Hidden behind a fence in Houston’s Cherryhurst neighborhood is “Ripple,” the latest collaborative house-scaled, site-specific work by artistic duo Havel Ruck Projects. The artists, Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, have been working together for more than two decades, in a collaborative practice that takes dilapidated houses as both site and medium for intervention. The duo clearly starts from the language of Gordon Matta-Clark, but together they have developed a vocabulary that is more sinuous and personal. Their work, realized both within existing structures and with artifacts transported into museums, engages the legacy of the single-family home within Houston’s sprawling cityscape.
Ripple consists of cuts made in and through the walls, floors, ceilings, and doors in a house slated for demolition. Kidney-shaped holes open up new views, and whimsical curves trace around the surfaces, migrating between materials, controlled not by geometry but by the artists’ compositional desires. Alignments appear and wobble, and the language moves between single thick arcs and whole voided shapes. While a prior era of architecture was made to have the appearance of falling apart, this installation is actually a structure paused in the middle of its surrealistic deconstruction.
The work is also additive: Scrap pieces are assembled to make swirling forms that twist about and move from inside to outside the structure. Sections of the floor are lowered or raised while structural integrity is maintained, and whole chunks of material are suspended to conceal lighting. Open cabinets are stacked with overflow remnants of housing materials, showcasing the material removed but not repurposed into new forms.
Throughout, curious moments of X-ray slicing and disorienting optical effects await viewers (don’t miss the bathroom mirror). One can see down through the floor joists to the dirt below and up through the ceiling to the attic above. The place vibrates with the energy of the fantastic baroque figures. Finally, the surgery makes visible the invisible assemblies of residential construction, the kind of stuff that only architects think about until artists like Havel and Ruck slice away the layers for the world to see.
Ripple is on view by appointment and during select open hours until January 1, 2019.
Jack Murphy, Assoc. AIA, is a regular contributor to TA and a master of architecture candidate at Rice University.