Strikingly different

Yoga in an art gallery catches on at Rice: New environment changes the exercise game

Yoga in an art gallery catches on at Rice: New environment changes the exercise game

yoga_Rice Gallery_Gunilla Klingberg_Wheel of Everyday Life
Settling in to savasana, the outline of the Shell Oil symbol imprinted in negative behind my eyelids, I considered practicing lunch break yoga more often. Photo by Whitney Radley
yoga_Rice Gallery_Gunilla Klingberg_Wheel of Everyday Life
Midway through a sun salutation, I noticed the way the "r" and the "i" touch, just slightly, on the Imperial Sugar logo. Photo by Whitney Radley
yoga_Rice Gallery_Gunilla Klingberg_Wheel of Everyday Life
yoga_Rice Gallery_Gunilla Klingberg_Wheel of Everyday Life

"There's something interesting about viewing art at half-attention, in a different frame of mind," says Josh Fischer, assistant curator at the Rice University Art Gallery.

We had both just finished a lunch hour yoga session in the site-specific space, which has most recently been transformed into Wheel of Everyday Life by Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg

Drawing inspiration from Buddhist and Hindu religious symbols, Klingberg composed a mandala of repeated brand logos in black vinyl that stretches across the gallery's floor, into the atrium and onto the front windows. It's her largest pattern yet, and a piece that was two years in the making.

 Drawing inspiration from Buddhist and Hindu religious symbols, Klingberg composed a mandala of repeated brand logos. 

Considering the mandala's significance as a tool for meditation, Rice Gallery proposed conducting yoga and meditation classes in the space. Klingberg's permission was readily granted. 

Yoga instructor and Rice fellow Aynne Kokas led the class on Wednesday at noon, her resonating voice lending an unexpectedly holy air to the space. Colorful yoga mats interrupted the bold black patterns, which at first appeared abstract. Upon closer inspection, details began to emerge. 

In addition to all-pervasive mega brands like Target, Wal-Mart, Charmin and 7-Eleven, Klingberg incorporated a number of locally-relevant insignias — Texaco, Dairy Queen and Fiesta among them.

As I stiffened into Locust Pose, the Star Pizza sign caught my eye. Midway through a sun salutation, I noticed the way the "r" and the "i" touch, just slightly, on the Imperial Sugar logo. Settling in to savasana, the outline of the Shell Oil symbol imprinted in negative behind my eyelids, I considered practicing lunch break yoga more often. 

Stop by on Saturday at 10 a.m. for a Tibetan Yoga session taught by Alejandro Chaoul, an assistant professor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who conducts researching using mind-body techniques with cancer patients. Kokas will lead another lunchtime yoga class at 12 p.m. on Feb. 27.