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For a Limited Time: Fill Up on Art at the Corner of Bissonnet and Shepherd

Trey Duvall has turned an abandoned gas station into a fluorescent-lit thought experiment.

By Morgan Kinney October 2, 2017

At the corner of Shepherd Drive and Bissonnet Street just south of 59, there is a gas station where the pumps have been removed, along with the former tenant, 4949 Convenience Store. Swamplot reports a 3-story cafe and office building will soon take its place.

Until then, the vacant space has been handed off to installation artist Trey Duvall, who outfitted the otherwise undisturbed convenience store with two red pendulums swinging from the ceiling to create "an evolving and unpredictable landscape of detritus." Fittingly dubbed Moving Right Along, it's a temporary piece—only around for 15 days—for a transitional space.

When I arrived at the padlocked entrance and peered into the fluorescent emptiness, Duvall popped out from a door behind the register counter. He hangs out at the space every day from 6 to 9 p.m. to keep an eye on things, and, after fixing one of the pendulums caught on a shelf, he invited me inside for a closer look.

The whole setup—a custom rig he installed within the existing drop ceiling—is controlled using an Arduino board hooked into the building's circuit breaker. About every 3 to 7 minutes, the board switches on the 1-horsepower motors (roughly as powerful as the average garbage disposal) that spin the ball and chain for about 20 seconds before coming to a rest.

In typical artist fashion, Duvall tells me the installation is incidental to the space—it's in a gas station, but it's not about the gas station. This is just the space he happens to be working with, he says, and the one made available by the site's developer, Platform Group. Even so, you can't ignore certain ironies, like the Bud Light banner that reads—in all caps—"HERE WE GO" and the soda machine with a hand-written "Out of Order" sign taped crooked across the spouts. Whether he intends them to or not, both jibe with the installation's evolving disarray.

Looking at what's ostensibly two wrecking balls dangling above a pile of rubble, my knee-jerk reaction was to assume the project examines destruction. Instead, Duvall says he's interested in what the pendulums create. The wrecking balls have left red pockmarks streaked across the walls and floor to create a kind of automated Jackson Pollock painting. One pendulum struck the still-operating drink coolers, shattering the interior layer of glass but somehow leaving the exterior pane intact. The shelves that once occupied the floorspace have collapsed into an irregular stack, save for one vertical post that stands defiantly even as the pendulum occasionally flails in its direction. It's all so random, but so interesting—entropy as art.

Even before the installation went up, the gas station always seemed a curiosity in the ritzy, otherwise-residential Boulevard Oaks neighborhood. And now the space draws in all kinds of looky-loos. While I was inside, a family pulled up to the door in a black Mercedes SUV. The mother got out to snap a picture of her young kids staring through the windshield. "It's like we're at the drive-in," she remarked, before joining her husband to peer inside. A few pedestrians wandered off the sidewalk to see what was happening. 

For me, Duvall has taken something so mundane—a corner store where people bought cigarettes and potato chips—and turned it into a fluorescent-lit thought experiment. There's something delightful about an installation about randomness and chaos going up in a setting so random itself. It's too bad that after Friday, the installation will close to make way for yet another modernist office box on the side of the road.

Closing reception starting at 6 p.m., Oct. 6. Refreshments provided. 2132 Bissonnet St. More info at

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