"Humans are messy creatures though," he says, standing in front of a suite of hanging plexiglass cases stuffed with shirt labels reading either hope or desire. "With these pieces, I've tried to put all that messiness back in there, hopefully in a way that's poetic and shows that history."
"The modernists tried to get rid of all the messy stuff to be so trans cendent. With these pieces, I've tried to put all that messiness back in there."
Each flat, square box holds upwards of 40,000 labels, which the artist receives from a Dallas tailor before lining them up in tidy vertical, horizontal or diagonal rows. From across the room, the containers look like Frank Stella's Black Paintings from the late '50 and early '60s . . . except in a color Havel said the shirt makers call "French blue."
Havel, who directs the Glassell School of Art, has been a fixture on the city's art scene since the early 1990s and received a 10-year retrospective of his sculptural work in 2006 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which also features his massive bronze piece Exhaling Pearls in its Cullen Sculpture Garden.
Noting his penchant for filling art with cultural and historical references, Havel turned his attention to Architecture — a slip-covered set of collected works of Sigmund Freud that have been cast multiple times in acrylic resin and stacked five feet and seven inches high (which so happens to be the father of psychoanalysis' height).
"If, somehow, Sigmund Freud and Philip Johnson were running towards each other at top speed, I like to think this piece would've happened."
"If, somehow, Sigmund Freud and Philip Johnson were running towards each other at top speed, I like to think this piece would've happened when they collided," Havel says.
"Sort of this classic modernist building on top of Freud's writings. Just a big stack of repressed cultural memories."
Two more sets of resin books frame the window in Hiram Butler's north gallery, this time including titles by Proust, some dated Sotheby's catalogs and an old family dictionary. Thin sheets of clear plastic fan out from the pieces, remnants of Havel's labor-intensive casting process. Bubbles, blobs and other imperfections within the acrylic itself catch the daylight spilling into the room, highlighting that inevitable "messiness" the artist loves to feature.
Joseph Havel: Hope and Desire will be on view at Hiram Butler through Jan. 26, 2013.