Image: Marley Foster

Stepping into the Silos at Sawyer Yards for the opening of the Outta Space exhibition felt like stepping onto another planet. As the old grain silos-turned-SITE Gallery stretched into a seemingly endless black above me, works of art imagining new lifeforms extended all around.

As a participant in Sculpture Month Houston, SITE Gallery invited artists (from Houston and around the country) to create site-specific installations inside the old Success Rice grain silos at Sawyer Yards. This year, organizer Volker Eisele broke the exhibition into two categories: Works on the left side of the silos speak to current environmental and social issues, while works on the right offer artistic visions of alternative worlds.

All of the works are invested in how human touch impacts all scales of life—from Lina Dib’s sonic installation of the migratory patterns of birds to Nicole Banowetz’s inflatable bug-like creature that fills an entire room. Put in close proximity by the round walls of each of the silo rooms, viewers are intimately confronted with the weirdness of lifeforms with which we think we are familiar, as well as with lifeforms that may exist on other planets, or on Earth after humans are gone.

The installations are timely, poignant, imaginative, and most of all, a whole lot of fun. There’s something about the atmosphere of the silos that makes the perfect setting for art about ideas of the alien. The fact that the space was previously a site for food processing makes it so much less precious than a traditional gallery—stepping into the silos feels not only like stepping into a new kind of art space, it feels like stepping into a different time. The old building—its age immediately evidenced by the antique control panel dominating a wall in the entryway—meets the new, innovative artworks, leaving viewers with a sense of conflated time, of timelessness.

This sense of being suspended in time emphasizes the feeling of walking across an unknown planet as viewers enter into the pod-like structures full of newly imagined life forms. Some of the forms are actually living; several installations, including Suzanne Anker’s stacked structure reminiscent of a cityscape washed in the pink glow of plant lights, feature growing organisms such as flowers and chili peppers.

By opening the door to alien lifeforms as well as presenting familiar lifeforms as otherworldly, each of the artists in their own way is inviting us to become reacquainted with how we think about what it means to be a living being, and to share space with other living beings. 

Outta Space, thru. Nov. 30. SITE Gallery Houston, 1502 Sawyer St. 713-993-9823. More info at sculpturemonthhouston.org.

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