Spanning 15 feet and reaching 7 feet tall, 65,000 folded sheets of crêpe paper arranged in various striped patterns of bright complementary colors make up a newly commissioned piece now on display at Rice's Moody Center for the Arts.
Dutch art collective We Make Carpets spent two weeks onsite creating the work, dubbed Crêpe Paper Carpet, from the ground up. The artists coin their pieces “carpets” because of their rectangular shapes and intricate designs similar to famous oriental rugs. Prior to their arrival at the Moody Center, the artistic trio, which includes Marcia Nolte, Stijn van de Veluten, and Bob Waardenburg, only knew the location, size, and material for their installation.
They weren’t totally unfamiliar with Houston, though. Nolte visited last November and crisscrossed the city from the Third Ward to the Heights looking to capture some essence of the place, eventually landing on the piñatas that line some shops along Airline Drive.
“They had to convey the spirit of Houston, and they were all fascinated by the piñatas because they had never seen anything like it before,” says Moody Chief Curator Kim Davenport.
And to create a piñata carpet, they inevitably chose crêpe paper, in a wide array of colors, as the medium for their installation. Huge amounts of the piñata material were ready for We Make Carpets when they arrived in Houston in May, and, to create a more authentic “piñata-look,” they used a specially serrated blade to cut the edges of the crepe paper to imbue a ruffled appearance, reminiscent of your sixth birthday party.
Davenport learned about the Dutch artists in 2016 after reading a New York Times writeup of a previous carpet installation crafted from 6,000 colorful cocktail umbrellas. That’s when Davenport reached out to the artists and began the process of commissioning the collective’s first American installation
The artists have also found an artistic use for many everyday objects: In Montreal, We Make Carpets created a carpet full of geometric patterns from 65,000 paper clips in six different colors. For the Zeeuws Museum in the Netherlands, the collective gathered thousands of sea shells to craft a carpet reminiscent of a floor mosaic. Other non-traditional media includes coffee stirrers, balloons, pencils, and even pasta.
“They all come from art, design, and theater backgrounds, and they share a love of the everyday object,” Davenport says. “They like to see beyond the utilitarian use of things and create something that wakes you up.”
Thru September 8. Free. Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts, 6100 Main St. More info at moody.rice.edu.