Day Trips: The Cistern, Houston

Houston’s former underground reservoir perfect canvas for light artist

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

"Carlos Cruz-Diez: Spatial Chromointerference" in the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern in Houston seems to twist and bend the 221 concrete columns of the underground reservoir like strands of stripped taffy. It is an optical illusion as the alternating colored lights change patterns and directions in the otherwise pitch black room.

The second site-specific art installation by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership in the cistern builds on the inventiveness and creativity of the debut show, Magdalena Fernández's "Rain" in 2016.

A former 15-million gallon drinking water storage tank, the inside of the cistern is shaped like a giant ravioli the size of 1.5 football fields populated with rows of 25-foot tall round columns. The inky dark environment is a canvas for the light and color artist. The giant room is dark, damp, and cool – literally and figuratively.

Far from being disorienting, the moving lines of color are soothing and relaxing. In the constantly shifting light the columns twist, the white boxes placed in the water-covered floor shimmer, and visitors on the walkway that circles the outer edge of the room are camouflaged.

Cruz-Diez first developed "Spatial Chromointerfence" in 1974 and updated it for this exhibit that runs through Jan. 13, 2019. A master of color and movement, the 94-year-old Venezuelan artist has a long relationship with the Museum of Fine Arts–Houston, and the University of Houston.

The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern in Houston was built in 1926, sprang a leak in 2004, and became a park in 2016. At 105 Sabine St., the unique public space is open for tours Wednesday through Sunday (Thursdays are free). Timed tickets must be secured in advance at

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Carlos Cruz-Diez, Spatial Chromointerference, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Magdalena Fernandez

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