Patrick Renner's "Funnel Tunnel" Installation Celebrates Montrose

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If art was human, Patrick Renner's installations would personify the skeletal system. Many of his installations begin as hollow structures, which he either fills up or attaches something to. That "something" is usually wood, and when working solely with wood, Renner creates thick, surly, unbreakable pieces streaked with rainbow colors.

Last year's "Bounded Operator (2012)," put on view at El Rincon Social, solidified Renner's colored wood niche twofold: First, El Rincon Social is a haunted house in and of itself, located on the dark end of a street on Houston's East side. Because the building has no heating or air conditioning, El Rincon Social is privy to whatever temperature weather conditions dictate. Renner's installation made use of this extreme environment, depositing an archaeological installation within. "Bounded Operator" was a wall of windows glued together and filled with sand, rock and gravel, mingled with pieces of wood splashed in tie-dye. These variegated colors beckon from the thin strips of wood and curved metal that make up "Funnel Tunnel," Art League Houston's new celebratory installation that sits on the median opposite the gallery.

Wiry metal and clunky, streaked wood are the last things one would consider using to celebrate Art League Houston and its surrounding neighborhood, Montrose, a colorful, cultural area. Then again, talent is as talent does, and bare bones as they may be, Renner's pieces are feats of size and color.

"Funnel Tunnel" takes the hulking size of "Bounded Operator," exchanging its windowpane aesthetic for a swirling metal one, and the rainbow brightness of "Wooddauber" (2012), one of many rainbow-colored chunks of wood from Renner's "Vestigial Structures" show, exhibited last year at Avis Frank Gallery, to create a metal-on-wood masterpiece so big, Art League publicly called on volunteers to help paint the wooden strips in the weeks before its opening. Before then, Renner could be seen blowtorching metal pieces together to create a wiry foundation for the wooden strips to attach to; once again, the skeleton theme appears.

On second thought, it may be premature to describe "Funnel Tunnel" as skeletal. While other Renner pieces may come off as hollow, these materials work together to create an artwork representative of the inclusive nature of the area around it.Those wooden strips? Painted in the hues of the rainbow, they very accurately represent the diverse people, businesses and culture of Montrose. The metal? Permanently melded together to hold the rainbow strips of wood, it represents the collectivity of this community.

Art in and of itself, these three materials create a 180-foot "civic art sculpture seen whirling down the center of Montrose Blvd.

"It was Art League Houston's idea to start bringing art onto the Montrose medians," Jennie Ash wrote to us in an e-mail. "With Houston being such a car dependent city and Montrose being one of the busiest roads in town (39,000 cars go up and down it every day!), it's easy to become complacent about, and disconnected with, the public spaces around us. Bringing art onto the Montrose Blvd. medians is a way of creatively re-claiming these lost spaces so that they may positively reflect and bring together the creative people and businesses in the area."

On Saturday, August 19, Art League Houston held a dedication ceremony in its parking lot. For the next nine months, Funnel Tunnel will coil down Montrose Blvd. Visit artleaguehouston.org for more information.

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