“Stop the Glare” Debate Still Continues

Unfortunately, the mediated talks between the Museum Tower and Nasher Sculpture Center did not conclude with a mutually agreed upon way to fix the tower’s highly reflective glass and resulting glare into the Center’s galleries and sculpture garden.

Museum Tower glare seen from inside Nasher garden(photo: Brandon Thibodeaux | The New York Times)

Museum Tower glare seen from inside Nasher garden
(photo: Brandon Thibodeaux | The New York Times)

As a Dallas resident, I’m concerned the debate will linger interminably, damaging both sides and our city’s reputation. Since the gag order lifted, the debate has been taken to the public arena – both locally and in the national press. From this, we know the Museum Tower rejected adding retractable louvers to their building. We also know that the Nasher can’t redesign the barrel-vaulted roof because this step doesn’t address the garden and will reduce the interior ambient light to an unacceptably dim level for viewing the art.

Dallas sun is tricky and requires special attention and materials.  Architect Renzo Piano and his team studied the Nasher site and sun’s path for a year before designing the current unique roof which diffuses the naturally harsh sunlight into a uniform, soft natural light and protects the art. Now, glare from Museum Tower’s reflective mirror-like surface causes dappled, polka-dot light in the afternoons, as seen in the photo below:

Artist: Rodin | “Age of Bronze”photo: Brandon Thibodeaux | The New York Times

Artist: Rodin | “Age of Bronze”
(photo: Brandon Thibodeaux | The New York Times)

It behooves the developer and owner, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund with $200 million invested to-date, to propose alternative solutions to their building that the Board of Trustees and the Nasher find acceptable. If the Museum Tower’s solution is do nothing except delay that would be very good to know.

As we wait for the next round, I have these thoughts:

  • The Museum Tower, whose name derives from its proximity to the Nasher’s world-class collection of modern and contemporary sculpture, will have trouble credibly promoting itself as a champion of the arts.
  • The stance taken by the Tower’s owner – which is basically “We don’t have to do anything to change our building” – continues to make it difficult for potential buyers to seriously consider purchasing a condominium.
  • A positive return on the Pension Fund’s investment looks less and less likely. Maybe they have already written-off succeeding with this property and don’t want to sink any extra funds.

A few weeks ago, the Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Jeremy Strick, and a group of Nasher supporters began public dialogue and outreach campaigns to ask people, like me and others like you, to write or talk with City Council representatives and Trustees on the Dallas Fire and Police Pension Fund expressing our point of view. Museum Tower should fix their building design to stop the glare emitted by the glass materials selected to cover the yet-to-be-completed residences.

Please click on the link in Jeremy’s “Call to Action” letter below to easily find your City Council person to contact. Post your support in a sentence or two and the “Call to Action” link on your Facebook page and other social media and talk with your friends about Museum Tower fixing their mirrored glass façade.

Dear Friends,

“Yesterday, 11 prominent Dallas civic leaders lent their voices to an Op Ed published in The Dallas Morning News. (Read full letter here) These leaders expressed pressing concern about the damage Museum Tower continues to inflict upon the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Arts District and the reputation of the city itself. They called upon the leadership of Museum Tower to fix their building by adopting the louver solution without further delay. This practical 100% solution would eliminate dangerous reflected light at its source, protecting the Nasher’s interior and exterior galleries.

Over the past 14 months, as this issue became known and stories about the damage Museum Tower is doing to its neighbors have appeared locally and nationally, many of you have asked us what you can do to encourage a positive resolution. If you live in the city of Dallas, I would ask you to make your Dallas city council representative aware of your opinion, whether by letter, email, or telephone. (Find your representative here) If you live outside of the city and care about Dallas’ cultural institutions, voicing your support and opinion to our elected officials is also welcome. The leadership of Museum Tower needs to recognize their responsibility to our community, and your council representatives can play an important role in resolving this matter .

I’d like to reaffirm that we at the Nasher are advocates for the development of the Arts District and support the goal of Museum Tower to add residencies to this neighborhood. Ray Nasher has given our community an incredible gift by building an unparalleled museum in the heart of the Dallas Arts District and making his extraordinary collection accessible to all. The Nasher is an invaluable educational, cultural and economic resource for the people of Dallas and visitors from around the world and we need your support and your voices to ensure its future contributions to the region.”

With thanks, as ever, for your interest and support,

Sincerely,

Jeremy

 

With this time of year full of travels, parties and activities, I’m taking a hiatus from blogging for the foreseeable future. I truly know it is the end of the year, because last week a Mother and Papa squirrel moved into my backyard “Wild Birds Unlimited” owl home to start breeding and a family. Happens every year like clockwork.

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Have a wonderful holiday season and to a happy 2013.

Meg

The Dallas Arts Community – It’s Pretty Fantastic

Looking back on last week, it reminds me once again that Dallas has matured into an interesting city with both breadth and depth in the arts – enriched by  a wonderful community of museums, galleries, philanthropists, developers, educators, artists and overlapping circles of networkers all of whom are open to sharing their talents. Here’s a snapshot….

MONDAY NIGHT – A MOVIE

Monday night was a déjà-vu event for two of my friends who are artists and aficionados of well-done independent or documentary films about artists.  Anita Horton recently wrote her weekly blog about the film gatherings she and others organized in the late 1990’s. She really missed these viewings. Coincidentally, another friend Elle Shuster, a jewelry designer and photographer, decided to organize a film group on Monday night. She wanted to see Spike Jonze’s The Fall again, and sent a viewing invitation which I extended (with permission) to Anita. More friends were made – the creative circle expands.

 

TUESDAY NIGHT – A LECTURE

I’ve had this particular Tuesday Evenings at the Modern on my calendar for months. In case you can’t tell from my previous blogs, I am a big Lucien Freud fan and have been to the Modern many times to see his portraits. Well, last Tuesday several friends and I carpooled over to Fort Worth to hear Martin Gayford, the British critic, writer, curator and subject of painting, “The Man in a Blue Scarf” (see image above).

Gayford traveled 60 miles from his home to Freud’s studio one to three times a week for six months. Freud, being attuned to slight variations in color and a stickler for consistency, required that the same pink shirt, blue scarf and other clothing be worn for each sitting. Gayford owned two blue scarves which looked the same to his eyes; but on arriving at the studio one night, Freud knew the blue was off, and asked if Gayford had worn the wrong scarf. He had.

I whole-heartedly recommend the next talk at the Tuesday Evenings at the Modern where the artist Bruce Nauman, a pioneer in many multi-media disciplines, will speak on November 13th at 7:00 PM. It’s free – get your ticket when the front desk opens at 5 PM.

And, notice the large (you can’t miss it) sculpture at the main entrance. The artist is Brooklyn-based KAWS and the piece is called “Companion (Passing Through).”

WEDNESDAY NIGHT – ANOTHER MOVIE

The Dallas Center for Architecture (DCFA), located on 1909 Woodall Rodgers near the Northwest corner of the soon-to-be opened Klyde Warren Park, hosted another Wednesday Film Series. Women in the Dirt: Landscape Architects Shaping our World won Best Feature Documentary in the 2011 Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. The paths of seven professional women, who are the grand dames in the field of landscape architecture and trendsetters in California, were traced. After the movie, Greg Brown, DCFA’s energetic Program Director, facilitated an engaging discussion.

 

THURSDAY NIGHT – NASHER’S AVANT-GARDE SOCIETY PARTY

One of my favorite special interest groups is the Avant-Garde Society (AGS) at the Nasher Sculpture Center. The AGS mission is to provide opportunities to learn more about modern and contemporary sculpture and architecture in a welcoming and informal environment. Thursday was the second year for Art Y’All, the annual members’ party, which has – as the name implies – a Texas two-step, fun vibe. Once again, photographer Steve Wrubel was the entertaining auctioneer, selling three sculptures to raise funds for the AGS and innovative Sightings exhibitions. Curator Jed Morse asked three well-known, local artist couples to collaborate and make a sculpture to be auctioned. Couples from left to right in the image above: A big thank you to Tom Orr and Frances Bagley, Benito Huerta and Janet Chaffee and Terri Thornton and Cam Schoepp for their three pieces of art that warranted the evening’s competitive bidding.

For anyone who wants to join this group, the next event is December 5th at The Mason Bar for the annual Holiday Happy Hour. January 12th is an exclusive tour of the Art Warehouse owned by art collectors Rachofsky and Faulconers. And, on March 2nd, we’ll take a day trip to see collections and studios in the Big Easy City, New Orleans. Click here for membership information.

SATURDAY A MIXED BAG 

I’m a DCFA docent who’s trained in the history and architecture of the Dallas Arts District. On Saturday, I gave a special tour to three visitors from Denver who were a delight and very knowledgeable which is not surprising given the guests were Curtis Fentress, founder of Fentress Architects which won the AIA’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, the CEO Agatha Kessler and CFO Colin Lewis who had previously worked for the City of Denver and on the growth of their Arts District. Mr. Fentress knew the Wyly Theater well because he was a member on the AIA Jury that conferred the 2011 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture on this innovative theater.

The four of us walked back to the Nasher where they continued with an audio tour; and I had lunch before a lecture in the Nasher’s 360 Speakers Series.

Dr. Catherine Croft, Adjunct Assistant Curator at the Nasher, presented the themes in her recently released book, An Audience of Artists: Dada, Neo-Dada, and the Emergence of Abstract Expressionism. She posed questions: Was Dada a movement or an attitude? Can an artist looking at and responding to another artist’s work create original art?

After Catherine’s presentation, I talked with Karen Weiner, gallery owner of The Reading Room, who had been a panelist at The MAC on Thursday night. Complementary themes were discussed by her panel titled, “The Anxiety of Influence,” a term coined by literary critic Harold Bloom. The panel explored Bloom’s tenet of creativity: Since we are all influenced by something, this phenomena can cause self doubt in a poet (or artist) about the possibility of making any truly original works of art.

“The Anxiety of Influence” was part of “Spin Off: A Series of Panel Discussions” sponsored City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. The MAC (McKinney Avenue Contemporary) | 3120 McKinney Avenue

The last stop before heading home on Saturday afternoon was with Connie Chantilis, mosaic artist and owner of Two Sisters Catering, and her studio which was open to the public as part of the annual White Rock Lake Studio Tour. Her Little Forest Hills’ studio complex sits behind her custom-designed, eco-friendly contemporary home.

Enjoy your week…I’ll be back in two weeks on October 28th.

Meg

Cause for Celebration – Dallas City Performance Hall

Projections on the walls in the lobby entrance of the DCPH logo.
The logo reflects the building’s roofline which resembles an undulating wave.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Another architectural gem opened in the Dallas Arts District.  The gem is the Dallas City Performance Hall (DCPH). A ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning began a weekend-long celebration with 40 events. The concept for the new building was to provide first-rate space in the Arts District to mid-size and emerging performing arts groups who do not own their own facility. This need exists across multiple disciplines – a stage for dance, theater, music or chorale performances, as well as lectures and special events.

On Friday evening, we had the opportunity to hear individuals from the brain trust who joined forces and produced a thoughtful, high quality entry into the Arts District. Here are the professionals on the panel:

  • Leigh Breslau (now partner with Trahan Architects), Design architect, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill | Chicago office
  • Brian George, Architect of Record, Corgan Associates | Dallas office
  • Jack Hagler, Theater and Lighting design, Schuler and Shook | Dallas, TX.
  • Mark Holden, Acoustics, Jaffee Holden | Norwalk, CT.

From the panel, we learned that 70 arts organizations were interviewed to understand their specific requirements. From this feedback, the team collaborated with the City of Dallas and each other to accommodate multiple, sometimes conflicting, performing arts needs.  I observed that the panelist, who have worked together since 2004 on this project, genuinely respect and like each other.

The result is a 750 seat hall – 550 on the lower level and 200 in mezzanine. It’s proof that on a tight, 100% publicly funded budget of $40.5 million an exquisitely designed and engineered structure can be built.

When discussing the unique requirements of the DCPH, Mr. Breslau said that the design was inspired by his admiration of Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center (down the street on Flora) and his mentor Louis Kahn’s Kimball Museum in Fort Worth. What he adopted was the layout of a series of linear pavilions. Eventually the DCPH will have three side-by-side rectangles with waving ribbon rooflines. Interaction with the urban setting, said Mr. Breslau, was the reason there is a front two-story glass lobby and minimal setback from Flora Street.  “We wanted a city or village for the arts. The patron in the glass lobby becomes one of the actors on stage.”

Phase One of Dallas Center for Performing Arts (DCPH) – west side profile.
60,000 sf on 100,000 sf site where two more pavilions will flank this one, completing the DCPH performing arts campus.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Acoustician Mr. Holden shared with us the complexity of addressing the varying sound types, e.g. amplified and acoustic vibrations, inside the hall.  While outside and overhead, the flight path from Love Field had to go unnoticed to the audiences. He said that “out of necessity, this was most flexible hall his firm has designed.” When you enter, notice the cast-in-place concrete walls with the random patterns of “boards simulating wood.” The textured pattern was an intentional part of the sound reverberation calculations. Also, notice the walls and where the acoustic panels, which resemble “roman shades,” have been lowered or raised. To manipulate sound, 13 double-baffled wool panels can be mechanically and individually adjusted (see photos below).

Concrete walls and wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Inside view of adjustable wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

In a blog post last year, I highlighted work by the local artist Shane Pennington. Much to my delight he is the first artist commissioned by the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to make public art for the DCPH. Specifically, he was asked to make a digital painting for the theater’s stage curtain.

Staying true to his reputation as imaginative, technically savvy and out-of-the-box, his piece titled, Points of Life, is very cool (see image below). The medium is a programmable LED curtain – an electronic 57’ long grid made of 8” x 8” squares. Each square is like a colored pixel. All squares converge optically into animated images of walking figures. It’s comparable to the way Chuck Close paints his portraits, and how we experience and see his images.

“Points of Life” – 15 minute loop of urban pedestrians | Artist: Shane Pennington
(photo: Front Burner | D Magazine)

In an interview with Peter Simek for D Magazine, Pennington talks about his summer in Berlin and being inspired by people watching in the city’s central plaza, Alexanderplatz:

“I filmed about four hours of material, and brought it back to the states. Then I went through it and hand-selected each character. As you can imagine, there are probably thousands of people really walking through this landscape, so I hand-selected each one. There are over ten thousand images that I had to go through. Each frame of every person had to be cut out and inserted.

Sitting in the plaza, obviously there are certain differences, like their (sic: Germans’) little hot dog stands, but if you really sat back and took the time to just absorb it and just watch life, it is fairly in a beautiful message. We’re all similar. It transcends boundaries and countries and all that stuff. In a sense, that’s kind of the beautiful message of this (sic: Points of Life).

“Dropped ceiling” is part of the acoustics and design which gives space for materials to muffle any overhead sound.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Proof in the pudding (or actually hearing a performance):

I experienced the first live performance on Friday night which featured Sarah Jaffe, a soulful 20-year old North Texan singer and songwriter. I intentionally sat in the mezzanine, unexpectedly and happily surrounded by Jaffe’s fans. The sound was incredible – clear. My view from Row 11, Seat 11 – fantastic. The seat, covered with acoustically correct fabric – comfortable.

As a nice prelude to her performance, the warm-up band came from Dallas’ Arts Magnet school, conveniently located right across the street. Seven students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, joined on stage by Jaffe, sang delicate acoustic tunes.

As far back as the 1990’s, the DCPH was conceived as part of the grand plan for the Dallas Arts District – a special place for emerging and mid-size performing arts organizations. The opening this weekend was a big success for the Office of Cultural Affairs – a division of City of Dallas. Kudos to OCA for staying true to its mission: “Establish a cultural system that ensures all Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture.”

Be back next Sunday with more on art.

Enjoy, Meg

Concerned Dallas Citizens Unite

Eating lunch outdoors this Saturday at the Nasher Cafe, here’s my view. Picasso’s staring at a patch of reseeded dirt where there was once lush lawn.

Nasher Sculpture Garden on an overcast noon | August 25, 2012
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) | Spanish
Head of Woman |1958
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas has done so much over the twenty-five years I have lived here to elevate its cultural offerings and profile. The Dallas Arts District is a piece – a large piece – in the success of offering Dallas citizens and visitors visual and performing arts housed in note-worthy architecture. The District has grown to a 68-acre cultural and residential campus.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened in 2003, is one of the District’s gems designed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Italian architect, Renzo Piano. His team took time to study and understand the peculiarities of the Texas climate, especially the brutal summer sun. An arched glass roof with a perforated aluminum screen in an egg-crate pattern directs the natural light into the galleries and anticipates the sun’s daily arc from southeast to southwest. (See image below.)

Close-up of “egg crate”
(photo: Nasher Sculpture Center)

Another architectural firm, Foster + Partners of London, spent one year analyzing the arc of the sun before finalizing its design of the Winspear Opera House which is a 2009 addition to the district. A two-acre, steel frame canopy hovers over the Winspear as a mechanism to successfully deflect the Texas sun, especially in the summer months, and lower the ambient temperature. (See image below.)

 

Winspear Opera House in Dallas Arts District | 2009
Architect: Foster + Partners led by Spencer du Grey (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

  
A recent addition still under construction and adjacent to the Nasher is Museum Tower, a 42-story residential building. Unfortunately, the design by Los Angeles architect Scott Johnson was not as sensitive to the climate and its impact on the surroundings as the other two architects’ previously mentioned. Clad in convex glass panels, the building is a giant column that magnifies and reflects sunlight onto its neighbors. (See image below.)
Museum Tower diverts sunlight into Nasher’s sculpture garden. Thus, the patches of dirt and brown grass at the Nasher this Saturday.
On a personal note: I find the building itself quite beautiful and elegant, but wish the surfaces accommodated the neighborhood and the James Turrell installation at the Nasher had not been ruined.

Museum Tower seen from Nasher (photo: Brandon Thibodeaux, The New York Times)

 
But, it is not only the Nasher that is hit. The impact is 360 degree.  I have concerns about:
  • The trees and plant life in the soon-to-be open Klyde Warren Park
  • Reflections into nearby buildings, like the Dallas Museum of Art, One Arts Plaza, Hunt Oil Tower
  • This conflict, which has received national and international press, setting back the hard-earned gains in Dallas’ reputation as an increasingly cultural place to live
  • Harming the reasons people will buy a home in Museum Tower. (Note: I want the project be a success for the Arts District, City of Dallas, its investors and the developers.)
  • Museum Tower becoming a scapegoat for any future sun damage in the area, regardless of the real cause.

There many bright minds – hopefully all are well-intended people – working on possible solutions and vetting possibilities. In my opinion, the sooner a workable solution is implemented, the better for everyone involved.

Having a personal long-term view of Dallas as a great place to live, I hope this messy, time-consuming, expensive conflict ignites a larger conversation about urban planning, communities and neighborhoods.

Why not have a thorough design review board in the City of Dallas? Why not have interested neighbors and citizens take time to review proposed buildings for any impact on their homes or institutions? In other places I have lived (granted smaller towns), a design that raised concerns and eyebrows, whether it be reflectivity or height, could be rejected by the town’s zoning commission. Why not here in Dallas?

Along the lines of a constructive dialogue, there will be a panel discussion on Saturday, September 8th at 2:30 pm at the Dallas Museum of Art.  KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate Aesthetics and the City with panelists Veletta Lill, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and Vel Hawes, a Dallas architect who served as Raymond Nasher’s representative for the design and construction of the Nasher Sculpture Center. (Updated on 9/1/2012: The panel has been postponed.)

Show your support as a citizen concerned with finding and implementing a workable solution before more damage is done to the Arts District by clicking on the petition, Stop the Glare. I have signed it because I believe this is a 360 degree issue that needs to be addressed.

I’ll be taking long weekend for Labor Day…be back on Sunday, September 9th.

Enjoy,

Meg

Havel on Havel

Joseph Havel (American, b. 1954) was the featured artist at the Nasher Sculpture Center’s 360 Speaker Series this Saturday.

I’ve admired this Houston-based sculptor’s work for many years, attended his openings at Talley Dunn Gallery in Dallas, and was thrilled to learn more about his background, thought process and career path.

Joseph Havel was appointed Director of the prestigious Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 1991. (photo: Mayra Beltran, Houston Chronicle | chron.com)

As usual, I’ll share several stories that resonated with me. Hopefully, you will also find them of interest.

He said that this was a special talk for him. One that propelled him to remember, revisit and show images of early work because Dallas has special and historic importance for his career path. He came to this area from the East coast for his first post-graduate teaching position at Austin College in Sherman, TX. The town is only 60 miles North of Dallas. He found himself driving most nights into downtown Dallas, specifically Deep Ellum where there was a very happening, active arts scene in 1979. This was a place where his work was embraced and recognized – a place of many firsts:

  • His first show in a non-profit space was at 500X, which still operates as an Artists’ Coop in Deep Ellum.
  • The Dallas Museum of Art was the first museum to acquire his work.
  • He completed his first sale to a private collector, who happened to be seated in the audience on Saturday and was visibly proud to be part of Havel’s life story.
  • The first cast bronze sculpture he sold was to a Dallas collector.
  • Michael Auping, Chief Curator of The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, asked Havel if he planned on casting a cloth curtain sculpture in bronze. Havel quickly responded, “Of course!” Most likely he would not have taken this next step without Auping’s prodding. The outcome of the story? This bronze piece was museum-ready and was selected for the 2000 Whitney Biennial in New York. The biennial is an art showcase known as a career-making vehicle and acknowledgement that an artist has arrived on the national scene.

In the photo below, notice the draped sculpture to the left. It resembles the work Havel carried – literally carried – to a Paris show at Le Palais de Tokyo.

Joseph Havel: A Decade of Sculpture | Authors: Peter Doroshenko, Alison de Lima Greene . (source: Scala Publishers)

Havel told us he wanted to pack an entire gallery exhibition in two suitcases – no professional handlers, no complex customs and tariffs, the fewest of encumbrances. He did this by making “soft sculpture” art – like the large square “mesh” of hand-sewn shirt labels in the image above. The square was hung from one of its corners, causing a fluid drape that extended from the gallery’s ceiling beam to the floor. This renowned artist rolled two suitcases through the Tuileries Gardens en route to the gallery space. I was amused by Havel’s motivation, careful planning and desire to schlep a manageable load.

Tuileries Garden | Paris

Paris was the subject of another story he shared with us. He was there for a solo show on September 12, 2001 – buffered by the Atlantic Ocean from Ground Zero and 9/11 terrorist attacks. Havel was so moved by the condolences from Parisians when they realized he was from the USA that he knew his next show in the “City of Light” would have an American theme. Stars and stripes from our flag were repurposed into striking objects. Below are two images from these explorations which are still ongoing.

Cut-up American flags, needles and thread | 36” diameter
(photo: William Shearburn Gallery, St. Louis)

Single Star (2007) | Bronze with patina | 26 x 16 x 12 inches (photo: Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans)

Joseph Havel is one of many who’ve visited the Nasher Sculpture Center to talk about work and life as an artist. For people intrigued by the creative process, I highly recommend the next 360 Speaker Series guests who are:

  • The Art Guys on July 14th
  • Kathryn Andrews on August 25th

I’m taking a short summer vacation – be back July 15th.

Stay cool,

Meg

Kick off Your Shoes and Hang Ten – Surfing at the Nasher

The exhibition Ernesto Neto Cuddle on the Tightrope will be at the Nasher from May 12 through September 9, 2012.

Friday night, the Nasher Sculpture Center threw a lively, salsa-tempoed party for leading Brazilian sculptor, Ernesto Neto (b. 1964), who – it turns out – is a brilliant and charismatic person.

Ernesto Neto (b. 1964). Born and lives in Rio de Janerio with his family.
(photo: Independent Curators International | Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York)

He possesses so much charisma and infectious rhythm that he might actually be the Pied Piper in disguise. Despite pouring rain, the Center’s guests, Director Jeremy Strick and Curator Jed Morse joined Ernesto as he danced to the beat of live Latin American music in the outdoor garden.  The drenched crowd rightfully celebrated with the Nasher staff, the artist and his assistants who had spent many-hours and late nights, over a week, to assemble this large and intricate piece of art.

The work titled, Kink (see below), fills the upstairs middle gallery. To experience it, as I did Friday night, is to continue celebrating Ernesto’s embracing approach to life.

“Kink” (2012) by Artist Ernesto Neto
Aluminum, crochet, polypropylene balls, wood, felt, and rubber | 14’ 3” x 66’ 8” x 13’ 8” | Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
(photo: Julius Pickenpack)

For me, the walk was like being on the inside of a colorful, textured abstract painting or in my own body entering my mouth and slinking through my larynx or proceeding into a cathedral’s sanctuary.

Entrance to “Kink”…It’s best to concentrate on the crocheted-bound path of rubber balls and best to have both hands free for balance.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

The next day, Ernesto gave a talk, as part of the Nasher 360 Speaker Series about his journey as an artist. (Note: These talks are well worth attending.) Here are a few things I learned about him:

  • Why name the piece Kink? For more than one reason: It’s an alliteration (one of his favorite word tricks) with the first and last letters “K” bracketing the “IN” which, in Ernesto’s mind, is an image of two eyes flanking a mouth. It’s a term metal shops use for twisting or bending a length of thin wire, yet could be applied to how the colored ropes in this piece were manipulated through crochet. (Note: His grandmother and great aunt taught him how to crochet when he was a young boy.) Finally, he slipped in that “It’s fine to Be Kinky,” a bit unique.
  • Life is better and more joyfully lived through our senses – heightened through touch, movement (remember Friday’s dance in the downpour of rain?), mingling together, sound and smell. In one of his earlier installations, he used the scent of the herb oregano to connote masculinity and floral scent to evoke femininity.
  • Ernesto believes “slow is good.”  One must walk slowly to be open to sensory experiences and to fleeting (potentially profound) ideas. He leaves us an adagio pace with Kink at the Nasher. When I entered his suspended tunnel, I had to focus carefully on each step, heighten my awareness of the intricately crocheted walls (gripping them to stay upright), and move at half-pace, all the while thoroughly enjoying myself and noticing others doing so as well as we navigated the tunnel together.
  • He selected pieces from the Nasher collection that sang to him. (Note: He is a good singer and can tap a catchy tune on his microphone.) He began with a small sculpture by Matisse, Madeleine I (1901), and ended with Brancusi’s The Kiss (see below). Ernesto paused for a while and then told us, “All my work is about that (piece, The Kiss).”

The Kiss (1907 – 1908) | Artist: Constantin Brancusi | limestone | 11” x 10-1/4” x 8-1/2” (photo: Nasher website)

A bonus: Ducks sweeten the festive spirit Ernesto has brought to the Nasher. Don’t miss the Mother duck and her ducklings scampering through the gardens and water pool. (photo: Betty Viguet)

 

Enjoy.…

until Sunday, May 20th.

Exploring Austin with the Nasher Sculpture Center

Clock Knot (2007) | Artist: Mark di Suvero (b. 1933) | painted steel | “498 x 260“x 420” | Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art. (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Although Di Suvero enjoys devising names, he held a contest to name this work. A New York City poet suggested Clock Knot, the winning title.

On a sunny Saturday, a group from the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Avant-Garde Society gathered in an Austin hotel lobby, Starbucks coffee cups in hand, eager to start a day full of learning more about art.

As with most field trips, we boarded a bus and turned our attention to Nasher’s Curator Jed Morse who began explaining the significance of our first stop – University of Texas Austin. (Note: Jed is proud UT Longhorn alum.)

His story was interesting.

New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has more art than they can possibly exhibit. Much is warehoused and rarely, if ever, viewed. This “embarrassment of riches” isn’t unusual for a major museum. However, what is unusual and quite clever are the partnerships the Met is forming nationwide to make their stored sculpture and art accessible to the public.

UT Austin was among the first “experiments” between the Met and a satellite location where a large quantity of sculptures (28 in total) were loaned on a long-term basis. This gesture boosted the UT administration’s and faculties’ vision of implementing “Landmarks,” a campus-wide public arts program which has proved to be a success. Plus, as the university continues construction and renovation, a percent-for-art policy has been approved whereby 1% to 2% of the budgets for building projects will go toward acquisitions of art. According to The New York Times, the campus is “poised to be a destination for modern art.”

Jed walked us through the grounds and buildings giving us highlights. On view were sculptures by well-known artists, including Mark DiSuvero (see photo above). DiSuvero has said his large-scale sculptures are really “drawings in space.” Instead of charcoal and paper, he uses steel I-beams, industrial materials, a crane and space. Favored by Dallas collectors, we have easy access to more of these bright red structures back home in the Dallas Museum of Art’s Ross Avenue Courtyard, the Meyerson Symphony Hall and NorthPark Center.

On tours such as this one, my friends and I play the game, “If you could bring one piece home, which one would you pick?”

From the UT Landmarks collection, my choice was the Ursula von Rydingsvard sculpture, Seven Mountains (see photo below). It was made by gluing and doweling four-by-four inch lumber beams, the most ordinary of materials. Next, Ursula hand chiseled the surface until it became craggy and ancient, as if Mother Nature had eroded the forms into stone cairns over eons of time. Then, graphite powder was rubbed into the surface and burnished with steel wool pads until a silvery gray sheen developed. Simply gorgerous.

Untitled: Seven Moutains (1986 - 1988) | Artist: Ursula von Rydingsward (b. 1942) | cedar and graphite powder| Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

If you are visiting Austin, you can take a self-guided tour of The Mets’ sculptures. Just download the map available on http://www.landmakrs.utexas.edu. The site itself is a good read, full of information and easy to navigate.

Hopping back on the bus, we next headed to the Austin Museum of Art’s 12- acre Lake Austin location, Laguna Gloria which was built in 1916 as a private residence. There we played miniature golf on artist-designed putting greens. Art on the Green is a 9-hole outdoor phenomenon where all ages interact with nature and art. The set-ups were challenging, goofy and a blast, as you can see by one of us in action…

Art on the Green | Laguna Gloria with AMOA-Arthouse | March 9 – May 20, 2012 (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

We visited the studio and home of artist, Ginger Henry Geyer who is represented by the Valley House Gallery in Dallas, stopped for lunch at Chez Zee (of course – food is a given at any Avant-Garde Society event), and then visited two private residences.

Below is the entrance to the second residence, designed by the San Antonio-based architects, Lake Flato who are famous for their Texas Vernacular Style.

The couple who lives here has been cited in ARTnews’ “Top 200 Collectors” international list. Naturally, the works we saw were first class as was the couple who were so gracious, warm and welcoming.

This was the last stop of the day – a peaceful waterfront peninsula.

Architects: Lake Flato (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Many thanks for the fantastic organization of this day trip go to Maribeth Messino Peters and Scott Potter who Co-Chaired this year’s Travel Committee.

No matter which city is selected for the 2013 trip, I’ll go and recommend anyone who enjoys this sort of adventure also join me and the Avant-Garde Society. http://www.nashersculpturecenter.org/Membership/Avant-Garde-Society

…until Sunday, April 15th.