin) to examine and analyze the three projects in Houston mentioned above. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Kimbell Pavilion in Fort Worth.
One hundred seventy-seven green glass blocks stud the bright white exterior of the Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center. The blocks, which let in light during the day and then glow at night like an encrypted message to extraterrestrial life, are the kind of detail that makes you giddy and grateful for architecture. Form follows function, sure, but you want to stand near them and let them work on you. Improve you, somehow.
I cozied up to the wall of the three-story building along 7th Street and pointed my Instagram-primed iPhone up at the blocks, tilting back to find a good angle. And I kept tilting until the espresso I forgot I was holding popped its lid and dumped all over my face and collar and soaked through the straps of my backpack. Though the Contemporary Austin is located in the heart of Downtown, it was a Sunday morning, and I don’t think anyone saw. At least I didn’t hear anyone laugh. I patted my face dry, waited a moment, and then turned the corner to enter the space.
I blame you for this, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis. You owe me a new backpack!
In the long list of Houston’s long-gone places, one is especially evocative: Quality Hill, the city’s first elite residential neighborhood. It started in the mid-1800s when prominent businessmen built their houses around Courthouse Square, and from there it spread east and south, toward present-day Minute Maid Park and Discovery Green. Life in the neighborhood — at least if you believe the writers of Houston: A History and Guide, the 1942 WPA guide to the city — was something right out of the Old South:
This year, the Rice Design Alliance is publishing a limited-edition book as an accompaniment to afterWARDS: An Architecture Tour of Houston’s Wards and Beyond, its 40th annual tour, taking place Saturday, April 11, and Sunday, April 12, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Architectural historian Stephen Fox was commissioned to write self-guided driving tours of the wards. Titled forWARDS, the book, designed by Houston’s Spindletop Design and illustrated with photography by Peter Molick, will be sold for $15 during the tour at five cashier locations.
First Ward illustrates what became one of the political problems of the ward system by the turn of the twentieth century. Its residential population was much smaller than that of Third, Fourth, and Fifth Wards. But like the other wards, it elected two aldermen to the City Council. Consequently, residents of more populous wards felt they were not getting their fair share of representation.
At the Main-Congress intersection, going south on Main street, turn right on Congress.
Long live print! The Archizines exhibit at the Architecture Center Houston documents an explosion of experiments with paper — 80 recent magazines, fanzines, and journals from over 20 countries. I did not leave the exhibit with a fully-formed manifesto about the future of architectural publishing beaming out of my forehead onto the page, or screen. I did leave exhilarated, overwhelmed, optimistic, unsure. If there is a single message, it is this: for every purpose there is an energizing print format.
For example, Fake Cities / True Stories appears to be photocopied pages bound with staples and a plastic clip. I’m not sure what those clips are called. The workers at Kinko’s or Copy.com would know. According to the exhibit copy, this weekly was founded in 2012 “as a tool for communication and feedback between lectures and students” at Slovak Technical University. The content and format feels wonderfully raw and immediate. A print version of a Twitter hashtag? Not quite. The print object invests the content. There’s deliberate process, effort, and self-selection if not curation — a meaningful exercise in the digital era.
For more articles like this one by Christopher Sperandio, subscribe to Citeor call (713) 348-4876 to purchase the forthcoming special issue on museums that includes an article by Walter Hood on Project Row Houses.
Part rockstar-style tour bus, part utility vehicle, and ultimately a blank platform that sleeps six, Cargo Space has crisscrossed 7,000 miles of this country with Houston as its base. We hold one-night events and host all manner of functions, playing host to cultural workers of every stripe (local, national, international). It’s great fun that is rooted in an urgent art form called Social Practice. To explain the Cargo Space project any further, let’s step back for a moment, review some history, look at contemporary debates roiling the art world.
Social Practice—an underknown art form rooted in the Conceptual Art and political activism of the 1960s—is alive and well in Houston, but for how long? Social Practice and the communities it engages are facing a real challenge for efficacy in the face of massive social and political upheaval, specifically the gonzo real estate market and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.
You might not have heard of Social Practice for a couple of reasons. First, as a field of art practice it goes by many names: Relational Aesthetics, Community Art, Socialized Art, Social Art, or New Genre art, to name a few. Just as it defies labels, it’s also a field of art-making that has historically resisted commodification. With a few exceptions, say Chicago’s Theaster Gates, whose ceramic and sculptural works are gobbled up by collectors, Social Practice artists generally don’t make products that fit easily within the luxury consumer goods industry into which most art making has been absorbed.
If you haven’t been paying attention to Social Practice, you soon will.
Houston is often defined by its roads, but what road defines Houston? Presented jointly on OffCite and Gray Matters, this series features writers exploring the roads that help them understand Houston. In 2003 issue, Larry Albert recorded a remarkable trip “Around the World on Beltway 8” for Cite. In this essay, Cort McMurray takes us again on a wondrous circumnavigation.
Houston is a splatter painting, a confusion of streets and avenues, freeways and farm-to-market roads, alleys and boulevards, 10,000 paths, each offering its own revelations, its own bit of enlightenment. It’s a little like religion. Or a dim sum menu.
Some of those paths every Houstonian should travel, not to understand Houston — there is no understanding Houston — but simply to get a full sense of the place. The path where I find Houston is a lopsided concrete hoop, ringing the outer edges of the city. I find Houston driving the whole of the Sam Houston Toll Road. The 80-odd mile circuit of the Beltway — nobody calls it “The Sam,” except traffic guys on the radio — is the perfect way to get a feel for our fair city, but be warned: you’ll need to pick up an EZ Pass from the Tollroad Authority first, unless you want to incur some hefty fines.
In advance of Cigna Sunday Streets this weekend along Westheimer, OffCite is republishing a piece from the counterculture special issue of Cite (82, Summer 2010) with a postscript by its author Brian Riedel. The building that housed Mary’s is now home to the Blacksmith coffee shop.
Mary’s is closed for good. Now only “Keep Out” signs and realtor placards jostle for attention at this former hub of Houston’s gay bar scene. Its passing, however, did not go unmarked. Shortly after the bar was locked down in late October 2009, local activists put up a Facebook page, “Mary’s Naturally Closed,” to organize a historical salvage effort. Richard Connelly of the Houston Press picked up the story. After Hours on KPFT featured an interview with members of the family that owns the land at 1022 Westheimer. Even Fox 26 News ran a segment spotlighting the closure, timed to air on the eve of World AIDS Day.