Rice Public Art announces four new works by women artists

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Rice Public Art announces four new works by women artists
Natasha Bowdoin, Power Flower, 2020.

HOUSTON, TX.- In support of Rice University’s commitment to expand and diversify its public art collection, four original works by leading women artists will be added to the campus collection this spring. The featured artists are Natasha Bowdoin (b. 1981, West Kennebunk, ME), Shirazeh Houshiary (b. 1955, Shiraz, Iran), Beverly Pepper (b. 1922 New York, NY, d. 2020 Todi, Italy), and Pae White (b. 1963, Pasadena, CA). Three of the works are site-specific commissions. The Beverly Pepper sculpture is an acquisition of one of the last works by the artist, who died in 2020.

Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director of the Moody Center for the Arts, said, “We are honored to add these extraordinary works to the Rice public art collection and are proud to highlight innovative women artists. We look forward to the ways these unique installations will engage students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors in the spaces where they study, learn, live, work, and spend time.”

Natasha Bowdoin’s site-specific installation will fill the central hallway of the renovated M.D. Anderson Biology Building, Shirazeh Houshiary’s glass sculpture will grace the lawn of the new Sid Richardson College, Beverly Pepper’s steel monolith will be placed adjacent to the recently completed Brockman Hall for Opera, and Pae White’s hanging sculpture will fill the rotunda of McNair Hall, home to the Jones Graduate School of Business. The four works will be installed in the first four months of the year and be on permanent view beginning May 1, 2021.

Natasha Bowdoin, Power Flower, 2020
Acrylic on cut wood panel and wall

Power Flower, a new permanent installation for Rice’s M.D. Anderson Biology Building, is a celebration of the natural world. The work, an immersive large-scale installation of brightly colored, cut and painted organic forms, calls forth an unruly garden, teeming with life. Bowdoin’s painting is abundant with dizzying patterns inspired by florals and vegetation interwoven with motifs reminiscent of turtle shells, fish scales, snake skin and moth wings.

The result generates a visually lush landscape, an environment that appears in flux as it grows along Anderson Hall. Interested in how artists and naturalists have sought to understand, identify, depict, and define the natural world over time, Bowdoin here creates a spacious ecosystem that resists easy containment and immediate identification. Power Flower is a commemoration of the natural world, both real and imagined. It embodies exuberance and intensity while conveying an ecologically-minded message, encouraging viewers to consider their own connections to the world around them.

Shirazeh Houshiary, Seif, 2020
Glass and stainless steel

Upon visiting the Rice campus in early 2020, Shirazeh Houshiary was inspired by the light of the Texas sun and how it filters through the canopy of oak trees on campus. Looking closely at the University’s buildings and the prevalence of handmade, clay bricks, she chose to create a tower constructed from colored glass bricks, handmade in Murano, Italy. Twisting in a helix-like form to a height of more than ten feet, the resulting sculpture is both an homage to the light and ever-changing colors of the Texas sky and an acknowledgement of the man-made world that surrounds us.

The title Seif refers to the long, narrow sinuous ridge of sand at the crest of a dune formed by the shifting dynamics of wind. These same directional forces are embodied within the sculpture, where centripetal and centrifugal movements rise and fall.

According to the artist, “the opaqueness of the work fosters separation and shadow, while its transparency offers connectedness through visibility and light. The desire for simultaneous visibility and invisibility, materiality and immateriality, presence and absence are characteristics of the human psyche and can nurture dream-like images, like those that dwell in glass.”

Located in the lawn adjacent to the newly completed Sid Richardson College on the east side of campus, the work will both filter the sunlight as it crosses the sky and be lit from below at night, creating a softly glowing beacon for students and visitors to the area. Sited according to the artist’s wishes, Seif will be installed in a harmonious dialogue with the surrounding trees.

Beverly Pepper, Occam’s Wedge, 2020
Cor-Ten steel

Occam’s Wedge is titled after William of Occam (c. 1287–1347), an English Franciscan friar, philosopher and theologian best-known for the problem-solving principle Occam’s razor. Also known as the law of parsimony, Occam’s razor states that when presented with two competing hypotheses about the same prediction, one should select the theory that makes the fewest assumptions. This approach appealed to Beverly Pepper who created minimalist forms on a monumental scale to explore the intricacies of human feeling.

Sited in the lawn adjacent to the newly completed Brockman Hall for Opera, Occam’s Wedge is one of several works that engage the form of the vertical wedge. As she did with the circle and the triangle, Pepper experimented repeatedly with the wedge form at varying scales throughout her lifetime. These iterations on the same theme echo musical variations in which the fundamental idea is repeated in altered forms throughout a composition.

Pae White, Triple Virgo, 2021
Ink on polished and electroplated stainless steel elements, cable

Pae White has created a site-specific installation for the rotunda of McNair Hall, home of the Jones Graduate School of Business. Responding to the existing architecture, ambient light, and the relationship between the elements and the viewer, colorful disks suspended from the ceiling form a dynamic, ever-changing sphere. Echoing the international background and global outlook of the students, faculty, and staff of Rice University’s Jones School of Business, the suspended sculpture invokes the broader world, ideas of the future, and the scale of thought that can inspire positive change.

According to the artist, “My hope is that the artwork will reference a globe in flux, a globe where nothing is solidified or congealed – a colorful, shifting sphere of excitement, intrigue and agility. Surprise blushes of color and unexpected pattern groupings that change depending upon one’s viewing position reference a world of rewarding mysteries and surprises; a world worth exploring.”

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