Rick Lowe

Project Row Houses

[portfolio_slideshow size=large pagerpos=disabled trans=scrollHorz navpos=bottom]
Medium/DimensionsDocumentation material

Since 1993 the Houston-based artist Rick Lowe has been working with a group of fellow African American artists to transform a blighted district of the city into an effective community through art. Alongside a range of creative initiatives, Project Row Houses (PRH) offers affordable residential housing for people on low incomes together with specific programmes aimed at supporting young single mothers. Their website states: ‘Community is our artform, the canvas of our transformation … A stroll through the campus of Project Row Houses is a stroll into a world where passion for art collides with compassion for people’. Helping residents to rethink priorities, opportunities and choices, the project evolved into a way of life incorporating childcare and education schemes.

PRH is an ongoing, collaboratively produced artwork, realised outside the art institution. What is exhibited in ECONOMY is a visual and textual document of a form of art that exists wholly as part of actual socio-economic relations. Two particular aspects mark out the project’s significance: firstly, it emphasises that art can be functional rather than detached from people’s needs and struggles. Secondly, it implicitly acknowledges that a contemporary avant-garde can exist – in other words, an experimental artistic practice with a vision of social justice that finds new ways to build a relationship between art and life. This is an exploratory artwork that seeks to impact on how society thinks and acts. PRH has been included in the ECONOMY show as one of the first artworks that has specifically tackled economic relations in this vision of a new avant-garde which has ultimately been honed and shaped in the early 21st century.