Client: Public Art of the University of Houston System
Location: Houston, TX, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $200,000
Funding, resources and site
Maria Gaztambide, Director
Public Art of the University of Houston System
Joe Meppelink & Marcel Merwin
“Mobius Houston” is a new public artwork by the New York-based Uruguayan artist Marta Chilindrón (b. 1951). Commissioned by Public Art of the University of Houston System (Public Art UHS) for its new Temporary Public Art Program, it introduced significant advances in materials and production. “Mobius Houston” was installed in October 2019 at Wilhelmina’s Grove, a park-like setting that anchors the University of Houston’s Arts District. Made form Acrylic and painted steel, the sculpture stands 11 x 21 feet and takes the form of a folded Mobius strip made from 9 oversized trapezoids in 3 colors (fuchsia, yellow and blue) that fold on themselves to create secondary and even tertiary colors. It may be one of the largest acrylic sculptures ever made.
Building on the South American tradition of geometric abstraction and Concrete art, “Mobius Houston” reflects Marta Chilindrón’s life-long concern with ideas on the infinite, perception, movement, and transformation but at a grand, experimental scale (at nearly four times the size of her previous work). While the latter hinge on viewer participation to recast them into a variety of different forms, inherent to “Mobius Houston” is our own movement through and around the work. The result is a work that immerses us and its surroundings in
The main goal was to launch our Temporary Public Art Program (TPAP) at an existing park-like location with an artwork that encapsulated the hallmarks of the new program: to challenge artists in expanding their creative range while pushing public art into new territories through technical and design innovation. Another important goal was to identify this location as the home for our new temporary program as well as a gateway to Public Art UHS's extensive permanent collection at the University of Houston.
Public Art UHS commissioned artist Marta Chilindrón. We worked with her two galleries, Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino Gallery in Houston and Cecilia de Torres, Ltd. in New York. MetaLab, an architecture and design form in Houston, served as a key partner in realizing this large scale version of the artist's much smaller re-configurable Mobius sculptures. MetaLab worked closely with the artist on all technical aspects of the sculpture from sourcing materials, overall design, and engineering. A number of Houston-based businesses provided support and complemented the core team: Regal Plastics sourced the specially cast Acrylic and cut and bonded it, Star Precision fabricated all the steel elements, Sutton painted the steel, Artillery Construction did the foundation, and rootlab installed the sculpture.
When we were all in the planning process for this project, the focus was mainly on color, form and on creating a stable large sculpture. However, one of the wonderful surprises was how once installed the artwork functions as a pavilion like structure that invites the audience inside instinctively. People enjoy the exterior as much as the interior. The Acrylic is very reflective and casts colored over the viewers and color shadows on the ground that move with the sun like a giant stained glass window. "Mobius Houston" remains incredibly popular and students, staff and the community gravitate to it on a daily basis. The sculpture remains on view through summer 2020.