Airport Art Takes Off in Houston — 1940 Terminal at Hobby Makes For a Grand Stage: How Two Curators are Seizing the Controls

BY // 10.21.18

Two curators — one an artist whose day job is overseeing all the public art at the Houston Airport System, the other a gallerist who makes his living as an anesthesiologist — Tommy Gregory and Dr. Volker Eisele, have given the Texas art world fall’s most dramatic art experiences.

The timing is perfectly pitched too, in the heart of Houston’s big art fall, after the Texas Contemporary, and the reopening of The Menil Collection, and weeks before the eagerly watched unveiling of the Menil Drawing Institute.

Silos, a Terminal, and a Tower

For those enamored of industrial relics, we have the art installations for you: Prepare for close encounters with decommissioned rice silos transformed via sculptural interventions.

The result is often better than a Whitney Biennial — and feels right for these uncertain times.
There are other venues, too, which nod to the romance of air travel — a Miesian control tower by Pulitzer-winning architect I.M. Pei at Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston and this writer’s favorite discovery, an Art Moderne gem of an airport terminal, adjoining Hobby Airport, that dates from the days where extinct carriers Eastern and the storied Braniff made air travel glamourous and important.

Both decommissioned tower and terminal are outfitted to reveal new definitions of public sculpture.

Along with the silos, all three are part of the programming of Sculpture Month Houston, now in its third iteration, one which has matured in quality and curation to get it pitch perfect this fall.

With international artists participating for the first time (including Jessica Stockholder at The Silos at Sawyer Yards and Mexico City-based Thomas Glassford, thanks to the generosity of his Houston dealer, Latin American powerhouse Sicardi Gallery) at The 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby Airport, there’s never been a better time for an immersion into contemporary sculpture.

Artist Christy Karll makes a time travel call from the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. Tapped by curator Tommy Gregory, Karll is among eight artists exhibiting in “Wild blue yonder,” at the museum during Sculpture Month Houston.

Twenty Texas talents also impress in exhibitions organized and curated by SMH, augmented by shows presented by 40 other entities, including galleries, nonprofits, museums and City Hall. Most exhibitions run through December 1.

Gregory tells PaperCity, he hopes the exhibitions  — which for the first time received a grant from Houston Arts Alliance, paid through umbrella nonprofit Fresh Arts — will foster “a community effect.” Artists are being paid stipends at the Silos and IAH, thanks to the HAA grant, with additional funding sought via Indiegogo to secure stipends for exhibiting talents at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum (to contribute to the entire citywide project titled “Peak Shift,” click here.)

Gregory and Eisele, along with Antarctica Black of Rudolph Blume Fine Art / ArtScan Gallery are tirelessly working on Sculpture Month Houston as volunteers. Gregory and Eisele curate, while Black serves as the administrator and point person for this ambitious citywide art endeavor — one which has the real potential to become a draw for cultural visitors to pilgrimage to Houston.

Eisele provided funds from his own pocket to pay for out-of-state shipping costs in the case of the Stockholder.

Gregory, along with volunteer and fellow artist Trey Duvall perilously climbed a ladder 86 feet high to install the Stockholder that forms the gateway piece at the entrance to the Silo’s SITE Gallery.

Taking Off

Calendar this date for the second of the exhibit’s openings, free, with the public invited. (Donations also welcome.)

“Jo Ann Fleischhauer: Trapping time,” at The Tower at IAH (enter through the parking garage at Terminal A), this Thursday, November 1, 7 to 9 pm.

Find complete details on Sculpture Month Houston here.

Scroll through our slide show to see some of our picks from the “Peak Shift” exhibition at SITE Gallery, at The Silos at Sawyer Yards, and a preview of the installation at 1940 Air Terminal Museum.

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