Hidden Gems

Houston's Outdoor Sculptures Offer a Window into a Lively Art Scene

This insider's guide to off-the-beaten-path treasures is a great way to discover new aspects of the sprawling, multicultural Texas metropolis.

By Brianna Benitez Published in the Summer 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Double Physichromie is located outside the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston. Image: Morris Malakoff/Image ©️ Public Art of the University of Houston System

Complementing the infrastructure of parks and even shopping centers, public art has intertwined itself with Houston’s urban design, contributing as a symbol of hometown pride and cultural appreciation. As one of the many forms of art across the city, sculptures made out of stone, wood, and other materials have become a centerpiece in the city's varied communities, with more than 600 works of public art on the streets of Houston. While you may have encountered a lively piece of art during your trips to Downtown or in the Heights, take a look at these tucked-away outdoor sculptures surreptitiously beautifying the city. 


Double Physichromie

3511 Cullen Blvd

While this piece may look like a blend of reds and blues, the color of this geometric sculpture doesn’t actually exist. Through parallel lines of color that intersect on the plane, Double Physichromie explores the concept of additive color. Behind the abstract piece is Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez. The sculpture is located outside the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston and features more than 2,000 aluminum pieces.

 

Giant Beatles Statues

2202 Dallas St

Rocking out in the backyard of 8th Wonder Brewery, music legends John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr reunite for a thrilling art experience. The giant concrete statues stand at a towering height of 36 feet and were created by David Adickes, who is also credited with other works across the city, including a cello sculpture in the theater district and the notable We Love Houston sign.

 

Move One Place On

4440 Bellaire Blvd

Placed in the heart of the Evelyn Rubenstein memorial garden is a 6,000-pound bronze sculpture depicting the tea party scene in Alice in Wonderland. Houston artist Bridgette Mongeon combined traditional sculpting techniques with digital technology to bring the nine-foot figures to life. The piece was designed to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the novel and secretly features 150 details from the book; see if you can find them!

 

Big Barbara 

7800-8150 Research Forest Dr

A blend of shapes and colorful welded steel, Big Barbara is an abstract sculpture set as a centerpiece at the Alden Bridge Village Center, a hub for restaurants, salons, and stores in The Woodlands. The 2,000-pound sculpture stands at 15 feet tall and was created by artist Peter Reginato in 1998.

 

Fiesta Jarabe

Corner of Wheeler Street and Cullen Boulevard

Vibrant fiberglass brings the beauty of Jarabe Tapatío, a traditional Mexican hat dance, to life at the University of Houston. Standing 10 feet tall, the sculpture was created by the late Luis Jiménez, a former UH professor who grew up in El Paso. Jiménez’s work was influenced by Hispanic and Latino culture. There are five versions of the piece across the country, with each featuring slight variations and unique colors. 

 

Image: Amber George

The Dreamer

Intersection of West Panther Creek and Woodlands Parkway

Relaxing under the shaded trees and meditative sky of The Woodlands is The Dreamer, a 17-foot-long bronze sculpture of a man half-submerged in the ground. The piece was installed in 1989 by David Phelps, a California native recognized for using his work to illustrate the connections between humanity, place, and landscape. 

 

Image: Rice Village

Owl Sculpture

Located on Kelvin Drive, north of University Boulevard

Aluminum blue owls are keeping a watchful eye over Rice Village. Metal sculptor Nathan Marby of California was inspired to create this piece as a tribute to the Rice University Owls. These origami-shaped sculptures took roughly 18 months to create and represent elements of surrealism, antiquity, and contemporary life.

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