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Big Art Sculptures spur discovery at Hermann Park by Mark Lam, AIA, PhD
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Venet’s pieces engage the natural and manmade environs as if they were site-specific. Set against the backdrop of Hermann Park’s lush lawns, the pieces remake the greenspace into a vast sculpture garden. Their placement encourages people to discover one at a time, with each grouping visually leading to another and so on. They each frame, complement, and even seem to offer mute commentary on their surroundings. The groupings present studies of precision-rolled and carefully machined arcs contrasted against twisted scraps with hand-torched ends and spring-like segments unabashedly showing marks left by enormous pliers powerful enough to grip and coil such thick bars. Like wreckage from a colossal train crash strewn about the landscape, the sheer size and weight of each piece will fascinate viewers of all ages, challenging them to ask what are they, where did they come from, and how do they stay upright? Mark Lam, AIA, PhD, is the managing principal of SHW Group’s Houston office.
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Photo by Nash Baker, courtesy of artist and McClain Gallery, Houston
Amongst its many fountains, gardens, and playgrounds, Houston’s Hermann Park is playing host to 15 newly installed monumental sculptures that have transformed the grounds into a landscape of exploration. Made possible by the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts, the works by French sculptor Bernar Venet will remain on display until October. (Three Indeterminate Lines is shown at top; the inset shows Random Combination of Indeterminate Lines.) The sculptures are composed of solid Cor-ten steel bars – some straight, some rolled, others twisted – and placed in eight groupings throughout the park, each expressing a different take on Venet’s interest in the mathematics of order versus chaos. The gigantic objects, some standing as tall as 30 feet and weighing up to 12 tons, tease viewers to investigate up close the repeating perfection of industrialized production. The simplicity of these abstract works communicate their power in a fundamental language through material, weight, and scale.