(American, b. 1961)
The Line, 2023
Acrylic and paper collage on canvas;
108 x 96 in.
Drawing on his extensive work in the community as a social sculptor, the Houston-based artist Rick Lowe (American, b. rural Alabama 1961) created a painting entitled The Line specially commissioned for the University of Houston’s new John M. O’Quinn Law Building. The work of abstraction uses color and his signature use of collage to consider the ways in which the communities surrounding the university were geographically demarcated as well as their residents’ struggle to preserve their unique character. Since Houston was established and divided into four wards in 1837, the Third Ward’s boundaries have undergone significant changes over the years and Lowe’s commission is a personal reflection and consideration of these changes both historically and contemporarily.
The title, The Line, is a reference to The Third Ward community’s informal demarcation of Scott Street—commonly referred to as “the line” among residents—as the boundary between the University of Houston and the neighborhood in the early 1990s. The move sought to protect the Third Ward’s African American heritage, identity, and history. But today, more than thirty years later, The Line questions the legitimacy of the dividing line. Effectively moving the boundary beyond Scott Street and into the heart of the university campus, Lowe questions whether it is time to metaphorically erase “the line” through increased communal action by University of Houston and Third Ward stakeholders to help preserve, develop, and celebrate the heritage and culture of the Third Ward.
Rick Lowe, professor of art at the University of Houston and among the seven founders of Project Row Houses, is recognized for his community engagement projects and philosophical approach of “social sculpture” that uses creativity as a catalyst for change and empowerment of people in economic, social and political realms. Lowe is also known for his visual artistic repertoire that includes abstract works on paper and paintings often referencing maps and the linear patterns of dominos.