ON VIEW THRU JUNE 2, 2024: “Rafael Domenech and Tomas Vu: Heat Silhouette” is the Asia Society Texas Center’s first public art installation. This collaboration between Cuban American artist Rafael Domenech and Vietnamese American artist Tomas Vu assumes the form of a dynamic outdoor pavilion with two stages, occupying AST’s 13,000-square-foot lot at the intersection of Oakdale and Caroline Streets in the heart of Houston’s Museum District.
Described by the artists as a form of “urban acupuncture,” Heat Silhouette is a physical structure designed to welcome the spontaneous circulation of people, energy, and events. The outdoor pavilion takes cues from college campuses, popular culture, and experimental magazines. Made of wood, aluminum framing, and laser-cut construction mesh — the very materials used to build the city of Houston — the pavilion becomes an extension of the museum and a public programming space. The title itself references the most omnipresent weather condition of Houston: the summer’s intense heat, a heat so palpable that it feels as if it occupies actual space, creating a silhouette or edge.
For the artists, the pavilion resists merely being a form of architecture. Instead, the pavilion physically operates as an experimental magazine, referencing the graphic processes seen in radical publications from the 1960s and 1970s like Kontexts, an important catalyst of avant-garde poetry. Readers do not flip Heat Silhouette’s pages; instead, they become viewers that are invited to walk in, around, and through the publication. Laser-cut texts appropriated from popular science-fiction films, poetry, and other sources intermingle to form multiple layers and viewpoints that shift with the sunlight. Heat Silhouette is a space of active production filled with theater-like compartments — a site where text, image, and pattern coalesce into a kind of urban camouflage.