Thursday, January 26, 2006

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

Texan David Adickes Renders Presidents, the Beatles; Now Aiming for 280 Feet

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.

[cowboy]
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.

[statues]
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."

13 Comments:

At 3:26 PM, January 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post has directions: http://www.offthekuff.com/mt/archives/003084.html

 
At 9:40 PM, January 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did this guy once sculpt Stalin heads back in commie days? He coulda made a killing behind the iron curtain. :-)

 
At 10:28 PM, January 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To expand slightly on those directions, go one block past the light at Crockett, and turn right. You'll drive right to the entrance. I think the street name is Sumner, but don't quote me on that. Definitely worth checking out, and be sure to bring a camera.

-- Charles Kuffner

 
At 10:39 PM, January 26, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

You can actually see the prez heads in the parking lot in the Google satellite map - I put the link in an update in the main post. How cool is that?

http://maps.google.com/?t=h&ll=
29.772768,-95.385017&spn=
0.001532,0.002484&t=h

Thanks for the detailed directions!

 
At 8:11 AM, January 27, 2006, Anonymous RedScare said...

The address is actually Summer Street.

Not sure why a 280 foot cowboy would have any relevance to Houston, a city built on railroads, ports and oil. Any link to cowboys is only by the fact that Houston is in Texas. Give this blight to Kingsville or West Texas.

 
At 8:18 AM, January 27, 2006, Blogger kjb434 said...

The city of Houston may have not been founded by cowboys, but the region along with southwest Louisiana is the location of the first cowboys in the US.

Wonder if the cowboy will have a black american appeal to is since most early cowboys were blacks in this region. If this statue was built in the west, the cowboy would have to be either asian or black.

Either way, I wouldn't consider this to be blight. Blight is extremely subjective and leaves room for lot of interpretation.

 
At 1:17 PM, January 27, 2006, Blogger Andrew said...

Any estimates on costs?

Would this be something the city could back as Houston needs a status symbol?

 
At 3:01 PM, January 27, 2006, Anonymous Brian S. said...

"Would this be something the city could back as Houston needs a status symbol? "

I think this all depends on how much neon Tillman Fertitta is allowed to put on the statue.

 
At 4:53 PM, January 27, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I have no idea on the cost, but I'm betting it's substantial if it has to withstand a Cat 5 Hurricane. It actually may be structurally and economically more feasible deeper in Texas.

 
At 6:33 PM, January 27, 2006, Anonymous RedScare said...

Actually, the Spanish invented cowboys in Mexico, and gradually moved north into the southwest US. Louisiana is not generally known for cowboys, unless you count Mickey Gilley.

 
At 12:34 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Andrew said...

I would be nice to have something to distinguish Houston other than our skyscrapers.
Even tired St. Louis have the Arc and now Hotlanta has the worlds largest aquarium. Which was built as a gift to Atlanta by the Home Depot founder.
I really don't think it needs to be that tall but it would give us something to brag about ie Golden Gate bridge, Sears Tower or Statue of Liberty.
Just wishful thinking!!

 
At 1:57 PM, October 19, 2006, Anonymous Dave said...

David is a close and personal friend of mine. He has been talking about the Tallest Texan for many years, over 12, in fact in the spring of 2003 we started talking about the location of this project and will be looking at locations this fall and winter. We are now actively seeking corporate sponsors for this project and have had a number of inquirers. The statue may well be 200 miles to the north of Houston! The 280 foot statue will be the tallest on earth and stand for well over a hundred year, a 24 / 7 / 365 advertisement for any related product. The Tallest Texan will gaze over a Westerner teamed shopping mall and have RV space and lodging. A out door theater will rest in its shadow with a river walk beside his boots and tack. A western resteraunt is planed for the 100 foot level. Dave Olmsted, dave@presidentspark.com

 
At 7:52 PM, February 20, 2007, Anonymous Dave Olmsted said...

The street is in deed summer, David owns the block and it can be found on map quest. Attended David’s 80th birthday party on January 19th this year. He unveiled his latest work, The Beatles; you can find more out about this at presidentspark.com. We are moving forward with this project as well as others. In March we will pick the site and in April we will start accepting sponsor applications with ground breaking later that year. Again David has been talking about the Tallest Texan for many years, over 12; in fact in the spring of 2003 we started talking about the location of this project and will be looking at locations this fall and winter. We are now actively seeking corporate sponsors for this project and have had a number of inquirers. The statue may well be 200 miles to the north of Houston! The 280 foot statue will be the tallest on earth and stand for well over a hundred year, a 24 / 7 / 365 advertisement for any related product. The Tallest Texan will gaze over a Westerner teamed shopping mall and have RV space and lodging. A out door theater will rest in its shadow with a river walk beside his boots and tack. A western restaurant is planed for the 100 foot level. Dave Olmsted, dave@presidentspark.com

 

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