Archive for the Site Work Category

Bright Lights, Big(ger) City: Bay Lights Goes Live

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Public Art, Site Work with tags , , , , , , , on March 6, 2013 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER
© Liz Hager, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Last night I gathered with a few friends at the Ferry Building on the patio outside Boulette’s Larder, to witness the official lighting of the Leo Villareal project on the Bay Bridge. Mille grazie to Lori, who set us at a table in the heart of primo viewing real estate. We shared a picnic and some wine, as the crowd and storm clouds slowly enveloped us.

Bay Lights—The Bay Bridge unadorned  ©Liz Hager 2013

Bay Lights—The Bay Bridge unadorned ©Liz Hager 2013

Long before the official “lights on,” the atmosphere was charged with anticipation. Thousands of people gathering, conversing (Christo came up a lot), waiting patiently, as the drizzle turned into a downpour. The concentration of ions! The absolute wonder of of it all was that we had amassed not for an Obama speech, a Lady Gaga concert, a SF Giants parade, but for a WORK OF ART. As an artist, I experienced a truly a thrilling moment when the bridge went live and the crowd cheered heartily.

What a star Bay Lights is! 25,000 twinkly lights programmed in dynamic water-related themes—fish, reflective patterns, and wave forms undulated along the bridge’s spans. The ebb and flow of the rain added the perfect theme-based notes to the evening.

Bay Lights—The Ferry Bldg nods to the bridge ©Liz Hager 2013

Bay Lights—The Ferry Bldg nods to the bridge ©Liz Hager 2013

I will always refer to this work affectionately as “tiny bubbles,” for the first blast of lights, which floated up the bridge cables like bubbles in a champagne glass. Kudos to the private consortium who raised major funding for the piece—it is a fitting congratulatory toast to our city by the bay.

Bay Lights—A crowd gathers at Ferry Bldg ©Liz Hager 2013

Bay Lights—A crowd gathers at Ferry Bldg ©Liz Hager 2013

The bridge will be lit for 2 years. As we left the site last night, still basking in the glow of those light-emitting diodes, all we could think about was how sad a day it will be for us when the bridge returns to unadorned darkness.

Though the Villareal Bridge (maybe our bridge will acquire a proper noun through all of this?) does not rank as the largest public art project in the US (that honor may belong to Christo’s Gates), for us this is a big deal, a bona fide celebrity art piece. Along with SFMOMA expansion for the Fisher collection of contemporary art and the Andy Goldsworthy Presidio and de Young projects, Bay Lights demonstrates how San Francisco is inching ever closer to recognition as a destination spot for art.

I hope the success of this project encourages the SF art community to step up the level of its commitment with respect to nurturing and promoting locally-grown artists. One day we may not have to import a New Yorker to make our celebrity art piece.

Bay Lights, Bikers waiting in the rain

Bay Lights—Bikers waiting in the rain ©Liz Hager 2013

Wider Connections

Venetian Red—“Programming the Cosmos”
Bay Lights project website
Leo Villareal

Venetian Red in Tuscany: Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri

Posted in Contemporary Art, Female Artists, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Sculpture, Site Work, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by Liz Hager

Editor’s Note: During the month of June, Venetian Red posts from Italy, as well as from San Francisco.

Daniel Spoerri, Grass Sofa, 1985-93

By LIZ HAGER

Daniel Spoerri’s delightful sculpture park lies just past Seggiano on the country road to Castel del Piano. Filled with contemporary art, Il Giardino provides a refreshing respite from the days upon end one spends in Tuscany viewing 13th century altarpieces. Respite, that is, if one has the good fortune to find Il Giardino. Even armed with a detailed map and explicit directions, this visitor nearly missed it. The spider web of poorly-marked roads that criss-crosses the area easily confounds even the most experienced of navigators. On the verge of making what I was sure was another in a sequence of wrong turns, I noticed, less than 100 meters up the road, two large but tasteful signs announcing the garden.  And, of course, the entrance was exactly where the directions said it would be. . .

Spoerri (born 1930) was born Daniel Isaac Feinstein in Romania and emigrated with his mother to Switzerland in 1942.  The artist is best-known for his “snare-pictures,” sets of objects (such as table settings) found in chance positions, which he affixes together on boards for posterity. In fact, Spoerri has produced a wide body of work, which generally has its artistic roots in Dadaism.

He opened the garden in 1997, but it is still off the beaten track for English-speaking visitors (though German and Italians seem to know it). Think of Il Giardino as a scaled-down version of Storm King—a network of paths, fields, and forested knolls punctuated by about 100 pieces of sculpture. Spoerri is of course well-represented by perhaps two dozen works, including the 1991 very clever Circle of Unicorns and Chamber No. 13, Hotel Carcasonne, Rue Mouffetard 24, Paris 1959-1965, a full-size fun-house-like reconstruction in bronze of the room in which he wrote An Anecdoted Topography of Chance. But he has also filled the park with many other artists, most of whom, though well-known in Europe, might be new to American visitors. (Nam June Paik, Jean Tinguely, and Meret Oppenheim are exceptions.) Swiss-born Eve Aeppl is well-represented by scores of her “extraterrestian” busts, but the park also includes “one-offs” from artists like Roberto Barni (figures on seesaw); Olivier Lucerne (whimsical gaggle of concrete geese); and Italian Giampaolo di Cocco (astartling and sobering Ars Moriendi, which consists of elephant carcasses).

My favorite piece at Il Giardino has to be Israeli artist Dani Karavan‘s site work Adam and Eve. The sliced and gilded trunk of an olive tree creates an abstract pas de deux that speaks to deep layers of symbolism, which are all the more enriched by the work’s siting in Tuscany. Perhaps it was just that they had colonized my subconscious, but I couldn’t help but think of Adam and Eve as a contemporary echo of all those 13th century altarpieces.

Wider Connections

Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri
Daniel Spoerri images
Daniel Spoerri: Coincidence As Master

Dark Day Picks

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Liz Hager, Painting, Sculpture, Site Work with tags , , on April 20, 2009 by Liz Hager

On Mondays Venetian Red celebrates the day of the week when galleries and museums are closed. Every Monday we highlight a few current exhibitions, new installations, or art world tidbits. Get a jump on a week filled with art.

John Berggruen, 228 Grant Street SF—new work from Mark di Suvero

lucky-rapp

Reeves Gallery—Lucky Rapp “A Piece of My Mind” (through April 25)

SF Museum of Craft and Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Lane, SFInside/Outside, Artist’s Environments

San Francisco’s Upper Crust

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Public Art, Sculpture, Site Work with tags , , , , on February 18, 2009 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER
© Liz Hager, 2009. All Rights Reserved

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All photos in this post—Patrick Dougherty, Upper Crust, 2009, willow branches, Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza, San Francisco (photos ©Liz Hager).

In the dead of a West Coast winter, when violent squalls relentlessly pummel us for days on end, any hint of gentler spring is a welcome thing. Thanks to the San Francisco Arts Commission and artist Patrick Dougherty, the sycamore trees at the Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza (between City Hall and the Library) are already bursting with new growth. Through the magic of arboreal hair extensions, Dougherty has enhanced the pollarded trees with glorious crowns of willow saplings woven into fanciful swirling shapes. Huge hats, as the title of the piece—Upper Crust—suggests. The finished piece is a site-specific sculpture that runs roughly 150 long and eight feet high. It is such a convincingly natural integration that a pedestrian passing the installation work last Friday asked this VR contributor whether the trees grew this way. If only!

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The sapling weave is Dougherty’s signature style. In the case of Upper Crust, the finger- to wrist-sized willow saplings (supplied by Pescadero Farm) were assembled in a process not unlike the one described by the artist about a previous work:

The first phase is to harvest some bigger saplings which I put firmly into the ground to serve as a structural base. Next I imagine my sticks as lines with which to draw, and I pull piles of young saplings through these structural supports. This builds up a beautiful surface which looks much like a line drawing on a sheet of paper. Finally I “erase” or hide the blemishes with flourishes of very small sticks.

Actually, beyond the artist these large pieces require a small crew (often local volunteers) to execute. SFAC first presented Dougherty with a bunker-style building on Chrissy Field. The artist saw too many serious logistical problems with that site, and the project relocated to Alioto Piazza. Actually, the city may have benefited from the move. In 2006, Dougherty executed an ambitious and fanciful facade for the Max Azria boutique in LA. It’s difficult to imagine topping that in another venue, so perhaps San Francisco ended up with a really special Dougherty. Additionally, a striking and unusual “conversation piece” is good news for the underutilized Alioto Piazza.

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Upper Crust evokes natural objects—bird nests, hay stacks, cocoons, and beehives. But it also reminds us of man-made objects including unruly baskets, gnome hats, African huts, Hobbit houses, crone cottages, and even the Marie Antoinette (or Marge Simpson for that matter) coif. It cannot be coincidence that so many of the associations in Dougherty’s artwork hark back to childhood, as this is when the artist discovered his muse material: “Picking up a stick back then {i.e. in his childhood} and bending it seemed to give me big ideas, and I was able to capitalize on those childhood urges from long ago.”

Dougherty began his career making pedestal-size sculptures from sticks but his work quickly evolved to monumental scale. In part because they both fashion wood into natural forms, there will be the inevitable comparison of Dougherty to Andy Goldsworthy.  It would seem that wood is the only point on which the two converge. First, Goldsworthy works with a broad array of materials, while Dougherty works only with wood saplings. Further, Goldsworthy’s site works are all about impermanence. Even with his longer lasting structures—Spire in the Presidio or Stone River for example—the point is still the gradual decay (disappearance) of the piece, albeit centuries for certain materials.

Dougherty’s work is paradoxical. On the one hand, Upper Crust, like the shelter structures it conjures up, is a deliberate and methodical construction. On the other hand, it’s dynamic, all about movement.  A frenetic energy courses through Upper Crust. It’s as if a tornado had whisked through the allée, whipping the tree branches into disheveled peaks.  In this chaotic state, the work exudes agitation.

As a site-specific piece made from natural materials, Upper Crust is a unique in the world of public artwork.  It enlivens and invigorates what is for all intent an invisible public space.  One hopes that citizens will pause a few moments from their normal rush through (or around) Alioto Piazza to contemplate Dougherty’s work. . .  allow their imaginations, like those absent birds, to take flight.

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Upper Crust is one of a series of artworks in SFAC’s ongoing program for the plaza. The artwork will be in situ until November 2009.

Patrick Dougherty will talk about the work on Monday, February 23rd at 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM in City Hall (public welcome).

Wider Connections

Patrick Dougherty’s website

More Dougherty images

Out of the Cellar (video), Brittany

Arrival of materials truck

Manolo Valdés at Alioto Piazza

Venetian Red on Andy Goldsworthy

Childhood Dreams, the process of constructing a Patrick Dougherty

San Francisco Arts Commission

Mighty Impermanence in the Presidio—Andy Goldsworthy’s “Spire”

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contains Video Elements, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Public Art, Sculpture, Site Work with tags , , on December 3, 2008 by Liz Hager

In medieval times, a spire announced from afar the location of a church and, more important, its connection to heaven.  It’s not hard to grasp the ecclesiastical association in Andy Goldsworthy’s new piece in the Presidio; after all, it’s sited on a hill above the road and the pinnacle rises visually unobstructed some 90 feet above an open field of dirt.

Spire comes from the Anglo Saxon spir—spike or blade. Predominantly Gothic in architectural origin, the church spire became a symbol of the temporal power and wealth of its religious order (which undoubtedly preached resistance to these kind of earthly temptations). Spires communicated the arrogance of man, who audaciously taunted an Almighty God with the suggestion that human-made structures had mighty permanence. Of course it won’t be lost on many that The Presidio, once a seat of temporal might, is a most fitting locale for Goldsworthy’s iconic piece.

Visit “Spire” on a foggy afternoon as the wind has picked up. If you have the luck to be all alone on the site, you may find yourself thinking about ancient tribal rights. But as your gaze follows the poles to their receding point in the fog, you’ll probably be contemplating your absolute insignificance in the universe. Back down at ground level, however, there is something emotionally comforting in the fortress-like circle of trunks and deep furrows of their bark.

True to Goldsworthy’s artistic principal, “Spire” will not be permanent. With the passage of time the maturing fir and cypress forest planted around it will conceal the tower until it virtually disappears from view. At some point later in this century, the work may cease to exist altogether, as the wood rots, chunks fall off, and Presidio officials step in and disassemble it (government agencies being attuned to libel).

In “Spire, ” Goldsworthy has created the paradox of powerful impermanence. To paraphrase Somerset Maugham: let’s take delight in it while we have it.

Note: Don’t forget to see the free accompanying exhibit Goldsworthy at the Presidio, located in Bldg. 49, next door to the Officer’s Club.

Wider Connections:

Goldsworthy image round up

Venetian Red—”No River Runs Through It: Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone River” at Stanford”

What others are saying about “Spire”—

ChezNamasteNancy

Bay Area Art Quake

Echovar

Kenneth Baker

Philips Garden Blog

Venetian Red in Berlin: Festival of Lights

Posted in Architecture, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Site Work, Travel with tags , , , , on October 23, 2008 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

Festival of Lights (Photo ©2008 Liz Hager)

Every October in Berlin over the course of 12 days light artist Andreas Boehlke and his crew put  on a joyous show illuminating Berlin’s streets and monuments with spectacular designs. It attracts crowd participation. One night after dinner, we drove around the city looking for the show; by a stroke of luck our route took us by the Berliner Dom on Museum Island. The night was cold and windy. The cathedral was looking quite goth all a-glow with the fog swirling around it.

You can catch a hosted video filmed high above the events on Gendarmenmarkt; very entertaining even if you speak no German. Be sure to catch the first minute or so with the “Alex” (aka Alexander Platz) Fernsehturm (TV tower), one of Berlin’s famous landmarks. Then, if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, just scroll in to around 4:00 minutes for the crowd action.

You can catch the live action at the Brandenburg Gate on October 24 at 10pm (Berlin time) by clicking here.

The Dom Front Side (Photo ©2008 Liz Hager)

The Dom Back Side (Photos ©2008 Liz Hager)

Wider Connections

Festival of Lights website

Smithson’s Antediluvian Spiral Jetty

Posted in Artists Speak, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Site Work with tags , on September 25, 2008 by Liz Hager

Robert Smithson, “Sprial Jetty,” Great Salt Lake, Utah, 1970. (photo: George Steinmetz 2002)

Occasionally an artist does a better job than critics eliciting through words the majesty of a work of art.  In the paragraphs below extracted from a longer essay,  Robert Smithson poetically evokes the primordial forces that called his Spiral Jetty into being:

. . . About one mile north of the oil seeps I selected my site. Irregular beds of limestone dip gently eastward, massive deposits of black basalt are broken over the peninsula, giving the region a shattered appearance. It is one of the few places on the lake where the water comes right up to the mainland. Under shallow pinkish water is a network of mud cracks supporting the jigsaw puzzle that composes the salt flats.  As I looked at the site, it reverberated out to the horizons only to suggest an immobile cyclone while flickering light made the entire landscape appear to quake.  A dormant earthquake spread into the fluttering stillness, into a spinning sensation without movement. This site was a rotary that enclosed itself in an immense roundness. From that gyrating space emerged the possibility of the Spiral Jetty. . . 

. . . The scale of the Spiral Jetty tends to fluctuate depending on where the viewer happens to be. Size determines an object, but scale determines art. A crack in the wall, if viewed in terms of scale, not size, could be called the Grand Canyon. A room could be made to take on the immensity of the solar system. Scale depends on one’s capacity to be conscious of the actualities of perception. When one refuses to release scale from size, one is left with an object or language that appears to be certain. For me scale operates by uncertainty. To be in the scale of the Spiral Jetty is to be out of it. On eye leve, the tail leads on into an undifferentiated state of matter. One’s downward gaze pitches from side to side, picking out random depositions of salt crystals on the inner and outer edges, while the entire mass echoes the irregular horizons. And each cubic salt crystal echoes the Spiral Jetty in terms of the crystal’s molecular lattice. Growth in a crystal advances around a dislocation point, in the manner of a screw. The Spiral Jetty could be considered one layer within the spiralling crystal lattice, magnified trillions of times. 

Chemically speaking, our blood is analogous in composition to the primordial seas. Following the spiral steps we return to our origins, back to some pulpy protoplasm, a floating eye adrift in an antediluvian ocean. On the slopes of Rozel Point I closed my yes, and the sun burned crimson through the lids. I opened them and the Great Salt Lake was bleeding scarlet streaks. My sight was saturated by the colour of red algae circulating in the heart of the lake, pumping into ruby currents, no they were veins and arteries sucking up the obscure sediments. My eyes became combustion chambers churning orbs of blood blazing by the light of the sun. All was enveloped in a flaming chromosphere; I thought of Jackson Pollock’s Eyes in the Heat. . . Swirling within the incandescence of solar energy were sprays of blood. My movie would end in sunstroke. Perception was heaving, the stomach turning. I was on a geologic fault that groaned within me. Between heat lightning and heat exhaustion the spiral curled into radiations. Rays of glare hit my eyes with the frequency of a Geiger counter. Surely, the storm clouds massing would turn into a rain of blood.

(The Writings of Robert Smithson, edited by Nancy Holt, 1979)

 

Robert Smithson essays

Return of Spiral Jetty

No River Runs Through It: Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone River” at Stanford

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Public Art, Site Work with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2008 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER
goldsworthy-stone-river

Andy Goldsworthy, Stone River, 2002, 128 tons of sandstone, 320 feet (photo ©Andrew Alden)

An heir to the legacy of earthwork artists Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, Goldsworthy employs the materials of nature to create works that are all about the aesthetics of the natural world. Like Monet and his haystacks, Goldsworthy has returned to the Serpentine wall motif numerous times in an effort, like Monet I suppose, to uncover different “realities” in the form. “Stone River” has been fashioned from the sandstone blocks of buildings that toppled in the 1906/89 earthquakes. In his choice of materials, Goldsworthy has created a piece that compliments the dusty, arid field. The pattern created by the closely stacked blocks adds a pleasing tactile quality to site.   Goldsworthy has set the wall into a trench as if to emulate a riverbed. (Although it might be a dry one in this corner of the world.)  It’s a clever conceit that also serves to help the eyes follow the movement of the piece.   From a vantage point above the wall, one can plainly see both the pleasing undulation of the wall and the less pleasant slithering of a snake.

All of these elements conspire to push the piece from an architectural to a sculptural element. As a sculpture, it is beautifuly emblematic—one natural form (sandstone blocks) becomes another (a snake). Although not visible in the picture above, the wall has a “tail,” which descends into the earth. This provides a literal and metaphoric “grounding” for the piece, but it’s also a whimsical detail that keeps the work from becoming too self-consciously “artsy.”

The real point of the piece, I think, lies in Goldsworthy’s choice of material.  With these “building blocks” he has tapped into the powerful cycle of destruction and rebirth—the blocks, originally hewn by man from natural elements, will disintegrate over time.   Thus, the wall in its trench becomes an archeological site, reminding us that the human hand, though ever present in the landscape, emerges and submerges at the will of nature.

Wider Connections

Goldsworthy at Cass Sculpture Foundation

Venetian Red—“Mighty Impermanence in the Presidio—Andy Goldsworthy’s “Spire”

Storm King wall

Andy Goldsworthy in Smithsonian Magazine

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