Sean Shim-Boyle's 'Salt House' Will Take Your Breath Away

When artists take over the seven row houses from 2505-2521 Holman Street in the Third Ward, there is usually the desire to be busy. Sculpture hangs from the ceiling, drawings are done right on the white paint, or each wall is painted a different color entirely.

So what's so remarkable about Sean Shim-Boyle's art project currently in one of Project Row Houses' historic shotgun houses is its simplicity. The walls are painted white, the floor a light gray. Nothing hangs from the vaulted ceiling, which is accented by dark crossbeams thanks to the natural architecture of the house. An off-center, red-brick chimney also original to the home remains untouched except for a couple lines of white paint, possibly markings left behind by a previous artist.

The most significant change Shim-Boyle makes is adding a second red-brick chimney of sorts to the single-room house, extending from one corner across the space to the opposite wall by the door. Because it matches the original chimney as much as the artist can muster and is as solid as can be, it seems like a natural addition -- except of course for the awkward angle that'll force most visitors to limbo under it. With the beams across the ceiling and the vertical chimney cutting through it, it is a striking visual. Shim-Boyle has quite the eye.

The artist isn't quite done, though. He's made a second, more minor alteration to the house, adding a thin line of florescent lights on the floor beneath his slanted chimney. In a room that's already brilliantly well-lit, with sun shining in through the bare windows, it seems like an unnecessary touch. But parallel to the brick addition, it helps to further emphasize this breathtaking presence in the house.

"Salt House" at Project Row Houses, 2513 Holman Street, runs now through June 23. For more information, call 713-526-7662 or visit www.projectrowhouses.org.

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