It has been ten years or more since Janet and I started the project when we photographed Jim Love’s Portable Trojan Bear in Hermann Park. I thought for a long time that I would eventually do a book of the outdoor art in Houston. I made extensive research notes on the pieces and the artists. It didn’t take long before I realized the enormity of that project. New pieces were constantly being added Old pieces were removed or relocated. Pieces such as Oldenburg;s Generation X Mouse and Addickes Patriotic Banana were repainted. Every time the light changed the piece changed.
I tried breaking the groupings down into locations; Downtown, the Museum District, Outlying Parks, Airports, University Campus. I never finished the first three and never got to the Airports and did little on the college campus. It was a major undertaking and for years Janet and I would go out almost every weekend that the weather permitted to look for unphotographed pieces or for better light on the pieces we had photographed. I still can’t pass by The Virtuoso or Personage With Birds without a photograph or two. Even though both are sitting right where they were the first time they were photographed, the buildings around them have not changed, the photographs are almost always different.
At first it was simply documentation but it became apparent that there was much more possible. I love trying to put the pieces into the contest of their surroundings and even occasionally attempting to understand how the pieces affect the area and peoples reaction to the pieces. But mostly it is trying to capture what I find most interesting by dissecting the pieces to details rather than overall shots. The overall shots are important to have but like all of my photography I seem more interested in the details, the small parts that we naturally focus on when observing.
As a side note, I will never forgive the City of Houston for moving Dubuffet’s Monument au Fantome from 1100 Louisiana to Discovery Green. The new location has diminished the piece considerably. Someday I might do a piece on the original photographs compared to the photographs at Discovery Green. It hardly seems to be the same piece. Confined in a ring of much much taller dark buildings it was so powerful and now surrounded by open space it has lost that power. It appears smaller, much less important. It deserves better. Sorry, that’s my rant for the day.
Here are last night’s photographs of the Winged City sculptures that are temporarily installed at Discovery Green. We never got around to photographing the two pieces on the south side of the park.