The billboard series continues Lawndale’s support of local and statewide talent while we are without gallery space, and is designed to address a public audience in an essentially car-defined city. The series is the result of an open call and review of proposals by Lawndale’s Programming Committee. Texas artists were asked to submit proposals that formally and conceptually address billboard space, defining it for themselves and using the public venue to voice concerns uncommonly represented in mass media.
June 14 – July 10
Ryan Molloy, Austin-based designer and new media artist, will be featured as our first billboard artist in the series. Molloy is interested in Houston’s inner/outer loop, urban/suburban dichotomy and its manifestation through cultural appropriation of hip-hop signifiers:
“My first impression of Houston came from the radio: The Getoboys’ dreary description of life in the Houston’s 5th Ward. My second impression of Houston was the suburbs filled with lavish golf courses and high-priced homes. My impression of the city has always existed of this dichotomy.
“The original intent of the billboard was to simply adorn them with wallpaper patterns generated from illustrations inspired by hip-hop ornamentation, to displace the icons of hip-hop culture into seemingly another dichotomy. However, to take advantage of the billboard aesthetic it was important that the work contained a slogan. Part of the tradition of hip-hop culture is the battle: competition to rhyme better than other MCs, or to be a superior DJ, to have more material possessions than any other. The slogan is a reflection of this culture, borrowing from the colloquialism “Keeping up with the Jones’.” The goal of this is to get viewers to question material possessions, to question race, to question hip-hop’s acceptance into mainstream America, and to question Houston as a place of prosperity and poverty.”
July 12 – August 7
Katrina Moorhead seeks to color match the sky using paint samples with titles, such as firmament, twilight, cloudless day, overcast dawn, and northern lights. Indirectly addressing our visual saturation with outdoor commercial imagery, Moorhead provides viewers with the opposite; an image which provides viewers with an absence of marketing, instead focusing our attention on the surrounding colors above, behind and on either side of the board:
“I have taken this opportunity to reclaim the space of the billboard from its intended didactic use and have given it back to the sky for a few weeks — a rehabilitation or reinstatement of the sky.
“I thought it appropriate to borrow back from the commercial arena and use an idealized notion of the sky by thrifting such concepts of ‘sky’ from an existing source. I have simply created a blue field comprised of commercial paint chips, restricted to those that specifically reference the sky in their romantic titling. Most often these titles address the sky as it is informed by particular weather and light conditions, and also by time of day. Essentially I am reclaiming this appropriation of nature in order to offer a new ‘sampled sky’.
“At different times over its existence, different sections of this image will alternately blend in with the background of the actual sky as it is behaving. Thus the image as a whole has a somewhat temporal quality.”
August 9 – September 4
Fannie Tapper’s, Trust depicts a moment between a child and her hedgehog, which is tender and a bit precarious, reminding viewers that rewarding experiences are wrought with risk:
“I’ve been thinking of a young girl whom I’ve been photographing for several years, whose love for animals is a true passion. For her 10th birthday, she was given her very own hedgehog to care for, spikes and all. My photograph of this child and her hedgehog is the very picture of love and trust. The sharp teeth of the hungry hedgehog are capable of piercing the hand of the child; at the same time, we see that the child’s hand, as large as the hedgehog, could easily crush the little animal. One sense the mutual danger to each player in this little drama as well as the mutual affection and trust of both the child and her animal friend.”
September 6 – October 2
In Manifest Destiny, Houston-based artist Mark Wade presents a chilling historical photograph documenting the Battle at Wounded Knee (1890) and its resulting massacre of Sioux. Wade presents a reminder of our nation’s violent relationship to Native Americans during westward expansion, while highlighting our current position towards natural resource-driven war:
“The intention of this billboard is to illustrate the government’s complete disregard for human life in the quest for natural resources, using religious doctrine to perpetrate these crimes. This photograph taken at Wounded Knee depicts a cavalry officer surveying the remains of massacred women and children.
“As school textbooks have stated for generations, indigenous peoples must stand aside or be slaughtered by the advance of the more powerful race. The wealth of natural treasures has seemingly been placed there by Providence to reward those that seek their destiny for the supposed advancement of ‘civilization’.
History repeats itself.”
C. Andrew Boyd
October 4 – October 30
Scheduled for display in September, (the launching month for high-profile, national/state political campaigns), C. Andrew Boyd’s Hero 1K pays homage to the less visible contributors to society; in this case, an anonymous man defined accidentally as a representative of many:
“The hero with a thousand faces works at the convenience store by the laundromat. He swerves to avoid driving over previously killed armadillos and possums on the road. He collects comic books. He started a group that gives sandwiches to the homeless in the park because he has had to live in his car before. He tries (futilely) not to vote for criminals. He gave you accurate directions to the movie theatre he’s never been to. He told you when you gave him too much change for his coffee. He changes his own oil. He doesn’t like the opera, but he’s glad that others do. He let you merge into the far-left lane from the parking lot. He wishes he had finished dental school. He wants all the documents pertaining to the tragedy declassified and he’s planning to speak to the press about it if this doesn’t happen.”
November 1 – November 27
Danny Yahav-Brown presents an image of a hand to a mirror, capturing a fleeting gesture and imbuing it with significance through the scale of the work and the longevity of its display. Brown’s photograph explores the nature of private versus public activity and space: a simple pose (many of us have performed in the privacy of our homes) is performed in a public restroom. It is then made static as a photographic image, and exposed further through billboard display:
“My work is about loading modest objects, intimate body gestures, and words with greater meaning than what they seem to have initially. These materials, in spite of their aspiration to be more than what they are, are no more than themselves: a prosaic fabric of our everyday life. But it is exactly where everyday meets life that I aspire to locate my work: where life in the form of human existence, supplies enough of an ironic distance to enable reflection on the mechanical, the wasted, the negligible of everyday. “In this project, I put my fingers to a mirror in a public men’s room to create a reflective, illusive heart. I might evoke a forbidden ‘quickie’, or maybe longing for a missing partner. But in any case, it’s a narcissistic illusion: a futile gesture that doubles itself in a mirror.”
Three finalists were selected by Lawndale’s Programming Committee for display, submitted to the billboard owner for review (as per our rental contract), and rejected based upon undefined criteria. Lawndale is currently researching ways to circulate/exhibit these images publicly and according to the artists’ wishes.