It took 9,000 hours over a period of seven months for eight craftsmen from two families to shape a work of art that comprises roughly 2,227,000 individual parts weighing a combined 200 pounds, with each one glued together one by one.
The completed sculpture, on view on the first floor of the new BBVA Compass Plaza on Post Oak Boulevard, speaks volumes of the cultural flavor of Houston and the values cherished by the city's stakeholders — and the principles of the underwriters.
Vochol, the title of the piece, is a 1990 Volkswagen Beetle swathed in a mosaic of vibrant glass beads that collectively, from afar, appears to be a painted vehicle of sorts — what one would see sashaying down Houston's iconic Art Car Parade. But this art car's Mexican provenance — Mexico was home to the last manufacturing plant of this popular VW model that was assembled from 1938 through 2003 — pays tribute to an artisanal craft that at its core serves as a spiritual channel.
The families responsible for Vochol are of Huichol heritage, as they are known to the rest of the world. However, they call themselves Wixáritari, a word in their Uto-Aztecan native tongue that means "the people." Members of this rural community have managed to safeguard ages-old handmade traditions that include vibrant textiles and embroidery, much of which depicts deities as an avenue to communicate with the metaphysical realm.
Anyone who has attempted to drive Houston highways for the first time knows it's no secret that one needs a prayer to get through rush hour traffic.
The art car reveals itself as a combination of geometrical patterns that encase sketches of corn, deer, scorpions, the peyote cactus and the sun — emblems that chronicle the pre-Colombian religious beliefs of what's considered one of the most uncontaminated native citizenries in North and South America.
To Houstonians, however, Vochol dialogues on the confluence of cross-cultural exchanges, old and new, tradition and invention, fine and folk art, and one-of-a-kind creations and mass-produced commercialism, particularly bearing in mind that the VW Bug is the most prolific car in the world to date.
Vochol is visiting Houston amid a tour that originated at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City. BBVA Compass Plaza is hosting the sculpture through Aug. 9, when a construction crew will have to once again remove the building's glass walls and support beams to haul the installation to another stop on its journey. At the conclusion of Vochol's travels — including exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and at Museé du Quai Branly in Paris — the art piece will be sold at auction.
Vochol is one of many works on view at BBVA Compass Plaza. Gallerist Laura Rathe has curated paintings, sculptures and mixed-media pieces to add vibrancy to the corridors that are otherwise minimalist in decor. The collection consists of artists with strong Texas roots, both emerging and established, such as McKay Otto, Katherine Houston, Matt Devine and Mallory Page.
Wouldn't it be lovely if Vochol was purchased by a Houston institution?
After all, anyone who has attempted to drive Houston highways for the first time knows it's no secret that one needs a prayer to get through rush hour traffic.