Asia Society Texas Debuts its First Public Art Installation

by Jessica Fuentes December 17, 2023

Last month, Asia Society Texas (AST) unveiled its first public art installation, Heat Silhouette, by Rafael Domenech and Tomas Vu.

A photograph of a public event taking place at the site of a a public art installation by Opening celebration for Rafael Domenech and Tomas Vu.

Opening celebration for Rafael Domenech and Tomas Vu, “Heat Silhouette,” outside Asia Society Texas. Saturday, November 11, 2023. The outdoor pavilion, AST’s first public art installation, is commissioned in partnership with the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Photo by Annie Mulligan.

The installation is located at the corner of Oakdale and Caroline Streets, behind the AST Center, and was commissioned in partnership with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston. The piece is made of wood, aluminum framing, and laser-cut construction mesh. According to a press release, the title, Heat Silhouette, is a reference to the intense summer heat, which it describes as “a heat so palpable that it feels as if it occupies actual space, creating a silhouette or edge.”

An installation image of a large public art installation by Rafael Domenech and Tomas Vu.

View of Rafael Domenech and Tomas Vu, “Heat Silhouette” outside Asia Society Texas on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. The outdoor pavilion, AST’s first public art installation, is commissioned in partnership with the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Photo by Chris Dunn.

The outdoor pavilion features two stages and has been designed to be a space for community activation. Mr. Domenech and Mr. Vu describe the installation as “a community bench and gathering place where text, image, and pattern coalesce into a kind of urban camouflage.” The space will host programming from local artists as well as collaborations with the Mitchell Center. 

Melissa Noble, the Center’s Managing Director, stated, “We are thrilled to partner with Asia Society Texas in the co-commission of Heat Silhouette. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is looking forward to facilitating programming on site this spring through our Visiting Artist program in coordination with University of Houston students, faculty, and the public in collaboration with the Community Arts Academy.”

Steven Matijcio, the Jane Dale Owen Director & Chief Curator at the Blaffer Art Museum, commented, “Heat Silhouette provides the unique opportunity to realize a work that is both a platform and catalyst, a partner and a protagonist at the same time. Rafa and Tomas have imagined a continually mutating stage that takes inspiration from the it’s urban surroundings and we are excited to see how it will propel the work of both artists as well as students from the University of Houston.”

AST is currently accepting proposals for community-led events that utilize Heat Silhouette. Submit a proposal here

The installation will be on view through Sunday, June 2, 2024. Learn more about the artists below, via biographies provided by AST. 

Rafael Domenech was born in 1989 in Havana, Cuba, and lives and works between New York and Miami. He conceives objects colliding in space, organizing a sequence of artworks with physical or theoretical connections into a larger system, especially their own fabrication. His work explores how the artwork itself is part of an ecosystem of practices outside the studio into the institution and world beyond art and is a story of human relationships before aesthetic considerations. Situated at the forefront of artists who are redefining the exhibition experience, Mr. Domenech creates architectural interventions which intersect publishing methodologies such as cutting, redacting, revising, and circulation as research tactics to amplify his interest in the exhibition model as an active machine for production rather than a repository space.

His work has been exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; SculptureCenter, Long Island City; Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City; The Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York; The Bass Museum, Miami Beach; Phillip and Patricia Frost Art Museum, Miami; ICA VCU Museum, Richmond, Virginia; Artium Museum, Vitoria, Spain; MIT List Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest, France.

Tomas Vu was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and moved with his family to El Paso, Texas, at age ten. Vu received a BFA from the University of Texas, El Paso, and went on to earn an MFA from Yale University. He has received numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Award, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant. Mr. Vu has exhibited globally, including at MoMa PS1 (New York), CAFA Art Museum (Beijing), Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts, and the Inside-Out Art Museum (Beijing). He has been a professor at Columbia University School of the Arts since 1996. In 1996, Mr. Vu also helped found the Leroy Neiman Center for Print Studies. Since its inception, he has served as Director/Artistic Director of the Neiman Center. He was appointed the LeRoy Neiman Professor of Visual Arts in 2000.

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