We use cookies to enhance your user experience. By using this website you accept cookies. We do not store your personal details.

More info

Ion District Unveils New Art Displays Showcasing Local Artists

Creativity collides with innovation as Houston artists reveal new public art displays at the Ion

HOUSTON, AUGUST 9, 2023 – Ion District, Houston’s 16-acre innovation district developed by Rice University, today announced its next round of site-specific window art installations at the Ion, Houston’s innovation hub. Created by Houston-based artists Christopher Blay and Kill Joy, the new installations will be unveiled by the artists on August 16, 2023, during a public event hosted by Ion and Piper Faust Public Art at Second Draught located in the Ion from 5:30 – 7:30 pm CT.

Following the event, the installations will be available for the public to view for free for the next six months as part of Ion District’s “Eye on Art” program. The rotating art installations create opportunities for Houston-based artists and demonstrate the importance of cross-disciplinary connections when fostering innovation.

Chosen by the Ion and Ion District Art Advisory Council, with support from public art consultant Piper Faust, the installations are a nod to the original window displays of the historic Sears building on which Ion was built. Displayed in windows that serve as focal points to the building’s entry, Eye on Art provides access to art to community members and visitors, and reaffirms Ion District’s commitment to all innovators, including artists and creatives.

“Innovation and art have a lot more in common than you might think. Many of our local artists learn how to use emerging technologies to create their pieces and hone their craft,” said Jan E. Odegard, Executive Director of the Ion. “Creativity plays a vital role in fostering innovation and we’re honored to provide artists like Christopher and Kill Joy with a platform to serve as an inspiration for the entire innovation ecosystem here at the Ion.”

Christopher Blay: “The SpLaVCe Program”

Christopher Blay is an artist, writer, and curator whose current studio practice delves into speculative futures of Black people. His work reflects on all conditions that have been a part of Black life in America, from triumphs of culture to socio-political situations. Blay’s artistic practice consists of paintings, cyanotypes, and drawings that think about the blues and indigos of cyanotypes conceptually as “the Blues” or the “Black and Blues” of terrorism against Black bodies.

Blay’s ongoing series and latest body of work, “The SpLaVCe Program,” will expand into the Ion through the Eye on Art program. In collaboration with the Ion Prototyping Lab, Blay utilized canvases and wood frames to create an innovative, cohesive piece that combines elements of slaving vessels and spaceships into one object that symbolizes where the Black community has been and where they are going.

In addition to his art, Blay is a contributing writer for Art in America Magazine and a former art critic for Glasstire Magazine, and Chief Curator of the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Kill Joy: “Creation, Current, Solution”

Kill Joy’s work is grounded in honoring the earth and seeking environmental and social justice. Her practice centers around relief printmaking, mural painting, and puppet making. Throughout her work, there is a belief that the deliberation of all human beings corresponds to the freedom of the land, water, and air, where greed and contamination are replaced with love and compassion.

Her window display at the Ion, “Creation, Current, Solution,” is an animated puppet installation exploring how we can advance as a global community, seen through the lens of Pilipino folklore. The piece centers indigenous experience by exploring regional mythology and how it speaks to current living situations. It is an exploration of destiny for people and planet, and how we can construct technological advancements for sustainable living conditions.

Kill Joy’s additional work involves printing posters for people-led campaigns, leading youth workshops, providing affordable art, painting community murals, and constructing fantastical puppet theater. Mediums with a bold, graphic quality speak to the sort of narratives she enjoys exploring.

“Innovation comes in many forms, and the Eye on Art program is a testament to artists, creatives, and Houston residents being an integral part of Ion’s innovation community,” said Faust. “As we unveil the third round of art installations, we celebrate the extraordinary work of our local artists, and also the inclusive, welcoming, and collaborative space that Ion offers to all innovators in Houston.”

To learn more about the Eye on Art program and its application process, please visit the Artist Residency page on Ion District’s website or contact Piper Faust at piper@piperfaustpublicart.com.

About Ion

Located in Ion District, the namesake building is the transformative centerpiece of Houston’s innovation corridor. Designed to bring our city’s entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs, the sunlit structure of steel and glass is a home for advancing diverse knowledge, teams, technologies, and products that propel our world forward.

From Fortune 500s seeking flexible office space to first-time startups looking for the funding to design a prototype, the Ion provides wide-reaching space and support to connect every What if with What now?—welcoming individuals and teams of all kinds to a place to build a better way.

The Ion Expands Its Public Art Program As It Unveils Interactive New Plaza Installation, Efflorescence

The Ion, Houston’s innovation hub, has announced the expansion of its burgeoning public art program vis-à-vis the addition of Efflorescence, an interactive installation fabricated by the talented Austin-based artist team of Ilya Pieper and Whiptail Designs (Nathan Kandus) that is designed to instill the Ion Plaza with an immediate dose of vitality as visitors enter and exit the building. Now on display as Houston enters one of its most pleasant stretches of the year, Efflorescence will remain a fixture at the Ion for a three-month duration.

“I view the Ion’s art as a living organism that is constantly evolving and changing,” said Piper Faust, who oversees the Ion and Ion District’s public art projects through her art consultancy, Piper Faust Public Art. She added, “With several pieces already in place that have greatly enhanced the Ion community from a visual perspective, I am now ecstatic to see Efflorescence come to life and serve as a natural outgrowth of the building’s creative identity as it evolves into the anchor of the 16-acre Ion District over the course of the next several years.”

Affixed to the Ion Plaza’s trellis, Efflorescence consists of a snaking vine structure that is comprised of 3/16” twisted rod; negative space between the rod’s different elements creates diamond patterns that are filled with metallic-green mica-painted plastic. Efflorescence’s leaves are painted with a differently pigmented mica paint and are suspended from the weaving vine configuration. The installation also incorporates a number of flowers that are made from dichroic film, a type of film that transforms clear materials into those that possess color effects, thereby reflecting certain colors and allowing others to pass through freely. The dichroic film thus allows Efflorescence to continuously change color as each viewer changes position – in combination with the angle of the sun as it passes over the trellis.

Efflorescence’s flowers are also subtly lit at night, emitting a phosphorescent glow; mounted spotlights along the edges of the trellis enhance nighttime viewing opportunities by bouncing light off of the reflective mica paint and dichroic film. Lastly, ten of the flowers attached to Efflorescence are larger in size and have a kinetic component; as visitors to the Ion pass underneath Efflorescence, proximity triggers signal flowers to bloom in an opening-and-closing pattern.

“Nature is the ultimate inspiration and reference point for the conceptualization and execution of Efflorescence,” emphasized Ilya Pieper, one-half of the artist duo behind the installation. She added, “As avid plant lovers, Nathan and I are constantly in awe of the beauty and form that nature holds. In our backyard, we have a passionflower vine that grows each year. Watching the vine make its ever-persistent climb upward, forming beautiful flowers along the way which a multitude of creatures utilize, we saw a parallel to the ultimate vision of the Ion District – that being the establishment of a similar structure for people, their ideas, and their innovations.”

The artist team behind Effloresence is the two-person duo of Ilya Pieper – a local Austinite and strong female figure in the Austin art scene – and Nathan Kandus, principal of Whiptail Designs, is a designer and fabricator who has focused on a number of community-based projects. Collectively, Pieper and Kandus have been working in the professional art world for over a decade, where their focus has been on cultivating engagement, interactivity, and community placemaking.

To date, the majority of the tandem’s work in public art has focused on site-specific interactive experiences that inspire curiosity and tell compelling stories. Effloresence represents the pair’s first project of significance in Houston.

About the Ion

Ion: Where ideas go to grow. Located in Ion District, the namesake building is the transformative centerpiece of Houston’s innovation corridor. Designed to bring our city’s entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs, the sunlit structure of steel and glass is a home for advancing diverse knowledge, teams, technologies, and products that propel our world forward. From Fortune 500s seeking flexible office space to first-time startups looking for the funding to design a prototype, the Ion provides wide-reaching space and support to connect every What if with What now?—welcoming individuals and teams of all kinds to a place to build a better way.

About Ion District

Ion District is an intentionally accessible, walkable and integrated urban community. It spans 12 city blocks (16 acres) in Houston’s Midtown, where people, ideas, and businesses thrive. Initiated by Rice University, Ion District energizes a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future. At actively programmed events and spontaneous everyday moments, Ion District invites residents, startups, corporate, academic, and civic leaders to unite, explore, and create opportunity together. For more information, visit https://iondistrictprd.wpenginepowered.com.

About Rice Management Company

Rice Management Company (RMC) is responsible for the stewardship of Rice University’s endowment. The endowment plays a vital role for Rice. The distributions generated provide approximately 40% of the University’s operating revenues, which makes it the single largest revenue source to the operating budget. The RMC team brings decades of investment management expertise across diversified industries and financial specialties. Through disciplined research and due diligence, we assess and pursue investment strategies that are aligned with the long-term risk/reward profile of the endowment. For more information, please visit investments.rice.edu.

The Ion Launches New Art Display Supporting Houston Artists

The Ion, Houston’s innovation hub, has finalized its first window displays created by prominent local artists Preston Gaines and Lina Dib. The installations, commissioned by The Ion and Ion District, are now available for the public to view for free for the next six months as part of the Ion District’s ongoing art rotation program. The art displays are a visual expression of the intersection of art and innovation and are a reflection of The Ion and Ion District’s effort to support local talent.

The Ion and the Ion District Art Advisory Council selected the two artists’ installations after reviewing 60-plus submissions from local artists this past Fall with the support of public art consultant Piper Faust. Called “The Eye On Art Program,” the installations are meant to be an adaptive reuse of the beloved Sears building on which The Ion was built. The display windows are a unique opportunity to reimagine Sears’ store windows and build on the collective memory of the space’s past, present, and future. Strategically placed, as the entry points and eyes of the building, the two highly visible display windows facing Fannin and Main Streets serve as beacons to draw the community in.

“As the center for Houston’s innovation ecosystem, The Ion recognizes the importance of cross disciplinary connections creating and fostering innovation,” explained Jan E. Odegard, Executive Director of The Ion. “Creative expression and ideation is an essential part of The Ion’s bigger picture and mission. The Ion is committed to creating opportunities for Houston-based artists, like Preston and Lina, and looks forward to giving local artists and makers long-term platforms to create, innovate, and collaborate.”

About The Art:

Lina Dib’s “Self-Portrait in the Garden” is an over-the-top kitsch environment that includes plants, astro-turf, pink flamingos, and bright screens. Initially the images on the screens are of greenery, the sea, and the sky, but as viewers move, they scrub the images of nature to reveal reflections of their own presence. When viewers stop moving, nature slowly takes over again. This uncanny window installation entices visitors to question the boundaries they draw between categories, such as the natural and the artificial, and to playfully engage in conversation with its surroundings and others.

Preston Gaines’ “Fantasy Landscape” consists of numerous, interconnected panels that provide visitors with a mind-bending, multi-sensory journey. Filled with explosive color, mysterious pre-recorded sounds, the Fantasy Landscape supplies a look into a hypothetical future and a new way of viewing objects in nature and their role in human life. Each color is intended to connect to various areas of the human body and affect individuals differently emotionally, physically, and mentally. This combination of sensory stimuli forms an experience that is both meditative and dissociative, creating a space for the eyes, ears, mind, and body to explore. The outcome is a living, blooming floral paradise whose beauty flourishes when visitors engage with it: an ever-changing landscape, always different, a reflection of the personality of viewers themselves.

“As Houston, its neighborhoods, and the world-at-large open its doors again, a connector such as The Ion, is the perfect space to open up an installation of this scale,” explained Faust. “The Eye on Art Program isn’t simply art on a wall but installations that aim to entice, engage, and invite people into The Ion so they know it is a place where they can become part of a community, The Ion community.”

About The Artists: Preston Gaines and Lina Dib are Houston-based artists and educators. Trained in architecture and anthropology, respectively, both artists used interactive technology, motion, and touch to create their installations at The Ion. The juxtaposition of Dib and Gaines’ natural plants versus fabricated reality symbolize the individuality of innovation The Ion celebrates.

Gaines is an architect, artist, and industrial designer that manifests the hidden properties of nature through the use of technology, with the intention of learning and re-establishing our connection to the Earth. His immersive botanical installations and furniture designs raise fundamental questions about collective experience and imagine radical possibilities for the future of art and design.

Dib is a multidisciplinary artist and anthropologist. Her installations and compositions range from the experimental to the ethnographic and investigate socio-technical and ecological change. Her work has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, AMIDA’s European training program, and the City of Houston among others.

The rotating art exhibition will open applications for its Fall 2022 exhibition later this Spring. Applications will be open to all artists and artist-teams over 18 years of age residing and working in the Greater Houston Area. The Ion and Ion District are committed to providing opportunities that advance Houston’s economy by not only seeking to involve local businesses, but also those who are racially and ethnically underrepresented. Creatives and artists are a vital part of this complete community, and it is The Ion and Ion District’s goal to foster inclusivity and diversity with all its partners. For preliminary information on the Spring 2022 application process, artists can contact Piper Faust at piper@piperfaustpublicart.com.

About the Ion

Ion: Where ideas go to grow. Located in Ion District, the namesake building is the transformative centerpiece of Houston’s innovation corridor. Designed to bring our city’s entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs, the sunlit structure of steel and glass is a home for advancing diverse knowledge, teams, technologies, and products that propel our world forward. From Fortune 500s seeking flexible office space to first-time startups looking for the funding to design a prototype, the Ion provides wide-reaching space and support to connect every What if with What now?—welcoming individuals and teams of all kinds to a place to build a better way.

About Ion District: The Ion District is an intentionally accessible, walkable and integrated urban community. It spans 12 city blocks (16 acres) in Houston’s Midtown, where people, ideas, and businesses thrive. Initiated by Rice University, the Ion District energizes a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future. At actively programmed events and spontaneous everyday moments, the Ion District invites residents, startups, corporate, academic, and civic leaders to unite, explore, and create opportunity together. For more information, visit https://iondistrictprd.wpenginepowered.com.