Public Art University of Houston System Commissions Work by Rick Lowe

by Jessica Fuentes January 6, 2024

The University of Houston System (UHS) has announced that a new work by Rick Lowe has gone on permanent display at the college’s new John M. O’Quinn Law Building.

An installation image of a large scale abstract painting by Rick Lowe.

Rick Lowe, “The Line,” 2023, acrylic and paper collage on canvas, 108 x 96 inches.

An accomplished and internationally renowned artist, Mr. Lowe is perhaps best known as one of the seven founders of Project Row Houses, a nonprofit organization that supports the Third Ward through art programs, community enrichment, and neighborhood development. Beyond his social practice work in the community, his visual art uses line, shape, and pattern to create abstract compositions referencing maps and dominos. Mr. Lowe’s mixed media abstract work The Line, which was commissioned by Public Art UHS, references Scott Street, a dividing line between Houston’s Third Ward and the University of Houston (UH) campus. 

In a press release, Mr. Lowe explained, “I wanted to create a piece that spoke to the complexity around urban development and the history of red lining, with the goal of ultimately inspiring people to examine these topics. I hope the painting sparks an exploration around these issues and creates meaningful conversations among students and visitors alike.”

Michael Guidry, the Public Art UHS Curator added, “[The] University of Houston is in the Third Ward, and it’s important to emphasize that we are part of the community, The Line literally maps out where we are and shows this geographical distinction but also asks us to consider blurring or eliminating that line and engage[s] us in a dialogue about working together and building up the whole community.”

A large scale abstract painting by Rick Lowe.

Rick Lowe, “The Line,” 2023, acrylic and paper collage on canvas, 108 x 96 inches.

Commenting on the importance of this work in the university’s law building, UH Law Center Dean Leonard Baynes remarked, “By featuring eye-opening art like The Line… we’re shedding light on issues and topics that align with the valuable lessons our students are learning in their courses and research. These artworks are mirrors sometimes reflecting societal inequities referencing what our faculty teach — knowledge, ethics, compassion, and remedies designed to make the world a better place.”

Mr. Lowe’s painting is part of a larger initiative by Public Art UHS to acquire works by Houston-based artists for the John M. O’Quinn Law Building. Other recently acquired and installed pieces include an early painting by Bert L. Long, Jr., one of the co-founders of Project Row Houses; a diptych from UH graduate Jamal Cyrus’s Eroding Witness series; a textile sculpture by former UH faculty member Kaneem Smith; and a series of etchings by the El Paso-born, Houston-based artist Adriana Corral. These acquisitions are made possible by UH’s funding initiative in which a percent of all new construction budgets, and half a percent of renovation budgets, go to public art. 

Last September, Public Art UHS and the UH Law Center cohosted a two-part conference Law, Community, and Social Justice exploring themes within The Line. Presenters included government officials, lawyers, academics, and art experts, including Mr. Lowe, Ms. Smith, Ms. Corral, Luis Alvarez, and Vincent Valdez.

Learn more about Lowe’s The Line via the Public UHS website and through this short YouTube video.

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