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Sweeney remembered

James Johnson Sweeney was bigger than life. I mean, I knew him more through his work than other things, but the Museum then was just totally amazing. Those installations—the Picasso bathers, the Tinguely show, the Olmec head. I mean, that was a moment that no other city at that time could rival. It was really just extraordinary that somebody had that sort of imagination and would think about doing those works in there.

[As far as leaving Houston] he wasn’t happy here. It was much too small a pond for him. His wife didn’t want to live here and I think he was gone a great deal. I don’t think that the trustees then—who were thinking in this sort of long-range way—[saw]what Sweeney was doing. I remember a complaint from some friends of my parents who were involved at the Museum saying, “Well, Sweeney goes to New York all the time. In fact, goddamnit, he has his catalogs printed in New York. Look—here’s a Sweeney catalog and here’s another one. Does that really look like it was worth a trip to New York?” But that’s what he knew. He could only work in a certain level of quality, but it was great.

The institute for the arts

It’s not that the de Menils were not deliberate in what they did, but a lot of what they did was in response. I don’t think they might have done [these things] on their own. For example, Bill Camfield had just been hired by Jerry MacAgy—he came to work at the department [at St. Thomas]when Jerry died. The first two weeks of that really galvanized Dominique. She decided that instead of just helping to fund this department that she would run it. Bill would take care of the academic part and she would take care of the exhibitions, bring in the guests and all those other things that needed to be done. She said—and I’m sure other people would quote her—that she might very well have been happy to stay at St. Thomas. But John de Menil…we never talked about Black Mountain but I can’t believe that wouldn’t have been a model to some extent of what an art school could be like—and his concern at St. Thomas was that there was a very prescribed series of religion and philosophy courses that [might] keep potentially interesting students from coming to the University. And he said to the administration that they really needed to drop those things, or maybe they would not stay at St. Thomas. I think he was stunned when they said, “See you later.”

Just those two things brought the end of the art department and sent [the de Menils] to Rice. And at Rice I think as they got closer to their mission they realized they really wanted to do it on their own without having to explain anything to anybody—sort of like the Institute for Religion. So at Rice, it seemed like there was a necessary next step—I know that there was talk at one point when the Shepherd bequest was made to Rice, that there would be perhaps a fine arts building where there would be a Rice museum and the Shepherd School of Music and something else…and I think they just didn’t want to be partners in anything anymore. They wanted to do what they wanted to do.

The de menil house

When I was at St. Thomas after my junior year and senior year, John and Dominique really liked to have students around and we would be invited to dinners at their house—the Philip Johnson house—with artists, or to go out to dinner just after a show opened. Then we began to go over to the house a great deal, sometimes to work, sometimes to deliver things—I mean, we were employees, but we were also friends.

Turning off of San Felipe into that driveway was like going into a foreign country in the most amazing way. The architecture was different. The art was different. The food was different. The language was different. The smell was different. Everything about it was transporting and I think for all of us that house as much as anything got us all involved in art in a way. It was so freeing because there were no rules in a way. Things were beautiful or weren’t, and if they were beautiful, they were beautiful together. It was something we were all working toward on our own sort of individual levels that we could afford. You saw the degree to which art, architecture and design could really take over your life, and I think it’s a very significant place.

A postscript

I never felt any deprivation [in Houston]. I didn’t feel that things were provincial or any of that. They may have been, but there were examples of everything that was going on here and I guess the great luck was that we had access to it.

Karl Kilian was interviewed on September 13, 2006. You can listen to the interview here .

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
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What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
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what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
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Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
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Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
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Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Houston reflections: art in the city, 1950s, 60s and 70s. OpenStax CNX. May 06, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10526/1.2
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