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Pendent Boulders

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Lately my commute has been taking me past a collection of giant metal sculptures. It’s pretty dramatic. The first ones that catch your eye are figurative works, oversized humans kneeling or beseeching the sky behind chain link fencing and barbed wire, surrounded by cracked concrete and weeds and graffiti, but my favorites are these abstract ones with granite boulders hung from a metal framework. The suspended boulders have a certain energy. I’d like to scale the fence and climb on them, maybe swing around on the one on the chains, but no doubt that’s why there’s barbed wire. The yard is part of a large studio warehouse space that recently sold; the new owners reportedly intend to keep it going. The studio’s facebook page links to a new organization, formed after the Oakland warehouse fire, devoted to sustaining Oakland’s creative spaces. I hop this one sustains. It’s a highlight of the commute.

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Renaissance Sculpture Restoration

I’m not particularly interested in figurative renaissance sculpture but this is an interesting story. An important Renaissance sculpture, Tulio Lombardo’s Adam, fell over and shattered into twenty eight major pieces and hundreds of smaller fragments. Instead of quickly glueing it back together around a metal armature, the restoration team took took over a decade to painstakingly restore it using a reversible adhesive and pins in only the ankle and a knee. Quite a process. There’s a cool time-lapse of the restoration here.

Noguchi Museum Miscellany

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These are some of the other works that caught my eye at the Noguchi Museum. He worked in an impressive variety of styles and stone, with interesting variations within each style, and it was great seeing them together in one museum, seeing the continuity and the juxtapositions. In the last post, I showed some of the large basalts which were mostly concentrated in the first room of the museum. These other ground floor rooms hold work from a broader selection of time periods, styles, and types of stone. There’s also a room upstairs with works that are generally smaller in scale and feel more domestic.

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These polished marble works use a tensioned cable on the inside to hold them together. If you click on the photo above, you can faintly see that the weird, striped, bone-shaped sculpture has a stone plug filling the access hole for the cable.

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The floor pieces are some of my favorites. I love the one below, Another Land. A similar one titled This Place is also in this style.

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More photos are below. (more…)

Basalt at the Noguchi Museum

The highlight of my trip to New York was a visit to the Isamu Noguchi museum. I’m a big fan of Noguchi. I don’t love every single thing he made, but all of it is interesting and some of it is awesome. And I loved the museum. As they say in the video, it’s quite unique, a museum founded, designed, and curated by the artist.

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I was there at the perfect time to see the cherry tree in the museum’s garden, but, unfortunately, workers were renovating the perimeter wall around the garden and the sculptures were hidden under plywood boxes, my one regret about the visit. Two of the works I most wanted to see, The Well (Variation on a Tsukubai) and Core (Cored Sculpture), were under the plywood. Photographer Tibo has beautiful photos of the garden as well as wide-angled shots inside the museum, worth checking out, they’re much better than my efforts with my phone camera. I’ll have to go back some day when the trees are in leaf and with a proper camera. It looks like a great garden space.

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Most of these photos are from the first main room of the museum. The room is somewhat open to the elements, with an open light well in one corner and openings along the top of the walls like unfinished clerestory windows. These sculptures are from later in Noguchi’s career when we was working with monoliths of Japanese basalt. The natural patina of the stone is an important element of all of these works, so it’s a nice touch letting the weather into the room so the stone can continue to age.

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The world’s largest pestle, titled The Stone Within. Such a beautiful contrast between the patina’d surface, the worked surface, and the polished surface.

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There are several in which he more or less drew on the surface with his chisel.

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A few of the stones were claimed from Japanese masons who were splitting them with plug and feathers. I love how he turned this one into something like a moai.

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In this one, from the same time period but set in one of the rooms with more varied work, he carved and polished around the masons’ plug-and-feather holes. He titled it To Bring to Life, which is possibly a little grandiose but also shows the value he saw in the efforts of masons and sculptors.

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A series of sculptures with similar form shows what led him towards working with basalt. Looking at the first of them, a white marble titled The Roar from 1966, the form shows perhaps a neck and a head tilted back, shouting to the sky; the drill marks might be hair or action lines, though of course I could be reading it wrong. In any case, it has a range of finish textures — rough, chiseled, drill-scarred, polished — but they don’t have the same impact as they would in a more interesting stone such as basalt.

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Next to it is an obsidian piece, Heart of Darkness from 1974, that adapts the same form to a stone with real character. The pale skin is the natural patina, the dark edges show the color of the breaks, and then the polished surface is a beautiful shiny black. It’s smaller than the marble, but probably the biggest piece of obsidian I’ve ever seen, and the contrast between the textures makes it much more powerful than the white marble. It’s one of my favorites in the museum.

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Give and Take from 1984, has a similar form again and the same range of finishes, but in basalt. To me it looks unfinished, but I can also guess how beautiful he found the natural surface.

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I took other photos which I’ll post fairly soon, but this seems enough for now. The basalts and the obsidian are some of my favorites, though I also like his floor pieces in granite and marble, his upright slate assemblages, his water table and various other things he made. Like I said, I’m a fan.

New Goldsworthy Wall at the Presidio

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… and back to posting about Andy Goldsworthy projects. He has a new wall at the Presidio in the Officer’s Club. He built a rammed earth wall with a half sphere of eucalyptus branches buried inside, then chipped away the wall to reveal the sphere. From a distance it has a nice graphic look, like a bas relief, and up close you can appreciate the method of construction. I haven’t seen this done before, but it’s simple and effective and seems replicable for a residential garden. It sometimes seems like a cliche to be a stoneworker and love Andy Goldsworthy’s work, but I need to just embrace the fact that he’s really good and does things exactly to my taste.

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There a short video and photos of him posing by the wall here.

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Wurrungwuri Sculpture

The Making of Wurrungwuri – Short Documentary from Brain in Hand Productions on Vimeo.

Two posts ago, I said Andy Goldsworthy (to his credit) might be over-represented in the stonework videos I find on the web and sometimes re-post here on this blog. So here’s a video of another artist who works with stone, Chris Booth from New Zealand. A lot of his work involves stone supported by a steel armature. I sometimes struggle to fully appreciate stone that is used that way — I’m more inclined towards things like his dry-stacked homage to New Zealand’s sea stacks — but I always find it intriguing. I’d need to see this sculpture, Wurrungwuri, in person to really judge it, but a great deal of intent and technical skill obviously went into its creation. There’s info about the design and the construction at the website for the project.

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