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CultureMap on GUST: Eye-catching public art installation blows into Discovery Green this winter

CultureMap arts and culture writer Tarra Gaines visits Weingarten Art Group’s newest public art installation in the heart of Downtown Houston. GUST by Mexican collective Cocolab transforms the park’s promenade of mature live oak trees into a playful environment that offers creative reflection and interactivity.

The installation continues a strategic plan created in consultation with the Weingarten Art Group, giving residents and visitors more reasons to visit the park and take a respite from everyday activities.

Tarra Gaines writes:

Winter has arrived in Houston, but a field of colorful, hand-created flowers just bloomed in Discovery Green thanks to the new art project,“GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery.” The interactive, promenade-long installation from Mexico City-based design collective Cocolab lets Houstonians become the wind and set 1,600 handmade pinwheels spinning into kinetic art.

“After seeing Cocolab’s work firsthand in several public spaces, we knew that we wanted to engage them to create a site-specific installation for Discovery Green’s 10th anniversary year,” says Barry Mandel, president and park director. “GUST is colorful, playful, and interactive, and we think visitors will love experiencing the work both day and night.”

Felipe Linares, artist and creative lead on project, explains how proud Cocolab was to work on such a site-specific work of art for Discovery Green.

“We think collaboration is one of the most powerful tools we have as creators,” he tells CultureMap during a walk-through, describing the planning and partnership that had to happen with Discovery Green to bring the expansive piece to fruition.

Viewed from afar in the daylight, visitors to Discovery Green will see a blanket of color underneath the historic live oak canopy lining the Brown Foundation Promenade. But a look closer reveals that each red, orange, yellow, and lilac polypropylene pinwheel is a work of art onto itself.

The pinwheel blossoms were handmade in a workshop in Puebla, Mexico, using all renewable resources. The field of colors will likely remind visitors of wandering through flowers, childhood simplicity, and fun. Yet, to truly experience the breadth of the installation, wait for the wind to pick up as the sun goes down.
At dusk, another layer of color paints the pinwheels. An intricate lighting projection illuminates these spinning flowers in the evening. The multicolored light projects are programmed to change according to the speed and direction of the wind blowing through the park.

“We chose 15 different palettes for different moments,” explains Linares on the process of lighting the promenade in response to the wind. “For example, if there’s a north to south wind we have a specific palette, because the wind is coming from one direction and we need to illuminate the pinwheels in a different way. Sometimes when it’s very windy in a park people start going indoors,” he adds. “Maybe we’re giving them something to see that when there’s more wind, it’s better.”

And when the wind quiets, that’s when humans should intervene. Cocolab built and stationed four wind generators along the promenade for park-goers to interact with the art. Visitors can blow on the embedded pinwheel to start up the generated wind and set the whole field of flowers spinning. With a little bit of help from these activation stations, GUST shows us how one human’s breath can interact with and influence the world.

“GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery” will remain on view until March 20, 2019. Check the Discovery Green calendar for a full schedule of GUST related activities and programming, including a Houston Grand Opera Chorus holiday sing-along (December 15), a fashion show featuring works by Houston-based artists and designers (January 26), and a series of Wednesday night photo workshops from the Houston Center for Photography