HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CITY’S COLLECTION: VECTOR HH
Alex Irrera, Civic Art + Design Collection Coordinator
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an abstracted representation of a human being in flight!
It’s Vector HH—an enormous, colorful, and suspended sculpture by Italian artist Luca Buvoli. Comprised of blue and orange cast acrylic sheets and steel, this soaring, spiraling form was suitably commissioned for Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport over a decade ago. Although the work was completed in 2010, the artwork was de-installed from its original home over the baggage claim escalators in 2014 to preserve the work during the airport’s expansion. After a two-year absence from Hobby Airport, Vector HH has reappeared. Using lifts, winches, and dozens of computer renderings, 13 pieces of this hanging sculpture were reinstalled over the course of several weeks this summer. As of July 2016, Buvoli, Houston Airport System, and Houston Arts Alliance are pleased to unveil Vector HH once again—now hanging slightly west of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at Hobby Airport.
Vector HH is comprised of layered representations of the human form. At one end of the sculpture, the outline of a monumental figure stands erect—his toes are pointed, hips are twisted, and arms are outstretched to create a muscular, slated T-shape. Rendered in bright orange acrylic and steel, this original figure is repeated in seven more iterations along a slanted axis. As the figures extend deeper into the structure, they shrink in size—as if the Vector HH character was receding into the distance. While some of the figures stand alone, others are connected by transparent acrylic sheets that span the spaces between their outlines. These colorful components, as well as the outlines of the forms themselves, fill one another’s negative spaces. This effect complicates one’s ability to discern the human figure and abstracts the overall image into a trajectory of movement. It is a dynamic configuration that represents movement in layers (almost like a flip-book) and one that veers into the fourth dimension through the portrayal of time. At the opposite end of the sculpture, the contrail of airborne character’s movement is reduced to orange and blue planes. Spiraled in an upward reaching angle,
they are revealed as the succinct vectors of the figure’s journey through the sky.
Positioned high above the airport visitor’s head, Vector HH evokes the lift and thrust that we feel as the plane takes off into the atmosphere. It’s an experience that is singular, magical, and intimate. Lift-off yields a moment in which we can delight in layers of buoyant sensation—feeling the vulnerability of putting our lives in someone else’s hands, awe at the beauty and power of science, and marvel (perhaps with pride) at the ability of the human mind to harness these properties of physics so keenly. Much like the feeling of your stomach being lifted up into your chest, gazing at Buvoli’s flying man gives the impression of being lifted up, up, and away.
Since ancient history, humanity’s fascination with flight has floated fluidly between science and fantasy. From the story of Icarus in Greek mythology, to Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliantly devised sketches of one-manned flight machines, to modern sci-fi heroes like Superman and Iron Man, and contemporary strides in jetpack technology, mankind has been dreaming, musing, and calculating himself into the air for centuries. Since the age of six, Luca Buvoli has carried a torch for human aeronautics—pursuing this theme glee and significance through his artistic practice. Buvoli has dreamed, created, and preached about flight through a multitude of forms—including drawings, flipbooks, video, hanging sculpture, marquees, action figures, comic books, instruction manuals, classes on human flight (beginner and intermediate), and more. These numerous mediums warrant Buvoli—and Vector HH—an aura of expertise in the artist’s chosen field of fantastical aeronautics.
Although many of the works displayed at the Houston Airport System’s Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport relate to flight, few do so with the deep, playful, and investigative interest that Buvoli’s Vector HH possesses. It is a powerful work that evokes both mystery and adventure—a talisman of the airport that poetically represents one of humanity’s most amazing abilities.