Monuments, those occasionally magnificent, seemingly innocuous statues in public spaces honoring people, events and ideas, have occasionally become points of controversy in recent years. The High Line Network, a coalition of North American industrial reuse projects, takes this new focus on monuments and asked artists to respond.
Twenty-five artists or art groups in five cities, including Houston and Austin, were chosen to create “proposals” for future monuments. Now Houston and Buffalo Bayou Park launch the results in the unprecedented public exhibition, New Monuments for New Cities. The installation is presented locally by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which plans a slew of events around the experience.
All of the artists were given the prompt to imagine a monument for their city, country and community today, and asked what images and art should replace the monuments that are torn down.
The project further asked the artists to respond to questions about how to define and refine the concept of monument. Must they be “bronze statues of public plazas, or can a monument take a more ephemeral or unconventional form?”
The art answers to those questions became drawings, photographs, renderings, “missing” posters, Wikipedia pages, bold text-based statements and collages, and these art “proposals” for a new type of monument will be displayed as posters in this traveling exhibition.
The Houston artists and art groups invited to contribute their work to the project are Regina Agu, Jamal Cyrus, Sin Huellas: Delilah Montoya and Jimmy Castillo, Phillip Pyle, II, and Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin.
Some of the works will reference other Houston art or history. For example, Nick Vaughn and Jake Margolin, "Mary’s Naturally, 1976" will be a tribute to the iconic gay bar Mary Naturally, and "Broken Obelisk Elbows" by Phillip Pyle, II, reimagines the beloved Barnett Newman’s "Broken Obelisk" at the Rothko Chapel with spoke wire rims representing Houston’s car culture.
“We are honored to be among a select group of cities that are exhibiting these thought-provoking artworks,” says Judy Nyquist, Buffalo Bayou Park board member and public art committee co-chair. “The theme, 'New Monuments for New Cities,' is so timely as our nation and its citizens are rethinking what form monuments should take today.”
Texas will be well represented in the project with Austin artists Nicole Awai, Daniela Cavazos Madrigal, Teruko Nimura and Rachel Alex Crist, Denise Prince, and Vincent Valdez also contributing monument “proposals” to the exhibition.
While the each artwork will stay essentially the same, the display and overall organization of these outdoor public showings will be specific to each site. In Houston, the works will be displayed in Buffalo Bayou Park within light boxes integrated into benches, which will in turn surround the iconic Henry Moore "Spindle" in the meadow along Allen Parkway at Gillette.
Following the exhibition’s inauguration in Buffalo Bayou Park from February 20-April 30, the art will move to Waller Creek in Austin (March-May 20) and then head national and internationally with prominent displays at The 606 in Chicago and The Beltway in Toronto before it takes its place on The High Line in New York.