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Follow the bi-cultural trail

Ambitious Texan-French art project across Houston opens doors to new opportunities

Open the door project
As part of Open The Door Project, 60 art doors will be installed in 18 public spaces, including Hermann Park and Memorial Park, River Oaks Park, among other locations. Pictured here is a detail of an art door designed by French artist Stéphane Carricondo. Photo by Joel Luks
Open the door project
The Open The Door public art project is curated by the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts' executive director Karine Parker-Lemoyne . . .  Photo by Joel Luks
Open the door project
. . . with self-taught artist Romain Froquet of the Parisian collective 9éme Concept. Photo by Joel Luks
Open the door project
Detail of art door by Rahul Mitra, the other side of Romain Froquet's collaboration. Photo by Joel Luks
Open the Door Cultural trail Map
The Cultural Trail Map notes locations of proposed art door installations. Courtesy of Texan-French Alliance for the Arts
Open the door project
Detail of art door by Ned Nedellec. Photo by Joel Luks
Open the door project
Detail of art door by Stéphane Carricondo. Photo by Joel Luks
Houston Public Library
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In the not-so-distant past, the 1994 American-French film Stargate spawned a television series, comics and video games and ran over and over again on some network akin to Lifetime, on a kind of channel you tuned to when nothing better is on.

Whether it's the film's provenance or the premise that deciphering symbols could connect seemingly dissimilar worlds, there's a comparable element of connectivity and alignment — minus the science fiction, ancient Egypt component — when considering the proposition of the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts collaboration with Paris collective 9éme Concept.

 "There's no better way to get to know a city than by looking at its art. For me, there's no better way to get to know a city than by working with another artist."

The Open The Door public art project, curated by the alliance's executive director Karine Parker-Lemoyne and Romain Froquet of the Parisian coterie, flourishes from a universal symbol, a portal of sorts that views into another realm, whether concrete or abstract, whose mechanism either frees the imagination or keeps thoughts neatly in one compartment or another.

No doubt that's why the Surrealists loved doors and windows.

"Every new experience that we encounter, be it a new phase in life or discovering a new culture, can be represented by the image of the door," Parker-Lemoyne says. "We can leave it closed or open it and step across the threshold."

It's that definition that gives food for thought to 60 art doors to be installed in 18 public spaces, including Hermann Park, Memorial Park, River Oaks Park, Castillo Park, Hong Kong Market and Memorial City Mall, among others. The sculptural pieces are connected through a storyline to encourage visitors to see all of them around town.

The 10-month installation kicks off on Saturday, 2 p.m., at the Houston Public Library with a celebration that includes workshops and live performances in response to the art by Spoken Word, Storyteller's Guild, Writers in the Schools, Meta Four, Literature - Poetry, Inprint, Et Voila Theatre and Urban Souls Dance Company.

60 doors, 18 public spaces

Such an emblem, the door, has deep personal meaning for Froquet, 30, whose self-taught journey with art began when he was 18 years old, which is relatively late for a person to embark on an artistic career. He imprinted many of his works with a signature that comprised both an open and a closed door side by side. He found a similar spirit of exploration in his collectif, which is equally comfortable creating street art, art for galleries and art for big organizations and companies like Nike, Coca Cola and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

 "I love Houston," says Froquet. "I love the friendliness of the people, the natural light, the artists and the space." 

The idea of Open The Door hinged from his 2011 participation in Go West I, a traveling show curated by art influentials Jim Edwards, Toby Kamps, Gus Kopriva alongside Parker-Lemoyne on view first at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and then at the Willliams Tower Gallery in Houston.

It was Froquet's idea to craft bi-cultural doors, one side designed by a French artist, the other by a Houston artist.

"I love Houston," says Froquet. "I love the friendliness of the people, the natural light, the artists and the space."

The lyrics of Peter Gabriel's evocative song "Fourteen Black Paintings," which was written after Gabriel visited the Rothko Chapel in 2007, haunted Parker-Lemoyne. Gabriel penned: "From the pain come the dream; from the dream come the vision; from the vision come the people; from the people come the power; from this power come the change."

The subject of transformation that's embedded in the five-line poem fused with Roquet's aesthetic gave birth to what Parker-Lemoyne labels as a cross-cultural trail across the city where the doors are set to be installed. As such, at its roots, Open The Door is as much about the final product as it is about the process, one that encourages conversation across people of different backgrounds and about places typically isolated from one another.

"There's no better way to get to know a city than by looking at its art," Roquet says."For me, there's no better way to get to know a city than by working with another artist."

At the core of Open The Door are six urban artists from the French collective, including Stéphane Carricondo, Jerk 45, Clément Laurentin, Mambo and Ned Nedellec, who were selected by Froquet to ally with six Houston artists, including Daniel Anguilu, Gonzo 247, Tierney Malone, Patrick Medrano, Rahul Mitra and Lovie Olivia.

High school and university students were invited to participate. 

"My hope is for these doors to connect people that weren't connected before and people who weren't connected before, to create a gigantic web," Parker-Lemoyne says. "I really hope this is going to highlight the wonderful work that's done in the city of Houston in terms of the art communities working in neighborhoods to create a dialogue — through the arts."

At the end of the 10-month installation, the doors will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

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Watch CultureMap's exclusive video above for footage of the art and interviews with the curators.

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