Helen Mayer & Newton Harrison Tracing the Rise of Houston’s Art Community

Hyperallergic Nov 18, 2019

It was 1972. While the rest of the country sank into a recession, Houston was swimming in money from an oil boom. On the night of March 12, the Texas city marked its ascent with a new building for the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). CAM’s young director, Sebastian Adler, outlined a bold vision with the opening of the exhibition 10. Stacked cages filled with pacing urban wildlife — “New York City Animal Levels” by artist Ellen Van Fleet — confronted visitors as they entered the barely finished museum. California artist Newton Harrison filled a gallery with plants under grow lights and a tub of worms in soil for his “Portable Farm. Outside, a trench was dug to house Vera Simons’s “Wave Transplant,” a five-horsepower motor attached to a wheel with a paddle meant to push water through the carved soil. Adler stated of 10 in Southwest Art Gallery Magazine (April 1972), “It’s not a safe, easy show, but anything less would have been insulting.”

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