The Cougar community has been noticing a new addition to the University of Houston’s renowned Public Art Collection. Tony Smith’s “The Snake Is Out” is prominently featured on the south lawn of UH’s Fine Arts Building. The sculpture is on loan from The Menil Collection and will be on view through 2020.
“The Snake Is Out” is an angular steel structure that stands 15 feet tall, 24 feet wide and 18 feet in length. The work was one of five Smith sculptures acquired by the Menil Collection in 1970. It was previously on view in 2006 at the Menil Collection (on West Alabama Street). Prior to its installation at UH, “The Snake Is Out” underwent a restoration to honor the artist’s vision and offer the campus community a fresh view of a classic work.
“Educational and research partnerships are an important legacy of the Menil and our conservation program,” said Menil Chief Conservator Brad Epley. “The recent painting of the sculpture was part of ongoing research at the National Gallery of Art and the Tony Smith Estate to ensure the sculpture’s appearance represents the artist’s intent.”
Created in 1962, “The Snake Is Out” complements Smith’s other geometric installations that are on view throughout the country. Smith is recognized as a pioneer in Minimalist sculpture and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1967. His work has been featured at museums, festivals and exhibitions around the world.
“We are excited to have ‘The Snake Is Out’ on loan from such a prestigious institution as The Menil Collection and honored they’d entrust us with this important artwork by one of America’s most influential artists of his time,” said Michael Guidry, curator of UH’s Public Art Collection. “This sculpture complements some of the existing pieces in our collection from the same era such as ‘Split Level’ by Clement Meadmore, ‘Ali’ by Brian Wall, and ‘Contemplation’ by Tom Sayre. It fits in so nicely.”
“The Snake Is Out” is the latest addition to UH’s Public Art Collection. More than 500 works comprise the collection and are located throughout the campus, as well as UH System institutions (UH-Clear Lake, UH-Downtown, UH-Victoria and UH-Sugar Land). Among the acclaimed artists featured in the collection are Frank Stella, Jacob Hashimoto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, The Art Guys, Lawrence Argent, Lin Emery, Bert Samples, Kendall Buster and Luis Jimenez.
“The Menil Collection is pleased to partner with the University of Houston to display Tony Smith’s ‘The Snake Is Out’ for this long-term loan and to support the institution’s already strong collection of works of art on its campus. Considering Smith’s architectural background, it is fitting that we were able to site this extraordinary example of modern sculpture near the School of Art and the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture,” said Menil Curator Michelle White.
Campus visitors can view “The Snake Is Out” and other works in UH’s Public Art Collection using the new UH ARTour app that is available for both Apple and Android devices. For more details on the collection, visit its website.
(Photo credit: Tony Smith, The Snake Is Out, 1962. Painted steel, 180 x 288 x 216 in. (457.2 x 731.5 x 548.6 cm). The Menil Collection, Houston. © Tony Smith Estate / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Adam Baker)