HMRC Thursday: Parsons’ Bricks Attract National Attention, 1957

This didn’t start out to be about bricks but quickly wound its way over that direction. I found this set of pictures in the collection of Houston Post negatives downtown at the HMRC. The first one in the envelope was of Rice art professor David Parsons welding something. My first reaction was to wonder not what he was doing but where he was doing it. It doesn’t look at all familiar:

The next image in the batch immediately cleared up both issues. He was working on one of the two large sculptures he did for the new science buildings. I believe this is the one for Geology. It hadn’t occurred to me that they would have been executed on site but they were so big it makes sense. Both of these sculptures are now long gone and I have never found a single picture of either one of them. This is partly my fault as the one by the east staircase of  Biology was still there as of about fifteen years ago and I failed to take a photo when I had the chance. If you happen to have one I’d love to know about it, partly to assuage my guilt.

The last picture finally gets us to some bricks. Here’s Parsons examining one of the  bricks he made for the buildings, with the mold in his hands no less. I’m guessing this is Anderson Biology:

And a Thresher article explains how and why he did it:

Bonus: In January, 2017 the St. Joe Brick guy brought samples for the new performing arts building. I caught them over by the Humanities Building. Whatever they picked is what’s currently sitting out in the parking lot.

Extra Bonus: We’re doing renovations at my house and there’s pile of them in my driveway too.

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12 Responses to HMRC Thursday: Parsons’ Bricks Attract National Attention, 1957

  1. almadenmike says:

    I wonder which “coast to coast color T.V. program” featured Parson’s work.

  2. almadenmike says:

    According to this plea in the Jan-Feb 1976 Sallyport (Vol. 31,No.4 – https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/99537/sallyport-vol-31-no04.pdf), even David Parsons did not have any photos of those mobiles:

    > > >
    Assistant Professor of Fine Arts David Parsons is desperate; maybe Rice alumni can help him.

    Two pieces of contemporary sculpture by Parsons were hanging in the east-end stairwells of the Biology and Geology buildings when, in 1960, Hurricane Carla blew into town. The strong winds battered the sculpture, leaving both pieces damaged, one seriously. Today Parsons finds himself without a single photograph of the two pieces intact.

    Parsons’s works were the subject of much attention when they were hung in 1957. Each gold and copper sculpture hung 38 feet from the ceiling. Even in damaged condition, they are impressive features of the buildings they adorn.

    According to Parsons, many photographs have been taken of the two pieces; many have been taken by students and their parents. But until Parsons can locate such photographs, the catalogue of his work remains sadly incomplete.

    If alumni have photographs of one or both of the hanging sculptures, Professor Parsons would appreciate hearing about it. He may be reached c/o the Department of Fine Arts, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, 77001.
    < < <

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Wow! I’m amazed by this.They seem to have been striking pieces. What I remember of the one by Biology was how complicated it was and also how delicate for such a big thing. Unfortunately it was much loved by the campus pigeons.

      • almadenmike says:

        I just looked though the next year’s worth of Sallyports, and I didn’t see any followup mention of an alum (or parent or anyone else) having given Parsons any photos of the mobiles. Sigh.

  3. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    The brick with the squiggly line represents a seismogram and is in the geology building.

  4. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    Or maybe the sutures on a brachiopod fossil.

  5. Bill says:

    After taking a second up close look, it’s not a seismogram.

  6. mattnoall says:

    If I remember correctly Space Science also had some sculpted bricks. The one design I can remember is a spiral galaxy.

  7. Don Johnson says:

    I met with an older David Parsons because we overlapped as WRC associates. He was a very interesting person. I enjoyed talking to him a lot!

  8. Melissa, We have a ” wave” brick in the Rice Archives. Don’t know if it is a Parsons brick or not. Ask Lee about it.

    Always interesting. You have the most fun job in the world! Thanks,Cornelia

  9. I remember Parson’s bricks. I took one of the required art classes for Architects from him. I still have the sculpture I created sitting on my piano. He was a masterful sculptor. I also had the privilege of taking a geology class in the Geology Building and admiring his bricks every time I went to class. I loved his sculpture class.

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