An Exhibition Dedicated to the "SPRAWL"-ing City of Houston

Categories: Visual Arts

Photos by Altamese Osborne
"An Incomplete Articulation" by Paul Sacaridiz
Standing in the doorway to the opening of "SPRAWL," Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's newest group exhibition, is no different than standing at the opening of a toystore, only here you're more likely to find a tool box filled with woodchips than a toy box full of Barbie dolls. Enter into a bejeweled wonderland of gleaming stalactites hanging from the ceiling, miniature houses teetering on seesaws and stained glass windows swinging from metal poles.

Showing at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, SPRAWL explores the tenuous relationship with Houston geography, at once loved and loathed by citizens and non-citizens alike for its far reach and uneven plain. Co-curated by Susie J. Silbert and Anna Walker, the exhibit stretches throughout HCCC's gallery, mimicking the something here, something there, pockets of nothing design of the Bayou City. Additionally, the 16 artists that lent their creative hands to the exhibition provide works drastically different from one another. Like Houston's diverse cultures, cuisines, zip codes gnashed into one "sprawling" space, this clash of craftsmen works.

The exhibition is divided into three sections: "Infrastructure of Expansion," "Survey, Plan, Build" and "Aftereffects." Heading up the first section are the beautiful black-and-white stalactite structures by Norwood Viviano. Viviano's "Cities: Departure and Deviation" (2011) which illustrates population growth of 24 cities from 1850 to 2010. The illustration is done using blown glass cylinders of different heights, lengths and circumferences that hang from black rods attached to HCCC's ceiling. Each circumference is different, based on the population of the respective city, as is the distribution of black and/or white coloring. Most of the cylinders start out black at the bottom, then become white to represent a city's population growth over time.On the wall, a graphical representation of each city's growth is outlined in a grayish vinyl, an excellent explanation of percentage growth for the mathematically-challenged.

In the very center of "Cities," an all-white cylinder represents the city of Houston. In 1850, the city had only 2,396 residents. In 2010, that number skyrocketed to more than two million residents -- 2,099,451, to be exact.

Nancy Nicholson's "Construction #3" (2008) and "Construction #4" (2008) uses an unusual substance to depict the "Survey, Plan, Build" section: stained glass. These two sheets of stained glass, hanging from four metal rods, are created with Nicholson's own photographs, which she then converts using "medieval glass techniques" of drawing and glass cutting. The two images are of a mundane construction site. Men in hard hats and overalls sit on cranes. Normally, it would be a very boring scene, but the encrusted glass, art in and of itself, livens it up.

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