Houston artist Ed Wilson is just about finished with his monumental, mired-in-controversy, $830,000 "perforated steel bird and cloud forms" sculpture at George R. Brown Convention Center – a commission awarded by the Houston Arts Alliance – which will be unveiled to the public after a November 10 dedication.
He survived a rocky start, riding a wave of euphoria from winning the commission in 2014 only to see it taken away because of infighting between HAA staffers and the alliance’s Civic Art + Design committee. It's all good, though. He reapplied early last year and, in March 2015, Wilson won the award for a second time.
There's no doubt he's been busy, but Wilson is just about on the other side of this project. The sculpture in the central atrium of our downtown convention center is ginormous, suspended from a 92-foot ceiling and coming in at approximately 65 feet in height.
So it comes as no surprise that Wilson had a few extra pieces laying around, and he created a decidedly smaller piece titled Soaring Reverie that serves as the centerpiece of his "Soaring in the Clouds" exhibit at Moody Gallery. The tiered sculpture uses the same bird and cloud shapes as the behemoth over at GRB: cut from perforated steel and polished at the edges, then molded and shaped so that sections appear more saturated when viewed through a wing or the wave of a cloud.
Soaring Reverie casts dense shadows on the floor, ceiling and walls, and then there's the "oh, wow" moment when it gets a little human-powered spin and rotates within the Moody Gallery space. It's a nice preview of what's to come over at GRB; that iteration will take advantage of both natural and LED lighting.
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The exhibit at Moody Gallery also offers a glimpse of Wilson's work process, including four paper collages of bird shapes (Bird Pattern #2, #4, #5 and #6) and six hand-tinted monotypes of his cloud shapes (Cloud Form Study #8, #10, #13, #24, #32 and #36), though these are much smaller in scale. The cloud shapes have complicated and irregular edges, which significantly increased the amount of trimming and polishing for each cloud; he did not take the easy road on this one.
Also on view are seven square or rectangular, hammered-steel, wall-mounted sculptures varying in thickness between one and a half inches and three inches. Whereas Soaring Reverie is light and airy, these pieces are heavy in appearance and vaguely reminiscent of worship totems from ancient civilizations. There's one from 2008 (Splash), but the remaining pieces were all created this year and are adorned with the delicate whorls, ripples and waves a viewer might find gazing through a telescope at the surface of a distant planet. The subtle topography of the pieces lends drama and color-changing properties, invoking Mother Nature's wind action through Wilson's command of the steel.
"Soaring in the Clouds" continues through November 19 at Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt, open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 713-526-9911, moodygallery.com. Free.