Laurie Frick’s new installation on Lamar Boulevard is adding to Austin’s growing assemblage of world-class public art
by Margaret Williams
Photographs by Phillip Rogers
The Lamar Boulevard underpass near 5th Street — who would have thought? This underdog of a site has recently been given the full Art in Public Places (AIPP) treatment by artist Laurie Frick, and the result is nothing short of joyful. The concrete retaining walls, built in 1959 to help support the overhead railroad bridge, cover 12,000 square feet of surface space and, depending on your commute, are one of the most visible and highly trafficked passageways in all of Austin. Architect Carl Trominski first gave the space a lift in 2003 with “Moments,” where painted concrete squares, along with reflective blue signs, were used to symbolize both the urban and natural spaces within our city. Then, in 2005, Magda Sayeg, with Trominski’s permission, yarn-bombed the reflective signs, further hoping to engage the community with this utilitarian site.
Today, after an exhaustive search and selection process by AIPP, and as part of Tempo 2018 (the annual program commissions artists to create installation suitable for outdoors), Frick has infused the densely packed urban passageway with new life thanks to her “Data Tells a Story.” The artist, who is known for creating colorful abstractions based on data patterns, has found a way to vibrantly and thoughtfully celebrate Austin’s yearly visitors, all while giving Austin’s drivers, pedestrians, and bikers another compelling opportunity to interact with contemporary art.
Frick worked for two weeks this past September, alongside painters Blue Way and William Tucker, in order to cover the concrete in a high-pigment acrylic paint. Once bright-blue paint was applied to the full 12,000 square feet, this unifying swath of color was accentuated by brightly painted abstract data lines, pulled from the City of Austin’s stats on its annual 25 million visitors. These undulating lines correspond with the overhead signs that have been wrapped by textile artist Sheri Bingham of Iron Thread Design. The panels conceptually reference Austin’s most beloved (and most Instagrammed) murals. Frick explains that she was encouraged daily by passersby as she worked and says, “The whole installation has reminded me how warm and generous people in Austin can be.”