Saturday, July 17, 2010

Earth Art at the Apartment Complex

Robert Boyd

We think of Earth Art as being located in remote locations in places like Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico. But Michael Heizer has specialized in bringing earthworks into the city. You can see one in the north lawn of the Menil, for example, or most spectacularly in the engineering quad at Rice University--45 degrees, 90 degrees, 180 degrees (1984). You'd be forgiven if you wondered if Michael Heizer had been hired to decorate the Sun Blossom at Woodlake apartments on South Gessner Dr.

I've driven by this conglomeration of granite semi-cubes many times and wondered about it. The look like enormous slightly dissolved sugar-cubes, poured randomly from the sky. The occupy a space where one might normally expect to see a fountain or other landscaping. After years of being curious, I finally decided to ask.

So I stopped by SunBlossom at Woodlake and spoke to a woman working there. She told me that the property was owned by a Taiwanese woman, Leeshan Birney and her husband James. James apparently was the one who came up with the novel landscaping idea seven years ago. Prior to that, that space in front of the apartments had been occupied by a fountain.

When I was a kid growing up in West Houston, I was fascinated by rocks because there are no rocks here. They seemed unbelievably exotic! I loved seeing the rocks in the Natural History Museum, but just as much, I liked seeing the rip rap and shot rock used at construction sites and the granite seawall at Galveston. (Needless to say, as an undergrad at Rice in 1984, I was delighted when 45 degrees, 90 degrees, 180 degrees was installed on campus.) This pile of granite draws my attention in the same way as shot rock did when I was a kid.

And it definitely sets the SunBlossom at Woodlake apartments apart from the cookie-cutter crowd of apartments nearby. So Leeshan and James Birney, I declare that your granite cubes is one of the best examples of corporate plop in Houston. It looks great, it's fascinating, and it calls attention to the apartments in a good way.

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