July 21st, 2010
Houston Street Art: A Photo Essay
It’s hard to know exactly what you’re looking for. Guaranteed, you’re missing a lot along the way as you search for whatever it happens to be. I can personally attest to this because until Sunday I hadn’t really opened my eyes on my A-to-B journeys. An entire culture of Houston art was ignored because it wasn’t in a press release from a gallery in my email. After a video went viral last week showing a graffiti marriage proposal it was obvious that I was going to have to start paying attention.
Last week we all saw the above commissioned work of Houston street artist, Ack! (filmed by PR!MO). It set the internet aflame. I saw it on a few national blogs documenting oddities and such, but I had no idea that it was here in town. Imagine my surprise when I saw it show up on the Houston Press and 29-95 and the Houstonist. I missed my scoop. But it did lead me on a hunt trying to find the location. Things I knew from looking around, it’s in Midtown and orange brick building… Those aren’t great clues.
Armed with two extra pairs of eyes – scouts willing to accompany me on a hot Sunday afternoon – we started our journey on Studemont where we knew a piece of work by artist 2:12 had made a home. Across from Christine Tremoulet’s photography studio, the patient woman in “Anywhere but here” is still waiting on her train out of town and amazingly her luggage hasn’t been taken yet.
We took Studemont down to West Gray to get on our mission. As we’re set to take a left on West Gray we see this sea turtle on the electric box for the traffic signal. “I’ve seen a couple of these around town,” the backseat scout says (indeed we had passed one without even spotting it on the corner of Studemont and 6th). “I really hope the name of the turtle is ‘Coolidge’ and the artist does more stencils of animals and gives each a different name.”
With our Droid and iPhones being unforgiving, we can find little more information than we had originally on the graffiti proposal, so we’re left to driving around craning our necks at awkward angles trying to see around the corners of buildings as we drive through Midtown. We end up coming across the above mural by Daniel Anguilu (aka Weah) on the way.
Then we found it. XL Parts on Crawford. Don’t ask me how we came across it. Sheer luck is the only way to describe it. What we found was nothing short of the perfect spot for our adventure. One building with four walls rife with sprayed paint of indecipherable writing. It was a giant, shining beacon for street art hunters. (Artist above, is Mez One)
In fact, there is enough work on the exterior of the XL parts store that it could warrant it’s own photo essay.
News (up above) was by far the hardest artist to track down. This being my first foray into Houston street art research, I had no clue where to start looking to find out what I was looking at. Beyond that, with an alias like “News” you’re impossible to google. Somebody wasn’t thinking about SEO strategy when they came up with their tagging name.
Weah has several pieces on the store. Apparently, he doesn’t consider himself a graffiti artist anymore; he’s a painter. If that’s the case, he’s the best represented outdoor mural painter in Midtown based off the above work and that of three photos ago. Also, he’s the artist in the photo from The Week That Was 7.18.10.
Considering all the different styles represented at this location, the above by URA is the only one that doesn’t really fit in. I wonder if it was even sanctioned at all. Once again, it’s impossible to find anything about URA and graffiti online.
Right underneath URA’s work is this little bugger in the doorway. I’m not sure what about him I like, but he’s got to be my favorite of our trip. If I were a street artist, I would have to adopt this guy as my mascot. An arm full of spray cans and a fist raised in honor of the revolution. (Not sure who the artist here is.)
The world could use a little more Chester, in my opinion. Apparently, I share that sentiment with Vizie, whose name immediately makes me feel like a poser. The detail on the leopard print is nothing short of fantastic on this.
We finally come across the impetus for our street art adventure behind a locked gate, lined with barbed wire. It doesn’t seem right to have the famous graffiti proposal be so unapproachable. Fences were made to be scaled, so I go up for a closer, clearer look at it.
Yep, that most definitely is the one. With a tuxedo straight from dumb and dumber and a diamond that would make the Queen of England blush, Ack!’s man asks the question for Shannon of Reiswig Photography to his now fiance. The box is checked yes, after all.
The next question is where we go from here. This can’t be the climax of the trip. We knew that this was here (even though we didn’t know where “here” was at the time). We knew about 2:12’s “Anywhere but here,” but could we find something without being told that it existed?
The answer is “not really.” We found out that Coolidge had another piece near Westheimer and Dunlavy. I needed to buy a piece of furniture at a store just off that corner as well. After making our way down to Montrose and forking over much-too-much for a file-cabinet-turned-locker, we walked down to Leopard Lounge (or whatever it might be called now) for a glimpse at the Boston Terrier looking like it’s ready to pounce on an unsuspecting pedestrian.
It turns out that Coolidge was all the inspiration that we needed. A photo of this stencil on Mint boutique while walking back to the car. On the drive back out of Montrose we keep snapping our heads around looking for just a couple more photo worthy graffiti tags, which the now abandoned bar Mary’s provided.
I don’t know if you remember the original mural on the wall, but it has all been covered over. Only this cat remains, which strikes me as deliciously odd. The original painting was full of hairy chested, leather laden men-folk carousing and caressing, which I guess was deliciously odd in its own way.
Here’s our first overtly political piece of work by an unknown artist stenciled on the opposite side of the abandoned bar. Let’s wait on throwing BP into the waste basket until after they clean up the Gulf though. Is that ok with you?
Right next to BP getting trashed is a wheat paste from Eyesore. Along with Dual and Give Up, Eyesore is one of the more famous wheat pasters (has that term been coined?) in Houston. Unfortunately we didn’t come across anything by the other two on our hunt on Sunday.
Down and to the left of the two previous photos, the above was the most surprising of our afternoon outing. In fact, I don’t even really have words for it at all. It speaks for itself. If anyone knows the artist, please clue me in. I’ll definitely be hunting down more of their work in the future.
And so marks our final spot of the three hour tour of Houston street art. At the corner of Montrose and Drew (I think…) is this collaboration between Ack! and Weah.
Looks like he’s doing a little bit of bird watching.
Weah’s work is so interesting just because of the complexity of it. By forming his animals out of so many polygons it feels like there is something hiding within the art that you’re missing every time.
Feeling accomplished we take in the last work on the adjacent wall of this building. Weah’s dragon fighting Ack!’s men for street art dominance. The air conditioning was welcome after battling with the 2PM-5PM heat, but we all felt a little bit more fulfilled and a little less ignorant about the Houston graffiti scene. The trick is going to be training ourselves (or at least myself) to keep my eyes open and not just take it for granted anymore.
With a documentary upcoming by filmmaker PR!MO about the Houston street art scene, there’s a lot to look forward to. Stick ‘Em Up is a collaboration between Shoot. Edit. Sleep., Stone Kanyon Productions and Aerosol Warfare. Check out the teaser, then wait patiently for the release. Fans also have the Graffiti Gala to look forward to on October 2nd.