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February 07, 2024

National Gallery of Art Tells the Story of Artist Rick Lowe in New Episode of West to East, a Video Series Exploring Contemporary Artists and Their Communities Across the Nation

Still of Rick Lowe from "West to East: Mapping the Unknown," National Gallery of Art

Still of Rick Lowe from West to East: Mapping the Unknown, National Gallery of Art

Washington, DC—The National Gallery released today the second episode of our West to East video series. Mapping the Unknown tells the story of Houston-based artist Rick Lowe (b. 1961) and Project Row Houses, his community arts project. This cross-country video series documents contemporary artists whose work explores connections to their local communities and to the nation at large. Through interviews and extensive footage captured on location, the series focuses on artists across the United States.

The next episode, to be released this summer, follows Charles Ross and his 50-year journey to create Star Axis, an earth sculpture based on the geometry of the stars. Star Axis connects viewers to Polaris, the North Star, and the Earth’s 26,000-year cycle of astronomical precession.

Episode 2: Mapping the Unknown

In 1990, celebrated artist Rick Lowe created an artwork about police brutality in Houston. “It was the topic of every news source in the city,” Lowe explains. “I thought it was very impactful, but a friend of mine brought their class to my studio and it was a critical moment for me, because there was a young person that said, while the painting reflected what was going on in the community, the community didn’t need that because they already knew what was happening. He said, ‘If you are creative, why can’t you create a solution?’”

Project Row Houses (PRH) was born three years later when Lowe and a group of artists bought blocks of row houses in Houston’s Third Ward, a historically Black neighborhood. They restored the houses that would have otherwise been destroyed and created within them a community space focused on art, cultural identity, and its impact on the urban landscape. As they expanded their efforts to other parts of the city, the project grew to be a living artform. “PRH programs touch the lives of under-resourced neighbors, young single mothers with the ambition of a better life for themselves and their children, small enterprises with the drive to take their businesses to the next level, and artists interested in using their talents to understand and enrich the lives of others,” the organization explains on its website. The video also shows Lowe’s artistic practice since the initiation of Project Row Houses.

Rick Lowe has exhibited his work at museums throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, and his work is part of the National Gallery’s collection. In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Lowe to the National Council of the Arts, and in 2014, Lowe was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.

Episode 1: Turtle Island

In the first episode of the series, Marie Watt (Seneca Nation of Indians/European descent, b. 1967) talks about Turtle Island and its connection to her work, family, and Native American history. Interwoven with Watt’s story is the tale of Tomanowos, a sacred meteorite that shaped the geology and history of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where Watt lives and works. The story of Tomanowos was nearly lost until the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde reclaimed it and restored it to prominence. This episode reminds us that Indigenous teachings and culture are vital guides in reshaping how we connect with places, one another, and the universe, and it asserts histories that existed long before this land was known as the United States of America. Viewers discover the ways that meteorites, steel, and blankets carry stories into the future.

West to East is produced by RAVA Films in partnership with the National Gallery of Art.

Contact Information

General Information
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]

Chief of Communications
Anabeth Guthrie
phone: (202) 842-6804
e-mail: [email protected]

The National Gallery also offers a broad range of newsletters for various interests. Follow this link to view the complete list.

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