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James Turrell Skyspace

Happy Solstice everyone. This seems somewhat solstice appropriate. While I was working on my friend’s project in San Francisco, I went by the James Turrell skyspace at the De Young several times. Titled Three Gems, it’s a little dome with a hole in the roof for viewing the sky. The acoustics are very cool and, after you sit for a while, the blue sky showing through the aperture seems just as much a physical thing as the concrete roof.

The feeling of the space, staring up at the sky, reminds me of the giant Cor-ten double-moebius by Richard Serra that I posted about a couple of years ago. There’s a nice photo on the De Young site that shows the aperture, the circle of cast light, the doorway, and the stone circle in the center of the space all together in a single photo without too much lens distortion, but I also like the simple flattened image of the aperture when it is stripped of context. It feels quite abstract and flattened in person, too, after you stare up at it for a while.

A great long article about Turrell.

Goldsworthy’s Clay Works for Runnymede

These are my photos of the Andy Goldsworthy piece at Runnymede. I kept them separate from the last post in part because I didn’t want a single post with 35 photos, but also because his work really does contrast with the rest of the sculptures on the property. He is the only land artist in the collection, and his is the only work that was designed and built onsite, with materials from the site; he and the Runnymede staff made the clay with soil dug from the side of the road there at Runnymede, and then they used that excavation, resembling a slump in the road cut, as part of the piece. Also his is the one most clearly about negative space, not just the negative space inside the pots but also the negative space of the land itself; all of the other sculptures are basically an object placed on the land, but his takes your eye down inside that land. And his is the only one that is really a sequence: you see the first pot and then another and another and it builds into a little narrative as you walk along the trail. In some ways, I think the Runnymede collection as whole does this — your landscape experience builds out of what you’ve seen and your anticipation for what the next sculpture will be — but the Goldsworthy does this on its own. Most people liked it; some folks were not sure what to think of it, finding it very subtle or very much like a drainage pipe; a majority of people had heard of Goldsworthy and many were there specifically to see his piece, but fewer had seen Rivers and Tides than I expected; a few people power-walked past without even noticing it was there.

I’m not sure if you are supposed to see it from the bottom or the top. The lower pots are the most cracked and on top of the land, and gradually they become more intact and more embedded in the soil as you go up, ending with the final one sunk in the ground where they dug the soil for the clay. But there’s an argument for starting at the top and walking along as the emerge and become more fragmented, as well. Personally, I liked it from the bottom, so that’s the order I’m doing. The whole sequence is below. (more…)

Runnymede Sculpture Farm

Early Forms by Tony Cragg

This past weekend I was a sculpture docent at the Runnymede Sculpture Farm in Woodside. Runnymede (also written up here, with an interactive map of the property here) is a large private property with over a hundred outdoor sculptures; it’s rarely open to the public and then usually just for guests at non-profit fundraising events.

This weekend’s event was the 50th anniversary celebration for the Committee for Green Foothills, an open space advocacy group on the peninsula. Personally, I hadn’t heard of the CGF, but the Student Conservation Association, who I have worked for in the past, was organizing volunteers and I jumped at the chance to see the property. I don’t generally think of myself as a huge sculpture person, but I knew that Runnymede has an Andy Goldsworthy piece, and I’ve caught glimpses of some of the sculptures from the freeway on my way to Woodside. I’ve now done enough sculpture posts to have a sidebar category for sculpture so maybe I’m more of sculpture guy than I thought.

Blue Gate, Leaning Ring, and Two Arms Akimbo by Sam Perry

I ended up being the docent for the Andy Goldsworthy piece on the property. I took photos of it, but there are a lot of them and it’s far from the first piece that you see on the property, so I’m going to post them separately in a few days. In the mean time, I have a bunch of other photos from the property, posted below. (more…)

Andy Goldsworthy’s Stone River

I almost included this in my post about the Richard Serra sculpture at the Stanford museum, but it seemed like it should get its own post. It’s Stone River, one of several Andy Goldsworthy pieces in the Bay Area. The others are Drawn Stone at the De Young museum and Spire in the Presidio. This one is my favorite of the three. I love the snakelike form and the stylized coping stones. Vertical coping stones along the top of a wall are common, especially in Europe, but I’ve never seen them quite like this. It’s all built from rubble the university saved after the earthquakes of 1989 and 1906, 128 tons of stone, 320 feet long.

The whole thing is set into the ground with the top of the wall at grade. Because the color of the stone and the dirt match so closely, it sort of feels like someone took a big scoop of dirt and compressed it into the stone for the wall. I like to see how far I can get walking along the top (not very far).

Richard Serra’s Sequence

For my first bit of culture in the new year, I saw the Richard Serra installation at the Stanford museum. I can’t say enough how much I liked it. Richard Serra can be a bit hit or miss in my limited experience, but this one is great, a big moebius-like double figure-eight, two open circular spaces surrounded by a narrow walkway. At first I thought Sequence was an odd name, but watching people walk through it, I realized that there is an actual sequence to the piece, that everyone does the same thing in the same order. Everyone looks at the walls in the first open circle, then they walk through the outer figure-eight which has a disorienting feel as the walls sinuously narrow and widen, then in the second open space people stare up at the sky, and then when they walk back again through the outer figure-eight they tend to keep looking upwards at the sky. You can feel it change from an object to a space around you.

There’s a slideshow with some great photos at Stanford University News and a time-lapse of the installation at Daily Serving. It’s going to be at the Stanford museum for five years and then it will move to the SFMOMA to a new wing that is under construction, but this time of year, with the sun lower in the sky so you can look up and not be blinded, is a good time to see it.

The Tree Museum

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

While I’m posting about the value of trees, here is someone who really values his trees. Swiss landscape architect and tree collector Enzo Enea has created what he calls a tree museum for his collection. Explains Enea:

“This is a collection of trees I’ve gathered over a span of about 20 years. They come from construction sites; they would have been cut down to make way for new buildings. I needed to build a space to display them all and I wanted the trees to be seen as objects, so I set them off against sandstone.”

Inhabitat has details of the museum, World Landscape Architect has a video interview, and Arch Daily has photos of many of the trees. It reminds me of the work of Myoung Ho Lee, who makes photos of trees with a giant canvas hanging behind them. Lee’s work showed up on various blogs last year, including DryStoneGarden; the tree museum seems to be getting a similar, well-deserved run. Some of the trees are very cool, including one that is full of staples from decades of serving as the town bulletin board.

I really like the combination of the walls and stone, and if I lived just a little closer to Zurich, I’d go check it out. There are few things in the world better than a tree with a backdrop that showcases its character.

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

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