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Discovery Green's House Of Cards Lights Up Public Art Scene

Discovery Green is pulling a card out from its sleeve. The downtown park will unveil a public art display, House of Cards, on view this Friday through October 11 in the park's Sarofim Picnic Lawn. The installation is open daily during park hours, and as a special treat, it will be illuminated nightly from dusk to midnight. The installation comes to Houston thanks to Bracewell LLP and is originally designed by Israeli design studio OGE Group.

The piece is an astonishing structure consisting of 126 playing cards. Each individual card is a slim, double-sided five-foot-tall light box, and they are stacked to a dizzying height of 18 feet. During the day, the cards' crisp, white lines and colorful images will dazzle; at night, the structure will be animated to create the illusion of the house of cards rising and falling. Accompanying the visual splendor is an original soundtrack.

"House of Cards has different character in day and night time. In day, you can see the details of each card. At night, it turns into a light show," said Gaston Zahr, Co-Founder and Head of Design for OGE Group. "The light boxes are controlled individually so that you can get a fully synchronized light show. We designed seven different scenes according to a soundtrack, and we'll be playing music for different types of mood effects."

In its original state, a house of cards is a fragile creation. This House of Cards is monumental and stable. At this moment in time, which feels very fragile, House of Cards will stand strong as an international collaboration.

"Now, with COVID-19 crisis and the unrest, it's important to have outdoor art pieces that everyone can enjoy in their own time. When someone thinks of piling up a house of cards, everyone is thinking of disaster and that it will fall apart. Here, it's the opposite. It's sleek and gentle installation, and it won't fall apart because every card counts. It's a metaphor for society. Everyone needs to be counted, and it's really important to show this inclusivity and working together, especially in these times," Zahr said.

Variations of House of Cards have been exhibited around the world in places like Amsterdam, Baltimore, Berlin, Bucharest, Jerusalem and Milan, displaying designs that are unique to each local arts community.

Twenty Houston based artists have contributed to the Houston installation, including Daria Aksenova, Sharon Anderson, Debra Barrera, Vivienne Dang, Linh-Tran Do, Bill Ferenc, Vincent Fink, Moni Garcia, Nela Garzon, Sebastian Gomez de la Torre, Sherry Tseng Hill, Hedwige Jacobs, Patrick Joven, Heather Ohuabunwa, Zeus Paredes, Hugo Perez, Carra Sykes, Janice Tauro, David Tsai and Jasmine Zelaya. They were selected by a local jury through an open call which generated 188 submissions. As an added benefit, the Houston artists chosen to participate in Discovery Green's installation will be featured in future iterations of the House of Cards as other cities welcome the roaming installation.

One local artists selected to participate, Jacobs, said her contribution will morph from one visual from afar to a different one as viewers approach closer. "I was very drawn to the size, that it will be outside and it's open to everyone. From a distance or up close, House of Cards is interesting. [My contribution will] look like a leaf from a distance, but up close people will see [human] figures that are connected and touching each other. It shows how people are united," she said.

Another artist, Zelaya, has presented public art before, and she was drawn to the idea that its message will be seen by people with whom she might not otherwise have connected.

"I've found from having my work shown in public settings that it goes far beyond the reach of what you'd typically expect. People from all over the world will see this. From my last project, people contacted me from other countries who had seen it, and it connected people in ways I hadn't anticipated at all. People from the community will see House of Cards and start finding out more about each artist. It goes beyond what our initial thoughts are and it creates a dialogue in the community beyond our bubble," she said.

For public safety and optimal viewing, reservations to view the exhibit will be required on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Stanchions and social distancing indications, as well as park personnel will be onsite to direct the flow of traffic. Reservations may be booked online.

Discovery Green's programming is made possible in part by generous contributions from park supporters. Professional services are provided by the Weingarten Art Group. House of Cards is part of Discovery Green's Public Art Program which has enriched visitor experience with numerous temporary exhibitions.

House of Cards is available for viewing from 6 a.m. - midnight from August 28 through October 11 at 1500 McKinney. For reservations or more information, visit discoverygreen.com/houseofcards. Free.

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston's sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston's rich culture.

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