North America's tallest statue for Houston?Sorry for the late post - Blogger has been down for maintenance much of last night and this morning.
Real interesting profile of a Houston sculptor from the front page of the Wall Street Journal last week (since it's a subscription site, I'll post the whole thing below). He wants to build a 280-foot cowboy statue, which I think would be great for Houston if somebody's willing to step up to the plate on funding. Funny this should come up one month after we discussed an icon for Houston on this blog.
One question for my readers, based on this quote:
Near his studio in a warehouse on the edge of downtown Houston, he has bought several vacant lots bordering freeways, perfect for his very public style of art... A third set of presidents line the parking lot outside Mr. Adickes's Houston studio, waiting for a home.Does anybody know exactly where this is? I'd like to drive by sometime and take a look.
UPDATE: Directions in the comments, and you can actually see the prez heads in the parking lot in the Google satellite map here (make sure to zoom in all the way). How cool is that?
Concrete Cowboy: Sculptor of Tall Art Sets Sights Higher
HOUSTON -- Texas sculptor David Adickes looms large in the art world -- and for no small reason. His gigantic concrete statues of historical figures have become tourist attractions from South Dakota to Virginia to his home state of Texas.
But as he celebrates his 79th birthday this week, Mr. Adickes is feeling mortal. "I don't have that many productive years left," he says matter-of-factly. So he is in a rush to round out his colossal legacy.
Near his studio in a warehouse on the edge of downtown Houston, he has bought several vacant lots bordering freeways, perfect for his very public style of art.
On one lot, he's erecting 36-foot-tall statues of the Beatles. On another, he plans huge busts of four Texas and national historic figures, which he'll call "Mount Rush Hour."
"You'll be able to see it coming and going for miles," he says with unabashed delight.
Sculptor David Adickes with a miniature version of his planned cowboy statue.
But Mr. Adickes dreams of a far more ambitious project: a lanky, 280-foot-tall cowboy that he says would be the tallest statue in North America. That's nearly twice as tall as the 151-foot Statue of Liberty. Mr. Adickes envisions his cowboy standing beside one of the state's busiest freeways right in the heart of Texas.
"That will be the last one," he says.
A man of small stature himself -- he is 5-foot-7 -- he has a pragmatic outlook on his work. It's not that bigger is better, he explains. Bigger is just more visible. "I'm into overkill," he says.
In recent months, Mr. Adickes has been erecting a 60-foot-tall statue of Texas founding father Stephen F. Austin in Brazoria County, south of here. As Mr. Adickes intended, the huge white statue rising next to the freeway, which was commissioned by local history buffs, has people gaping. Leslie Kennington, a local dog trainer, said she was stunned at the sight of it when she first drove by. A friend in the car with her remarked: "Wow. There's a big man standing in the middle of a field. That's the strangest thing I've ever seen."
Famed Houston heart surgeon Denton Cooley, who is the subject of one of Mr. Adickes's more life-size (8-foot) statues in Houston's Texas Medical Center, sees genius in Mr. Adickes's enormous scale. "Some of the great wonders of the world are big things like that," he notes.
Mr. Adickes was actually a relatively late convert to gigantism. He had spent most of his life wandering the world, teaching, painting and doing smaller bronze sculptures. Then, in 1982, he was commissioned to design a sculpture for downtown Houston's performing arts center. His "Virtuoso," a cubist-style 36-foot-tall rendering of a cellist, quickly became a downtown landmark.
After the cellist, which the public liked more than the critics did, he produced a few more giant sculptures in a more abstract style, including an old-fashioned telephone with Alexander Graham Bell's face on the dial, a 6-foot half-peeled banana, and a 26-foot cornet for a jazz stage at the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans.
Then, in 1991, he offered to build a giant statue of Texas's first president, Sam Houston, in Huntsville, Texas, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mr. Houston's birth. It took Mr. Adickes 30 months to construct the statue in 10-foot sections in a friend's oil-field equipment warehouse. Private donations covered some of the cost. He made the statue's skin with an inch-thick layer of concrete reinforced by wire mesh and fiberglass wrapped around a steel-frame skeleton. A huge crane then lowered the sections into place on top of thick steel beams sunk into a 10-foot-deep concrete base.
David Adickes with his giant presidential statues.
Mr. Adickes, who has degrees in mathematics and physics, says he engineers his own statues with a simple rule of thumb: When in doubt, make it stout.
Other artists dream big. The 67-foot-tall Sam Houston statue held the title to tallest statue in Texas until 1997, when the Dallas city zoo inched ahead with a giant giraffe built by St. Louis sculptor Robert Cassilly, who is known for his giant-sized statues of animals. A private group of investors has been chiseling away for decades to create the Crazy Horse sculpture in the side of a mountain in South Dakota. It will be 563 feet tall if it is ever finished. And other projects are being planned around the world to outstrip a 330-foot-tall Buddha built in the 1990s outside Tokyo.
But with Sam Houston, Mr. Adickes was just getting warmed up. Inspired by a later visit to Mount Rushmore, Mr. Adickes decided to build his own ground-level tribute featuring busts, 18 to 20 feet tall, of all 42 presidents. The presidents were settled into a park setting in South Dakota, 40 miles from Mount Rushmore, and duplicates were erected in a park near Williamsburg, Va. A third set of presidents line the parking lot outside Mr. Adickes's Houston studio, waiting for a home.
Mr. Adickes's statues don't bring him much approval in the world of serious art. The sculptor's skillful, Titan-sized likenesses of historical figures may have a big "gee-whiz" factor, but they're of "minimal aesthetic interest," says University of Kansas professor of art history David Cateforis. He likens Mr. Adickes's statues to such artifacts of roadside Americana as the 80-foot-high Uniroyal tire outside Detroit.
Now Mr. Adickes is absorbed with creating statues for his own pleasure, "or insanity, or whatever," he adds. In his studio last weekend, a crew of assistants maneuvered a forklift to hoist the huge steel frame of a guitar onto the concrete legs of George Harrison. Sparks flew as the bulky object was welded into place, while Mr. Adickes directed the work with painstaking care. But he confesses he's growing tired of creating art with forklifts and concrete mixers. "Not exactly the artist's dream," he says.
He's painting again, but he is still determined to finish up his giant statue series, with the cowboy as the culmination of his work. He plans to base the statue on a 2-foot-tall bronze figure he sculpted years ago, which remains one of his favorites. Hat in hand, with leather chaps rippling off his long legs, the cowboy will be scaled up to the size of a 23-story building.
Mr. Adickes says he paid for some of his past projects himself, thanks to lucrative real-estate and stock investments he has made over the years. But he says the giant cowboy will be too much for him to handle alone. He'll need someone to donate the site, and sponsors to help finance the construction. But he believes he'll be able to find the necessary backing, perhaps from Western clothing makers, who could use the image in their advertising.
Mr. Adickes wants to make sure he leaves behind a substantial body of work. "These will be my legacy," he says of his gargantuan statues. "And they will be very hard to move."