A GLIMPSE INTO INSTALLATION: CHRIS SAUTER'S AIRPORT sEATING AT HOBBY'S INTERNATIONAL CONCOURSE
Alex Irrera, Civic Art + Design Assistant
As the Hobby Airport International Concourse reached its final stages of construction this year, several artists were also busy at work in and around the emerging structure. Commissioned by Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), seven artists were onsite with the staff of the Civic Art + Design (CA+D) department to install these artworks—pieces ready to function as the smart and interesting face of Houston for international travelers.
Airport Seating (Somewhere Between Here and There) by San Antonio artist Chris Sauter was one of these works. On a September afternoon, Sauter, CA+D Project Manager Mat Kubo, HAS Public Art Program Curator Tommy Gregory, and the installation team gathered to assemble Sauter’s text-formed benches. From several feet away, the supervising group members watched as a large crane lifted the 1,000 pound, concrete letters one-by-one, transporting them gracefully through space. As each piece neared the ground, the hard-hatted installation team surrounded and guided the boulder-like objects into their places on paper templates—a careful and mesmerizing process. Sauter strolled around the benches as they formed, casually inspecting the work, and cutting away the templates’ excess areas. He noted that the airport was worried that travelers will use the letters’ negative spaces as trashcans as he stuffed balled-up paper in one of these holes. Construction workers stationed at nearby projects also interacted with the artwork by sitting on several of the stout letters during their breaks—making apparent the welcoming nature of the work, even in its rough form.
In the following days, Sauter’s installation team laid green, naturalistic turf around half of the letters (the artist’s and the airport’s compromise for the real grass in a previous design). The group also completed the installation of LED lights, which were embedded into the ground in the shape of two curved arrows. As with the positioning of the letters, these processes were executed methodically—a deliberate completion of nearly a year’s worth of work for the artist and HAS and HAA staff. The few hours required to crane in the bench parts signifies only a moment in the long journey of conceptualization, fabrication, and installation that Chris Sauter and the seven other International Concourse artists have traveled. And on this particular sunny September day, the phrase announced by Sauter’s seating Somewhere Between Here and There was relevant, not only to future airport travelers, but also to the International Concourse artists and their teams—and to all others who find themselves between points of departure and arrival.