Smile Intervention

Art mystery: A big red rubber ball bounces into the Menil's backyard, but whose plaything is it?

Art mystery: A big red rubber ball bounces into the Menil's backyard, but whose plaything is it?

News_red ball_Menil
The red ball beside the Menil Collection. Photo by Cameron Blaylock
News_red ball_Menil
The red ball beside the Menil Collection. Photo by Cameron Blaylock
News_red ball_Menil
The red ball beside the Menil Collection. Photo by Cameron Blaylock
News_red ball_Menil
News_red ball_Menil
News_red ball_Menil

A gigantic, red rubber ball has auspiciously appeared in a sprawling oak tree that dominates the park sandwiched between the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel. The surprisingly (and joyous) public art intervention looks like the local incarnation of the global artwork, RedBall Project, by Kurt Perschke.

But is it?

Perschke's oversized quotidian plaything has previously appeared in hidden urban corridors across continents, from an archway attached to Barcelona's oldest edifice to the National Theater at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. The ball began as a commission for the Metro Arts in Transit initiative in St. Louis. Before long, Perschke was fielding phone calls from Spain and Sydney.

Other United States visits for his giant red ball have included Chicago's Millenium Park, an Art Deco concert hall in Portland, Ore. and Grand Rapids, Mich.'s Rosa Parks Circle.

RedBall Project involves only one discrete red ball, which is always inflated onsite. In Houston, the ball was fittingly installed Friday above the park's red swing, a product of the ideologically-aligned Red Swing Project — a multi-city endeavor begun in Austin by Houston native Andrew Danziger, in which red swings are installed in unexpected niches.

However, Houston is not listed on RedBall's website as a selected exhibiting city, and our ball looks a tad smaller — making us question if the Houston cameo is a local initiative.

So, what is the intrinsic artistic meaning of Perschke's 15-foot, 200 pound toy? Explains the artist on redballproject.com, "Through the RedBall Project I utilize my opportunity as an artist to be a catalyst for new encounters within the everyday. Through the magnetic, playful and charismatic nature of the RedBall the work is able to access the imagination embedded in all of us."

No doubt, the mystery ball at Menil Park offers visitors a variety of concepts to ponder: its malleability, negative and positive space, the ephemeral nature of public art. Visit the work in person, and what you'll find is a crowd of bewildered Houstonians sharing in boundless smiles.