Meet Your Maker Monday: Patrick Renner

Patrick Renner's work has been getting around Houston: shows at Avis Frank and El Rincon Social; the Funnel Tunnel on the Montrose esplanade by the Art League; a Thanksgiving parade float; and a build-out at Inversion Coffee. Patrick shares what it takes to make all this happen as he makes a smaller version of his Funnel Tunnel.

All photos by Alex Barber.

All photos by Alex Barber.

What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?

Patrick Renner;; FB: Patrick Renner


What do you make?

Sculpture. My work is about the physical presence of material, with a nod to abstract painting, especially color field. My primary material is found wood, the architectural refuse from tear-downs, and other detritus; I use this material, which is already painted, as a fixed palette to construct compositions with. Another way I think about making my work is like quilting, the way color blocks are juxtapozed to create rhythm and variation, although my sculptures are never regular or symmetrical in the way many quilts are. In this found painted wood the imbedded wear patterns from time, weather, and human contact are endlessly varied and compelling, a seemingly infinite source of inspiration and fascination. My sculptures range from wall works to free-standing, individual objects to environmental installations, indoor to public outdoor pieces, from intimate scale to very large. Additionally, I often use steel, other random found objects, and would like to venture farther into the realm of material explorations I've merely dabbled in: glass, neon, plastics, sound, kinetics, inflatables, text-based work, etc. Oh, and collaboration is something I do as often as I can manage.


What does a typical day look like for you?

When I'm not teaching art at the high school level every other day, I'm usually at work in the studio on Campus (the collection of creative people working in a variety of fields like visual arts, music, film, electronics, among other things) building something. It's typical for me to bounce from one project to the next pretty immediately, so there's normally something cooking. I recently finished a float for the Houston Thanksgiving day parade in collaboration with my buddy Alex Larsen, another talented local sculptor: a cornucopia with a skateboard ramp inside that people dressed like fruits and vegetables skated the heck out of. It was pretty rad. Today I just finished a build-out at Inversion Coffee on Montrose, right across from the Funnel Tunnel, where they're updating the look and feel of the interior. What else? I just recently made a series of small pieces; stretched a painting for a friend; am building a shuffleboard table with my brother out of a recycled basketball court flooring; am working on a few things with my collaborative arts group {exurb}, with whom I share the studio; etc...


Why did you decide to start your own business and why Houston?

I've had useful partnerships with a couple galleries in town, and then decided to try representing myself for a change... it's an interesting challenge to be my own boss. There's a wonderful network of creative people in various fields in Houston that I'm tied into, and it seems to be ever-expanding. Cool people I meet introduce me to yet more cool people, and that's Houston in a nutshell. I like the "Houston, it's Worth It" campaign, but as someone born and raised here who went away and returned to establish myself, it occurs more like "Houston, it's Highly Underrated." I love the multiplicity of this metropolis and I'm sure other places are great (because I've been to some of them) but I feel like this is an expanding universe that I continue to discover freshly, and paradoxically I feel at home here; my existence consists of equal parts excitement and ease.


What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?

All kinds of things inspire me... mythology, botany, etymology, geology and minerals, alchemy, biological anomalies, gongshi (Chinese scholar's rocks), petrified wood, Japanese joinery, outsider art, haiku, the quilts of Gee's Bend, field guides, Rube Goldberg machines, cosmology, network theory, neuroscience, [the cornerstones in my work] architecture and geometry (especially topology), and film and music, among others. Building with Legos as a youngin has a lot to do with making colorful, boundless constructions as an adult.

One of my favorite sources for kick-starting unexpected ideas for work is reading Cabinet magazine, rife with oddities and curiosities. Random documentaries, and a lot of the programing on NPR, lead to ideas in that same way. I could credit much to Mary Shelley, as my primary approach to creating sculpture revolves around putting things together in a considered way, from parts that are not highly valued or are 'dead'... I call it 'the Frankenstein method.'


I get pumped looking at a number of different artists and other sources...

For formal qualities in sculpture: Richard Deacon, Isamu Noguchi, Franz West, H.C. Westermann Robert Stackhouse, Tony Cragg, Ursula von Rydinsvard, Anish Kapoor, Eduardo Chillida, Bill Woodrow (transformed domestic appliances), David Nash, Antony Gormley, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, Jene Highstein's installation at the Mattress Factory, and still my all-time favorite for delicious forms, Martin Puryear.

Amazing installation artists/new genres: Ann Hamilton, Christian Marclay, Cornelia Parker, Juan Muñoz, Rachel Whiteread, Christo and Jean-Claude, Olafur Eliasson, Wim Delvoye, Barry McGee, Walter deMaria, Michael Heizer, Roxy Paine, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (especially his measuring-tape installation), Los Carpinteros, Diller + Scofidio (Mural), Ant Farm, Henrique Oliviera

Kinetic art: Yves Tanguy (Homage to New York, etc.), Arthur Ganson (literally everything), Daniel Rozin (Wooden Mirror), Jonathan Schipper.

Animation/film: Jan Svankmajer (Alice and everything else), William Kentridge, Michel Gondry, Peter Fischli and David Weiss (The Way Things Go), Wes Anderson, Akira Kurosawa, P.T. Anderson, David Lynch, Coen Brothers, Hayao Miyazaki, Ki-duk Kim (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, my favorite movie of all time).

Painters: Edward Hopper, Rothko for color; Franz Klein for form; Neo Rausch, Phillip Guston, Cy Twombly and Basquiat for both; Lucio Fontana for transcending painting; Francis Alys for painting as performance medium, and beyond.

Other art influences: Duchamp (the champ), Rauschenberg (large cardboard pieces and Combines), Piero Manzoni, Bruce Nauman, Kurt Schwitters (collage and Merzbau).

Ousiders: Henry Darger, Jeff McKissack (the Orange Show), Cleveland Turner aka the Flower Man, Joseph Cornell [since I didn't know what other category to put him in].

Sound: Alvin Lucier (i am sittiing in a room), Pauline Oliveros (Deep Listening).

Writers: Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Edith Hamilton, Bill Bryson, Edward Gorey, Bill Waterson, Gary Larson, Maurice Sendak.

Art Movements: Surrealism (my earliest entry-point into art--Dali and Magritte), Dada, Arte Povera, earth art, guerilla art, handyman/DIY art.

If I had to really narrow down to a few most-favorite artists: Tim Hawkinson (mad scientist), Janine Antoni (visionary genius), and Gordon Matta-Clark (inventor of anarchitecture)... they blow my mind.


What's next for Patrick Renner?

Probably more of the same, but hopefully also some of something completely unexpected, a level up... or two or three. Travel to a lot of places I've never been but always wanted to go. The opportunity to create art in new locations I've not yet seen.


What do you want people to know about your work? 

I like to share it with people. Without feedback from others (whether I know them or not) it's really's just not the same if I can't experience art with others. I'm single-lingual, in the sense of what I can speak, but I approach life from the theory that art is a visual language which has the power to transcend what two people could ordinarily communicate through spoken word alone. It's the language of something deeper, internal, and unspoken through other means. A perfectly imperfect means of communication in that it is completely subjective and individual, yet simultaneously universally understood across space and time, by anyone. Heavy stuff, and also completely light, joyful, ephemeral.


Copyright Houston Makerspace, LLC 2013.  Background images by Marisa Brodie and Alex Barber.