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Category: Art & Culture

Photo by David A. Brown of dabphoto. All others by Raj Mankad.

Photo by David A. Brown of dabphoto. All others by Raj Mankad.

"Seeing the Start of a Tradition": Sunday Streets HTX on Westheimer a Big Success

The City of Houston estimates that 20,000 people came out on Westheimer for Sunday Streets HTX on May 4.

Mayor Annise Parker participated by walking her dog along Westheimer. In an interview with News 92 FM, she says, “The hard part now is finding out where we to do the next few. We have the next one on Washington Avenue. Neighborhoods are clamoring for it . . . . There’s some logistics involved. We have to pick a street. We want to get the business owners engaged. And then it is just a matter of Houstonians showing up and having a good time. We can do this year round . . . . We are seeing the start of a tradition.”

Enjoy the photographs below and mark your calendars for the next Sunday Streets HTX, which will be June 1, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., along Washington Avenue from Studemont to Market Square.

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"Tactical" plaque at former Le Barcito in Los Angeles. Photo: Pocho Research Society.

The Politics of Street Art, the Art of Street Politics

Signage, as Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Scott Izenour argue in Learning from Las Vegas, is architecture. The heraldries of corporate logos and fonts of local businesses dominate our built environment as much as gables or spandrels do. Sandra de la Loza, a Los Angeles-based artist and activist, sees that dominance as an opportunity for political action.

Two weeks ago, she was in Houston for CounterCurrent, the five-day Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts festival. At the Antena @ Blaffer space at the University of Houston, de la Loza gave a lecture and led a workshop about what she terms “tactical signage.” Her use of “tactical” is, here, tactical: The actions she encourages are “everyday, if ephemeral, [ones] that people can do to transform landscapes,” whether they’re using Sharpies to add wings to the black silhouettes of deer forever leaping on road signs or sticking stickers on utility poles.

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Detail of You Are Here by Paul Kittelson. Photo: Allyn West.

Detail of You Are Here by Paul Kittelson. Photo: Allyn West.

CiteSeeing: You Are Here

OffCite invites short essays, reviews, and observations on specific moments and places for our CiteSeeing series. Interested in contributing your own? Let us know.

Houston’s East End is bordered by the Ship Channel, U.S. 59, I-10, and I-45. Both the edges and the essence of the neighborhood, in other words, could be defined by transportation. The convenient confluence of Buffalo and Brays bayous, allowing the early trading post of Harrisburg to be sited here by John Richardson Harris in the 1820s, has since been supplemented, if not supplanted, by freeways and heavy rail. Not to mention light rail and a few hike and bike trails, too.

That’s why the public art by Paul Kittelson installed recently along the forthcoming East End Line makes so much sense: This, it says, is a kind of manic crossroads.

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Photo: Michelle Caruso.

"When Streets Close, Doors Open Up:" Sunday Streets HTX Born in the Rain

This post builds on OffCite’s ongoing coverage of Sunday Streets HTX. The next event is May 4 along Westheimer between Hazard and Yoakum.

At 11 a.m., a cold and steady rain doused the inaugural Sunday Street. My family sheltered under a bridge. White Oak Drive was empty save for the city’s golf carts and police cars. Would a year of intense collaboration with city leaders, business owners, and residents culminate in a soggy flop? It turns out Houstonians aren’t afraid of the rain. As Carra Moroni, a Senior Health Planner with the city and a lead organizer of the event, later wrote, “Rain may dampen our clothes but not our spirit.”

Jayme Fraser captured the “water-splashed” joy of the event in an April 7 writeup in the Houston Chronicle and reported an estimate of more than 3,000 participants.

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Looming Genes and Rooted Dreams, 2009, by Dustin Farnsworth. Photo: Peter McDaniel.

Through Frictions: A Review of SPRAWL at HCCC

Note: SPRAWL features 16 emerging and mid-career artists whose work responds to the urban landscape. Arranged in three sections, “Infrastructure of Expansion,” “Survey, Plan, Build,” and “Aftereffects,” which loosely define the phases of urban growth, the exhibition is intended to present a non-polemical view. It will be open through January 19.

I am unaware of a previous show in which the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft stepped out in this vigorous a way, but that could be my ignorance. The curators, Susie J. Silbert and Anna Walker, situate the show within the city itself, in its problematic, unfinished state. The artists begin with our piecemeal idea of the city which is seen almost always from within. They locate it in an individual piece of debris, in an effect of aging material, or in an impossible scale shift.

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Detail of Cleveland Turner's Francis Street house. Photo: Sara Cooper.

Transcendent Shelter
: Cleveland Turner, 1943-2013

Cleveland Turner, a.k.a. the Flower Man, has died, reports Glasstire. Houston has lost one of its most beloved artists. In his honor, OffCite republishes Lisa Simon’s 2005 essay about Turner’s home on Travis and Dowling. The article first appeared in Cite 63.

A house is often much more than where you hang your hat. Its location, style, and the appearance of care (or disregard) convey something about the people who live there. Once you enter the perimeter of a private home, the sense that the inhabitants are trying to express themselves through aesthetic signs increases. Visitors are meant to “read” a home’s yard and entryway—the occupants have designed them (or hired someone else to do so) for just that purpose.

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Christie Blizard and Edward Garza walking in Houston.

Blizard in Houston: An Art Walk

It was 9:24 on a Sunday morning, and I doubted whether I was in the right place. I was planning to join the artist Christie Blizard on her walk through Houston, scheduled to start in six minutes. I stood in front of the starting point, City Hall. I proceeded to walk aimlessly around the building’s Art Deco façade, stretching my head around each corner in search of someone resembling an artist but finding only the occasional jogger.

My confusion almost distracted me from the lovely weather. Sheets of bone-white clouds hung high against a blue sky, and a bright sun beamed through the trees lining the block. Sure, the air felt in the low 80s, but that’s balmy for September in Houston. If I can’t find anyone, I thought, I’ll jog a few miles myself.

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Ruth Pershing Uhler's The First Subscription Committee in the Julia Ideson Building. Photograph by Allyn West.

On the Houston History Conference

On the same morning that the Houston History Conference was to be held at the Julia Ideson Building, the NRA was in the midst of a three-day rally at the George R. Brown Convention Center just a 20-minute walk away. This would be the most well-attended convention ever at the GRB — almost 90,000 people went, and the Chronicle reported that more than $1 million in merchandise was sold.

The History Conference was more modestly attended. Walking across Lamar Street toward the Ideson Building, which was recently rehabilitated, I noticed one of those concrete sidewalk inlays that are scattered throughout Downtown; this one quotes the Telegraph and Texas Register, from 1837:

We frequently notice on our way to breakfast a quantity of lumber thrown carelessly in a heap, and upon returning in the evening, are greeted with the surprising appearance of a house.

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Visual Art Gallery at the old 1117 East Freeway location of Diverseworks. All black and white photos courtesy Bob Warren/rj warren photography

DiverseWorks is Dead! Long Live DiverseWorks!

“Closing Time” was the last record played as the party wound down at DiverseWorks last week. Over one hundred people came out on Wednesday, October 24, to say goodbye to DiverseWorks’ second home, at “The Docks” (1117 East Freeway), where it lived from 1989 to 2012. (The first home, from its founding in 1982 until it caught fire in 1989, was at 214 Travis on Market Square.) The goodbye party was a bittersweet experience for many, as former executive directors, curators, interns, artists, board members, and audience members came out to connect with the space and institution which has nurtured much of Houston’s most radical, experimental expression for the past 30 years.

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Can We Be Critical of the Menils Now? A Review of Art and Activism

The Menil has planned some great events to celebrate their 25th anniversary. At OffCite, we are marking the occasion by posting articles from our archives about the Menils and the Menil collection. The following book review by John Pluecker appeared last year in the Fall 2011 issue Cite (87).

A small wave of books is coming, all attempting to document the historical contributions of John and Dominique de Menil. Art and Activism: The Projects of John and Dominique de Menil was first and subsequently followed by Sacred Modern: Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in the Menil Collection by anthropologist and art historian Pamela Smart. In the coming year, Knopf/Random House is planning to publish a biography of the Menils by journalist William Middleton and funded with almost $400,000 from the Houston Artists Fund.

Without a doubt, these publications are a sign of a deepening interest in the histories of artistic communities of Houston. These books posit a history for Houston’s strange mix of progressive arts activism and oil-fueled capitalism. Art and Activism also ends up being a veritable canonization of the Menils through a series of essays by various scholars, artists and arts workers, most of them previously associated with the Menils on some level as students, employees, or fellow travelers.

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