Major new exhibition at AMoA puts focus on the art of architecture
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This MirĂ³ Rivera Architects rendering is in Amarillo Biennial 600.

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

The latest biennial exhibition at Amarillo Museum of Art will focus on a type of art not commonly thought of as something that hangs on walls.

Amarillo Biennial 600: Architecture will open Friday with 7 p.m. artafterdark party at the museum, 2200 S. Van Buren St., featuring a talk by juror Rand Elliott at 7:15 p.m., music by Amarillo-based Americana band Comanche Moon at 8 p.m. and food from the I Don't Know Sports Bar & Grill food truck.

Elliott, a distinguished architect in Oklahoma City, chose 61 works to put on view from more than 500 entries that came from a 600-mile radius of Amarillo. But talking him into the job was a bit of a struggle, Elliott said.

"I told (Alex Gregory, AMoA curator of art), 'You need to know something up front. If you're looking for someone who follows the trends, I'm the wrong person. ... I'm sort of a stray dog'," Elliott said. "Alex said that's perfect."

Gregory wanted someone who viewed architecture as art, a belief to which Elliott wholeheartedly subscribes.

"Architecture is probably one of the most common art forms there is," Elliott said. "It may not be recognized as such, but every time a building goes up, it's a sculpture with windows.

"It is the most public of the arts," he said.

The problem is, Elliott said, "often (buildings) are boring. Probably 90 percent of the time, they are boring."

But when done right, "great buildings are transportive," he said. "They transport you to another experience."

That's what Elliott was looking for in selecting the works for the Amarillo Biennial.

"What I did initially was to go through all of them several times and determine which ones really seemed to resonate with me," Elliott said. "I tended to want to see the visuals before I read the (artist descriptions). ... I just wanted to react to them."

Among the qualities Elliott said he looked for were a search for atmospheric solutions, exploration of light, honest and personal responses by the artists toward their works, a push beyond mere imagery and a willingness to explore materials, emotion and typically bland infrastructure.

"I think it's going to be full of ideas, in terms of what architecture does and how it fits into art," Gregory said. "It's a diverse exhibition. There are more conceptual ideas of projects that haven't been realized, that will be theoretical. The installations also will be interesting. We have one room-sized installation. It's outside the scope of a typical art exhibition, for sure."

Friday's party also will let visitors do their own building, whether with sundaes, toothpicks or Legos. Admission is free for members and $25 for nonmembers.

The museum will host several other activities while the exhibition hangs through Oct. 1.

Free walking and trolley tours of downtown Amarillo will take place at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. July 29 in a partnership with Center City of Amarillo. The tours will leave from Amarillo Community Market, which that week will be held in the Santa Fe Building parking lot, 900 S. Polk St.

An AMoA Family Fun Day from noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 12 at the museum will feature children's activities centered around architecture.

And the museum, in partnership with Panhandle PBS, will screen PBS documentaries on architecture from noon to 1 p.m. in September. Films include 10 Buildings That Changed America on Sept. 12, American Masters — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future on Sept. 19 and 10 Homes That Changed America on Sept. 26.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free. Call 806-371-5050.



Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.