Visual Arts

David A. Brown's "Optical Chapel" -- The Last Days

Houston is losing another chapel. But this one doesn't have anything to do with the Byzantine frescoes.

This Friday, Heights artist David A. Brown will be taking down Optical Chapel, a photographic installation that represents more than 135 hours of manpower and is comprised of just under 11,000 photos.

For the past month, visitors have meditated in this blue-toned "chapel," which is found in a vacated medical office in Midtown's Mekong Plaza next to Khon's Bar. Using thousands of 4x6 photos, Brown has created a kaleidoscopic vision of downtown Houston. Abstract images of the Chevron building, Allen Center and an abandoned restaurant on the 600 block of Main Street are made into unique patterns and then layered in neat rows to the point where they're hardly recognizable. The resulting imagery resembles the highly detailed and repetitive tiles of Islamic mosques.

"The second I saw the space, I knew exactly what I wanted to do," said Brown. "I wanted to do photos as material."

Indeed, layered two to three photos deep over the walls of a former examination room, the photos have their own topography -- a texture that tells you this isn't mere wallpaper or a simple large printout. As if to remind us of the human element in layering the photos, some of the room remains untouched -- a white sink, electrical outlets and even the water-stained ceiling are left bare.

"I wanted the photos to reflect the environment they were being displayed in," said Brown.

In one way, by creating layers and patterns out of his photographs, Brown is exploring how we see things -- our brain can only process a fraction of what we actually take in, and Brown is challenging that by packing ias much information as he can into each shot and forcing the viewer to then deconstruct it all.

Oddly enough, the room isn't overwhelming, but serene and calm as the blues of the Main Street photo and the soft glow of a light box featuring photos of Highway 59 at the Beltway 8 exchange surround you. Rather than encourage the fury often associated with highway driving, the image is unexpectedly beautiful and soothing.

During its run, visitors have felt similarly at ease in this optical chapel.

"People have asked, will you do this at my house?" said Brown (who, for the record, would).

Optical Chapel is at Mekong Plaza, 2808 Milam, Suite F, through Friday. Viewing is available from 4 p.m. on. If you have any problems getting in, visit Khon's Bar next door. For more information, visit

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Meredith Deliso
Contact: Meredith Deliso