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  • Rainey Knudson

Rice Gallery: White Webb (181 words)

Earlier this year it seemed there was a sudden spate of articles about Maria Sibylla Merian, the celebrated 17th-century German naturalist and artist who is famous for her engravings of tropical plants and animals. I first encountered Merian's work in the 2005 installation at Rice Gallery by interior designers Matthew White and Frank Webb.

For their installation Eminent Domain, White Webb created a field of astroturf and built a gazebo using hyper-enlarged antique engravings from a hodge podge of periods and styles. The gallery's walls were painted a vivid pea green and huge 3-D reproductions of Merian's prints of insects and flowers jutted out from the walls. These garden elements later found a home at the Houston Arboretum when the installation came down.

During its 22-year run, Rice Gallery invited designers and architects as well as artists to create new works in its unusual glass-fronted space. The only hard-and-fast rule at the Gallery was that things be site-specific installation. And that they be wonderful.

(White Webb are included in One Thing Well, a forthcoming book about Rice Gallery's program of site-specific installation art, published in fall 2021.)


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