Visual Arts

H-E-B Has Become the Newest Art Gallery in H-Town

"Blue by You" by Ansen Seale is a permanent installation at the new multi-story H-E-B Bellaire Market at 5106 Bissonnet. As shoppers pass by on the upstairs level, walk down the stairs or go up the escalator, their movement causes the colors to change.
"Blue by You" by Ansen Seale is a permanent installation at the new multi-story H-E-B Bellaire Market at 5106 Bissonnet. As shoppers pass by on the upstairs level, walk down the stairs or go up the escalator, their movement causes the colors to change. Photo courtesy of Weingarten Art Group
It's easy to get buried under the life-changing news that H-E-B has just announced beer and wine delivery in under an hour, making deciding to wear pajamas all day long a possibility.

But more than a few did pick up on the fact that the Texas-based grocer has also entered the public art arena, installing an interactive light sculpture along the escalator at its new H-E-B Bellaire Market. There was a bit of whining that the artist selected, Ansen Seale, is based out of San Antonio instead of Houston. Yet others wanted to know whether the artist was asked to donate the work in exchange for publicity while organizer Weingarten Art Group earned a hefty commission.

As to the first point, it helps to step back and look at the project on a macro level. H-E-B has more than 400 stores in Texas and Mexico and we wouldn't expect them to only consider artists in Hutto, Buda or Cuero if building a multi-level store in one of those cities.

"When we went to H-E-B, at their request, we presented a lot of artists — Houston and regional," says Lea Weingarten, principal of the Weingarten Art Group. "Each store is different. We really work to customize their stores for each neighborhood. Montrose looks different from Buffalo Speedway which looks different from Bellaire."

H-E-B is known to have worked with Selser Schaefer Architects and Lake|Flato Architects to design architecture that matches the personality of the surrounding neighborhoods.

"That’s part of their eagerness to make sure the neighborhood is unique to them. Also each store has kind of a different sensibiility and sort of feeling to it," says Weingarten. "For this store the best fit was the San Antonio artist." It does make for a nice tie-in as the H-E-B headquarters is based out of San Antonio.

Already plans are in the works to install art in the new multi-story stores at 23rd and North Shepherd in January 2019, at Washington and Waugh in mid-summer 2019 and in Meyerland in September 2019.

"The next store and probably the third store will have Houston artists," says Weingarten.

In regards to the public griping about money, rest assured that these are commissions and that the artists are being compensated for these site-specific installations. As to the engagement of art consultants to assist with the selection and curating, H-E-B seems to have made an excellent choice with Weingarten Art Group — the same team that arranges for those amazing installations at Discovery Green each winter, including Bruce Munro's "Field of Light," Christopher Schardt's "Firmament" and "Enchanted Promenade" by the collective TILT.

So the next artists selected are still to be announced, but we do know that the art for the Heights store will be "quirky." So here are our predictions for outstanding Houston-based artists whom we'd like to see at our local H-E-B. (The late Dan Flavin is out, as these must be custom, site-specific works.)

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Installation view of Ed Wilson's "Soaring in the Clouds" exhibit held at Moody Gallery in 2016. It's a "mini me" of his monumental "perforated steel bird and cloud forms" sculpture at George R. Brown Convention Center
Photo courtesy of the artist and Moody Gallery, Houston, Texas
Prediction No.1: Our vote is for something from Ed Wilson for the Washington and Waugh store which will have soaring ceilings and an enormous window that faces Waugh.

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Spectrum: Yellow in B-flat glass mosaic by Libbie Masterson, from the "Spectrum" exhibit shown at Catherine Couturier Gallery in 2016.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Catherine Couturier Gallery
Prediction No. 2: You can't go wrong with something from Libbie Masterson. Her seven-panel glass mosaic, Ethereal Sky, at William P. Hobby Airport is the perfect respite for harried travelers and more recently she's been experimenting with sound.

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(L) Opal-skinned light sculpture by James Ciosek from 2017's "Moth To The Flame" exhibit and (R) Opalescent Order #7 (detail) by James Ciosek from 2016's "Opalescent Order," both exhibited at Zoya Tommy Gallery.
(L) Photo courtesy of James Ciosek and Zoya Tommy Gallery and (R) Photo by James Ciosek
Prediction No. 3: Houston artist James Ciosek has an interesting relationship with his neighbors. They don’t call the cops when he shoots off fireworks in his yard, and he promises to use only the pyrotechnics “you can get away with in Houston.” It’s part of the process for making his light sculptures, creating a speckled, veined and bubbled “opal skin,” reminiscent of burnt film strips or celluloid, in about 15 different colors.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez's "‘Double Physichromie" appears to change shape and color as viewers change their perspective. This summer it is being moved to its new home within the University of Houston campus.
Photo courtesy of Public Art of the University of Houston System
Prediction No. 4: Not from Houston, but Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has certainly left his mark on H-Town with installations at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the University of Houston and, for just a little bit longer, at The Cistern.

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Adela Andea is known for creating uniquely illuminated and kinetic sculptures. This LED and plastic piece, A57, can be viewed at Anya Tish Gallery through August 3 as part of its group show, "In Control."
Photo courtesy of the artist and Anya Tish Gallery
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Chromatic Fields by Adela Andea just wrapped up at Avenida de las Americas.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Anya Tish Gallery
Prediction No. 5: If this were a betting game, our money would be on Adela Andea. What this woman can do with sliced pool noodles, wire mesh, flex neon and LED is beyond us. Her massive installation just wrapped up at Avenida de las Americas. Measuring 145 feet by 19 feet, Chromatic Fields lit up the night in celebration of National Pride Month and we couldn't be prouder. Check out some of her other work at the group show, "In Control," that remains up through August 3 at Anya Tish Gallery, 4411 Montrose.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney