Archive for Patrick Dougherty

From the VR Archives: Lay of the Land

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Painting, People & Places, Photography, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2013 by Liz Hager

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

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David Milne, Black and White Trees and Buildings, 1915/6
Oil on canvas, 51.5 x 61.5 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Reading landscape painter Ian Robert’s Creative Authenticity  reminded me of our post on David Milne, little known I fear outside Canada. Northern Exposure: The Landscapes of David Milne.

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Patrick Dougherty, Upper Crust

Patrick Dougherty, Upper Crust, 2009,
Willow branches,
Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza, San Francisco

That led me to VR coverage of Patrick Dougherty’s Upper Crust,  fanciful organic site structures, staged in the Civic Center’s Aliota Piazza: Patrick Dougherty in San Francisco.

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Platon, Silvio Berlusconi

Platon, Silvio Berlusconi, 2009
Photograph

And finally to the political landscape and Platon’s photographic portraits of world leaders: Eye of the Beholder: Platon’s Portraits of Power.”

Bay Area FAV—George Rickey at the Main Library

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contains Video Elements, Liz Hager, Public Art, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2009 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

We’ve hunkered down into an indeterminately long recession. We’re tightening our belts, in the process shifting our discretionary dollars to less expensive entertainment options or forgoing some culture/entertainment items altogether.

Currently, most Bay Area art museums charge entrance fees in the double digits (the Oakland Museum is a notable exception). Not more than the climbing prices of movie tickets, to be sure, and still a deal, when you consider the amount of content that is available for the price.  And yet, with scores of art galleries closed or closing, the opportunities to consume art are shrinking. These are exactly the kind of times that ought to make art lovers appreciate San Francisco’s commitment to art in public spaces.

Venetian Red has covered some pieces in the “public domain,”  both permanent works (such as Michael Stutz’s Peplos Kore at SF Airport) and temporary installations (such as Patrick Dougherty’s Upper Crust resident in the Civic Center plaza until November). Today we initiate a more formal round up, periodically posting on the many of our Bay Area FAVs (aka Free Art Views).

George Rickey’s Double L Eccentric Gyratory sculpture (one of several versions he created) is located rather inauspiciously on the northwest corner of Larkin and Fulton at the edge of the Main Library’s footprint. Given the crowd of street habitués usually in residence on that corner, one might be forgiven for passing that point as quickly as possible, head down, etc. Still, we say, brave the crowd, pause and watch, Double L will make you forget (at least temporarily) its less beauteous surroundings.

One of two major American sculptors to make movement an integral part of his works (the other was Alexander Calder), Rickey produced kinetic sculptures as early as the 1950s and was the first to move his sculptures into outdoor environments. The stylistic influence of his early teachers Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant on Rickey’s later sculptural work seems self-evident; Rickey was heavily  interested in the geometric minimalism practiced by the Constructivists (e.g. Malevich, Tatlin, Gabo, et al.). He wanted to make public art that could be appreciated by people who understood the beauty of machines, although his machines don’t have a work purpose.

Double L is executed in Rickey’s signature style—braised and polished stainless steel geometric forms, whose movement is facilitated by a system of pendulums, fulcrums, rotors, gyros and pivots. Propelled only by the action of gravity and wind (lots of that in SF), the two giant heavy “L”s twirl almost inconceivably in effortless synchronicity, appearing to come close to, but never once colliding. (Of course this adds a lot of drama to the experience of viewing.)  After a few minutes in front of this sculpture,  you will realize that the pair is engaged in an ancient human rite, the courtship ritual.  It’s hard to believe that two large beams of steel could generate such a profound and ethereal experience.

Wider Connections

My SA Entertainment—“George Rickey’s moving sculptures make a stir in McNay retrospective”

Flickr—McNay retrospective

George Rickey in Indianapolis

Pink Martini—La Soledad

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

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