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Scupltor discusses eye-bending installation in The Woodlands

August 31, 2018

In a photograph, the newest sculpture installed at Hughes Landing might play tricks on one’s mind.

If one stands in front of it in person, too, it’s clear that this 1,700-pound, bright blue piece is meant to be an optical illusion.

The sculpture, “Acrobática” was made by Rafael Barrios, who is of Venezuelan descent but born in the United States and has been lifelong artist.

“When people see my work in a book, they say ‘This is a cutout! It’s pasted on!’ but I don’t dislike that,” Barrios said. “I like when people can doubt me, because then they have to repent when they’re in front of it.”

Handmade from stainless steel and painted with more than 15 coats of acrylic lacquer specially designed by Barrios by combining different powdered essences and tints, the piece is installed at the corner of Hughes Landing Boulevard and Constellation Point Drive.

The sculpture was originally shown along Park Avenue in front of the Seagram Building in New York City, but it was put into storage before it was purchased and installed in The Woodlands.

Robert Heineman, vice president of planning and design for The Woodlands Development Company, a subsidiary of The Howard Hughes Corp., selected the piece with help from Kinzelman Art Consulting and Peter Doyle, executive vice president of development for The Howard Hughes Corp.

Heineman explained the optical illusion of the sculpture, which seems to change from different angles.

“As you walk side to side, the volumes appear to revolve on an axis…It looks three-dimensional and convex, but if you walk right up to it you see it’s almost flat. And then it becomes concave,” Heineman said.

In addition, more tricks may be played on viewers’ minds. The piece was installed on a turntable, giving the developers an opportunity to shift the piece at will.

“We’ll leave it where it is for a few months, but then we’re going to change it. The idea is for people to notice it looks a little different and get a conversation going,” Heineman said.

Doyle echoed that statement.

“The experience people get by walking along the pieces, they end up having an appreciation of the arts. Whether they love art or not, they’re exposed to it,” Doyle said.

Barrios said he thanks God every morning that people like his work and are passionate about it.

“I feel so proud of myself, because even though my works are geometrical, people take them very spiritually,” Barrios said.

Another, smaller sculpture by Barrios is installed at The Westin hotel in The Woodlands.

The push for art continues, as Heineman said that every year, art benches are installed throughout The Woodlands Waterway and Hughes Landing in cooperation with The Woodlands Arts Council.

Currently, 14 benches are installed, but six more are to be placed in October. A sneak peek of two new benches revealed metallic, leaf-inspired designs.

One bench, “Proud Souls,” was designed by Gaston Carrio of Houston and underwritten by Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. The other, “Leaf Vein Bench,” was designed by Owen Dixon of Ontario, Canada and underwritten by Jeff and Deborah Coburn.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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