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New Sol LeWitt Work Unveiled on the Walker Rooftop

A large-scale work by Sol LeWitt has just been installed on the Walker’s rooftop terrace, the first of 17 new outdoor works that will be joining the newly-renovated Walker campus. The piece—Arcs from four corners, with alternating bands of white and brown stone. The floor is bordered and divided horizontally and vertically by a black […]

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Sol LeWitt, Arcs from four corners, with alternating bands of white and brown stone. The floor is bordered and divided horizontally and vertically by a black stone band, 1988/2016. Photo: Andy Underwood-Bultmann

A large-scale work by Sol LeWitt has just been installed on the Walker’s rooftop terrace, the first of 17 new outdoor works that will be joining the newly-renovated Walker campus. The piece—Arcs from four corners, with alternating bands of white and brown stone. The floor is bordered and divided horizontally and vertically by a black stone band (1988/2016)—is a new version of a piece initially designed as a crosswalk for the opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

A major figure in the development of Minimalism in the mid-1960s, LeWitt (1928–2007) was known for carefully-conceived geometric works based on serial systems of shapes, lines, and colors. These were meticulously executed, either by the artist or by others according to his instructions. LeWitt was also a pioneering voice in the development of Conceptual Art, radically proposing that “when an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand. … The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.” LeWitt’s pronouncement defined a way of working that continues to be profoundly relevant to a current generation of artists.

Sol LeWitt and Martin Friedman during the installation of LeWitt’s Four Geometric Figures in a Room, Walker Art Center, 1984. Photo courtesy Walker Art Center Archives.

Sol LeWitt and Martin Friedman during the installation of LeWitt’s Four Geometric Figures in a Room, Walker Art Center, 1984. Photo courtesy Walker Art Center Archives

LeWitt was an artist who figured prominently in the Walker’s history, and he had a profound impact on the collection. The center owns more than 200 examples of his work—including sculptures, wall drawings, books, works on paper, and a major work in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden—many of these gifts from the artist himself. This generous spirit stemmed from LeWitt’s longstanding relationship with former Walker director Martin Friedman, who passed away on May 9. As we celebrate Friedman’s life, we are reminded that it was relationships with artists like LeWitt that built the Walker’s foundations as a contemporary art center, focused on living artists and on the acquisition, presentation, and commissioning of new work. On this latter point, it was Friedman who reached out to LeWitt not once but twice around commissioned work, extending the artist’s engagement beyond gallery works to consider the center’s architecture and outdoor spaces.

Sol LeWitt, Four Geometric Figures in a Room, 1984. Ink on latex paint on gypsum board. Installation commissioned by the Walker Art Center with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Julius Davis, 1984.

Sol LeWitt, Four Geometric Figures in a Room, 1984. Ink on latex paint on gypsum board. Installation commissioned by the Walker Art Center with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Julius Davis, 1984

In 1984, Friedman commissioned a new indoor work from LeWitt, which inaugurated the construction of two new gallery spaces. The piece, entitled Four Geometric Figures in a Room, comprised a continuous drawing executed in ink directly on the wall in primary colors. In 1988, Friedman again commissioned LeWitt to create a crosswalk that would connect the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which was to open that year, to the Walker’s building across the street. Taking cues from the architecture and materials of the museum’s Edward L. Barnes building, the artist proposed several configurations of red and white paving stones that drew upon his signature language of geometric forms. As the piece needed to be on a public road, a configuration that most resembled a traditional crosswalk was chosen in consultation with the City of Minneapolis. The piece was installed for the Garden’s inauguration in September 1988. However, after the freezing and thawing of seven harsh Minnesota winters—and the attendant plowing, salting, and other road maintenance activities—the piece began to show wear. Ultimately, it was deinstalled in 1995.

View of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Sol LeWitt’s Lines in Two Directions, c. 1991.Photo courtesy Walker Art Center Archives.

View of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Sol LeWitt’s Lines in Two Directions, 1990.Photo courtesy Walker Art Center Archives

Upon hearing of the Walker’s plans to renovate its outdoor spaces, Sol LeWitt’s family approached us in 2015 and, as part of the Walker’s 75th anniversary as a public art center, generously pledged the crosswalk as a gift in honor of Martin and Mildred Friedman and longtime Walker patrons Angus and Margaret Wurtele. The main provision was that the work be installed with a new design—chosen from a group of six drawings LeWitt first proposed in 1988—in an area where it could be cared for and preserved as a work of art. LeWitt’s preferred design, a variation on a group of works he titled with the descriptive “Arcs from Four Corners,” came into the collection in 2015, and the Walker’s rooftop terrace was chosen as an ideal site, one that could honor LeWitt’s intention of creating a piece that references the Barnes building while also allowing for proper maintenance. The project synched perfectly with the Walker’s design and construction plans for its new entrance, which will open in November 2016. As with all of LeWitt’s works, this piece is executed by others according to the artist’s instructions. Walker registrar Joe King and I worked closely with the artist’s estate, HGA Architects and Engineers, and Mortenson Construction to realize the piece, which is executed in granite on the building’s upper terrace, and is now open to the public.

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Sol LeWitt and Jo Watanabe, early maquette designs for crosswalk between Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1988. Paint on paper; collection Walker Art Center; gift of the artist, 1988.

In its new location, LeWitt’s newly installed work will anchor a prominent vantage point of the reimagined Walker campus, to open in June 2017, and will afford panoramic views of the Garden and the downtown skyline. It is fitting that LeWitt’s project—originally intended to unite the two sides of the Walker campus nearly 30 years ago—is now the first piece to be completed, just days before Friedman’s passing, and as the Walker looks ahead to create an expanded and integrated campus experience for the next generation of visitors.

Turning Snow: Olga Viso on Martin Friedman’s Legacy

Martin Friedman, the Walker’s director from 1961 to 1990, passed away in New York City on May 9, 2016.  When I began my tenure at the Walker in early 2008, it had been almost 20 years since Martin Friedman had retired. As the institution’s third and longest-serving director, Martin was legendary and his influence foundational. Indeed […]

Martin Friedman. Photo: David Price

Martin Friedman with Jim Hodges’s Untitled (2011) on the Walker hillside, 2012. Photo: David Price

Martin Friedman, the Walker’s director from 1961 to 1990, passed away in New York City on May 9, 2016. 

When I began my tenure at the Walker in early 2008, it had been almost 20 years since Martin Friedman had retired. As the institution’s third and longest-serving director, Martin was legendary and his influence foundational. Indeed it was Martin who gave form to founding director Daniel Defenbacher’s WPA-era vision of the art center as “meeting place for all the arts.” And it was he who shaped the building blocks of the multidisciplinary institution we know today. During Martin’s 30-year tenure—first as curator and then as director—the Performing Arts and Moving Image departments were established, each led by a succession of influential, groundbreaking curators he hired. These were among the first of such programs in museums around the country. Together with his equally visionary wife, Mickey Friedman, who led the Walker’s renowned design studio and passed away a few years ahead of Martin, the Visual Arts and Design programs at the Walker flourished and set new standards for exhibition and publication design in the contemporary field.

Despite the decided impact of Martin’s immediate successor, Kathy Halbreich, who solidified the Walker’s global reach and impact in her 16 years as director (1992–2007), Martin’s legacy still loomed large in Minneapolis when I took the helm. And Martin’s values and influence could still be felt through a cadre of devoted staff members who carried his exacting precision and excellence—the utter commitment to detail that defined his career at the Walker. “Friedman perfection” was conveyed in a variety of ways, most notably through the telling of the apocryphal “turning snow” story, in which Martin purportedly directed the Walker’s building maintenance crew to go outside with shovels in subzero Minnesota weather to “turn the snow” around the museum. The goal: to ensure that a pristine carpet of fresh white would set the Edward Larrabee Barnes building off just so. This was, of course, essential before any winter opening at the Walker.

My arrival in Minneapolis in 2008 also coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the adjacent 11-acre “garden for art” that was one of the signature triumphs of Martin’s tenure. Inaugurated in 1988, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was among the first major urban sculpture parks of its kind in the US and heralded as a new model of public-private partnership. This model would be successfully emulated in Chicago, Kansas City, Seattle, and New York—in several instances with Martin’s advisory counsel. In planning the anniversary celebration for the Garden in 2008, I was able to spend time with Martin and Mickey, who came to Minneapolis for the occasion. Over the next decade, I would often frequent their Manhattan apartment when traveling to the city, always leaving with elaborate stories of his adventures (and misadventures) as director. Martin was always working on his memoirs, and in 2015 the Walker began to publish his recollections online as part of its 75th anniversary as a public art center. He’s given us permission to publish a wealth of his memories in the months and years to come.

Martin Friedman, Olga Viso, and Kathy Halbreich in 2011

Three generations of Walker directors—Martin Friedman, Olga Viso, and Kathy Halbreich—in 2011

The Friedmans’ New York apartment was a trove of Walker artifacts and memorabilia—old photographs, posters for past Walker exhibitions, signed sketches, and personal gifts from artists, as well as a wonderful collection of art works by artists whose careers he supported, most notably Sol LeWitt, Claes Oldenburg, and Mark di Suvero, all artists he remained close with through the decades. It was clear that Martin thoroughly enjoyed his time as director of the Walker. He loved the Walker the way Bill Clinton loved the White House. As Clinton said in his last days in office, “I just love this place!” Martin’s love of the Walker was only matched by his appreciation of artists and a zeal for working with creative people. He also cherished collaborating with Mickey and the talented league of curators he hired through the years—from Richard Koshalek and Graham Beal to Adam Weinberg and Larry Rinder, all who went on to run their own institutions. The list of colleagues to whom Martin gave first opportunities is long; he had a decided eye for recognizing talent and investing in it. He also enjoyed working with donors, and he was surrounded by an equally impressive array of community leaders of his generation who became the visionary philanthropic powerhouse of the Twin Cities from the 1960s through the 1990s. These individuals not only presided over the Walker but also the Guthrie, Minnesota Opera, Minnesota Orchestra, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Among the highlights of my first year at the Walker was sharing dinner with a circle of Martin’s devoted patrons, some who have since passed, including Phil von Blon, Harriet and Ed Spencer, and John and Sage Cowles, as well as others who continue to be incredibly generous to the Walker to this day, including Bruce and Martha Atwater, Judy Dayton, Erwin Kelen, and Penny Winton.

I will never forget sitting around a dinner table with Martin and Mickey, the von Blons, and the Cowleses shortly after arriving at the Walker. That night they shared how much they enjoyed working together to build the Walker and other cultural organizations in the Twin Cities. Their goal was to make a world-class city and to foster philanthropic commitment to forward-looking culture. In a toast that evening Martin expressed his desire for me, and my husband Cameron, to enjoy the same camaraderie, partnership, spirit of discovery and adventure with our generation of donors that he and Mickey shared with their community of friends and supporters. His hope was that we would similarly “do great things together” as well as “have a helluva of a good time doing it!”

In the coming years, Martin and Mickey would be part of a number of Walker milestone moments during my tenure, including the 2011 announcement of the acquisition of the Merce Cunningham Dance Archive in which we brought into the Walker’s collection a trove of incredible objects—props, sets, drops and costumes as well as other ephemera—created through Merce’s signature collaborations with dozens of visual artists throughout his career, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, and Olafur Eliasson. Indeed, the Walker’s relationship with Merce had commenced with Martin’s invitation in 1961 and was followed by 16 distinct engagements over nearly 60 years and three directors. It was amazing to be able to share that occasion with Martin and Mickey, as well as Kathy Halbreich, who joined me, and a host of Walker donors, at the Rauschenberg Foundation Warehouse in New York to celebrate the historic acquisition.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 20th Anniversary, June 14, 2008

Martin and Mickey Friedman (at left) at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden 20th Anniversary, Celebration, June 14, 2008. Photo: Cameron Wittig

Similarly, when we acquired Jim Hodges’s Untitled, an arrangement of four shimmering boulders, in 2013 and placed them on the hill of what would become the Walker’s upper garden, Martin made a pilgrimage to Minneapolis to see them. It was not an easy journey up the hill with his cane, but he managed. It was always like Martin to be at the center of things, to be curious and inquisitive about what was exciting and new. What meant most to me about this visit was that Martin knew this major new acquisition was an opening gesture for a bigger, longer-term vision that would unify the Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden campus and would ultimately entail a major renovation of his beloved Garden. I feel very fortunate that I was able to share with Martin and Mickey the plans for the redeveloped 19-acre campus that will be inaugurated in June of 2017. They both wholeheartedly endorsed our plans and went out of their way to let me know that they were supportive of my vision. Indeed, just weeks before passing in 2014, Mickey insisted that I should not feel beholden to honoring their legacy in the Garden. As she emphatically stated, she and Martin’s careers at the Walker were insistently about the future, supporting artists, and advancing the new. She affirmed that the best way to honor their legacy was for me to move forward and not look back. I will never forget that beautiful gift that Mickey and Martin gave me that afternoon—the permission to lead and shape—to “turn snow” my way, just as they did before me.

 

Renovation Update: Sculptures Move to Gold Medal Park

In preparation for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, some of the Garden’s most beloved art is finding a temporary home. This week three favorites make their debut in Gold Medal Park, in downtown Minneapolis just adjacent the Guthrie Theater: Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule […]

goldmedal In preparation for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, some of the Garden’s most beloved art is finding a temporary home. This week three favorites make their debut in Gold Medal Park, in downtown Minneapolis just adjacent the Guthrie Theater: Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule (1977–1983), and Tony Cragg’s Ordovician Pore (1989).

Other works from the Garden have already gone into storage, but additional sculptures will be moving to guest venues this fall. Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953) will be on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish (1986) will find a home in the Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in early winter of 2015. The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen will remain on view in the Garden until spring 2016, when full construction begins, as will Richard Serra’s Five Plates, Two Poles (1971) and Sol LeWitt’s X with Columns (1996). The sculpture garden improvements are part of a broader plan to renovate and unify the entire 19-acre Walker campus, an ambitious project that involves the construction of a new entry pavilion for the Walker, a new green space on the Walker hillside, and the greening of Hennepin Avenue.

Walker Director Olga Viso captured these shots of works by Hatcher and di Suvero in their new environs:

Molecule-GoldMedal hatcher-goldmedal

Walker Registrar Joe King took these snaps of Prophecy of the Ancients’ move, while our friends at the Guthrie posted a quick video of Molecule arriving at its new home.

Photo Sep 11, 10 48 21 AM Photo Sep 11, 10 49 43 AM Photo Sep 11, 10 52 49 AM

Big Changes to the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Campus

Change—of the most exciting kind—is afoot on the Walker campus. As I write this, construction fence is going up and the first sculptures are being safely secured for storage as we begin the ambitious renovation of the Walker grounds and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. In 1988, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board partnered with the […]

The renovation will create a one-campus feel, unifiying the Walker grounds with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Image: © HGA Minneapolis and oslund.and.assoc.

The renovation will create a one-campus feel, unifying the Walker grounds with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Image: © HGA Minneapolis and oslund.and.assoc.

Change—of the most exciting kind—is afoot on the Walker campus. As I write this, construction fence is going up and the first sculptures are being safely secured for storage as we begin the ambitious renovation of the Walker grounds and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

In 1988, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board partnered with the Walker Art Center to develop the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the first major urban sculpture park in the country. Today the Garden is one of the crown jewels of the park system, uniting two of Minnesota’s most cherished resources—its green space and its cultural life. The 11-acre site showcases more than 40 works from the Walker’s internationally renowned collections. But after 26 years and more than 9 million visitors, the Garden’s infrastructure needs to be reconstructed in a sustainable manner to serve visitors now and for generations to come.

Thanks to the citizens of Minnesota, the State Legislature, and Governor Mark Dayton, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board received $8.5 million in public bonding support to fund the much-needed reconstruction of this major cultural asset. In addition, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization has dedicated up to $1.5 million for innovative storm-water management systems in the project. This comprehensive work will require Garden closure from spring 2016 until summer 2017.

A 13-ton, steel-clad boulder, part o Jim Hodges' Untitled (2012), being moved for storage. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

A 13-ton, steel-clad boulder, part of Jim Hodges’ Untitled (2011), being moved for storage, July 30, 2015. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

You’ll start to see changes in the coming weeks as this project progresses. Last week, the first of many sculptures to be placed in storage during construction—Jim Hodges’ steel-clad boulders on the Walker hillside—were removed, and nearly all artworks from the Garden will join them in the coming weeks. But several works will relocate and remain accessible to the public. The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen will remain on-site, as will Richard Serra’s Five Plates, Two Poles (1971) and Sol LeWitt’s X with Columns (1996). (The Garden will remain open to the public through spring 2016.)

Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule (1977–1983), and Tony Cragg’s Ordovician Pore (1989) will be on view in Gold Medal Park adjacent to the Guthrie Theater. Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953) will be on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish (1986) will find a home in the Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in early winter of 2015.

The Garden’s renovations will mirror big changes on the Walker campus as well, and the two projects will create a unified feel for these two cultural campuses, which will now share a combined 19 acres of green space. Renovations to the Walker building and campus, slated to be completed by November 2016, will include a new entry pavilion for the Walker, a new Walker green space on the hillside, and the greening of Hennepin Avenue. The Walker will remain open during construction. When the Garden reopens in summer 2017, the vision for the 19-acre Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden campus will be realized.

We’ll share progress on these two historic projects through regular updates right here on the Centerpoints blog.

Image: © oslund.and.assoc.

A rendering of the central allée in the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Image: © oslund.and.assoc.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: 1988 Opening Day

This summer, I took a look back through the photo archives for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden during its opening day as a new park. While working on this project, I discovered many of the collaborative processes involved in the creation and success of the garden. The following is an account of my research and findings […]

This summer, I took a look back through the photo archives for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden during its opening day as a new park. While working on this project, I discovered many of the collaborative processes involved in the creation and success of the garden. The following is an account of my research and findings in regards to their historical context surrounding the garden.

Perhaps the most influential collaboration in the creation of the park, Martin Friedman, the Walker’s director from 1961 to 1990, and David Fisher, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation superintendent, worked towards creating an urban sculpture garden where visitors could gather in celebration of the arts. Friedman approached Fisher with concerns about the future of the land that sat across from the Walker. The two of them worked out the logistics of turning that land into a 7.5-acre area that would become host for a variety of sculptures while remaining functional and accessible to the public. Through this partnership, the Walker took on the responsibility of the artistic aspects of the park and the City of Minneapolis would monitor the maintenance. (For more, read Martin Friedman’s essay, “Growing the Garden,” in Design Quarterly No. 141 (1988), published by MIT Press for the Walker Art Center.)

Martin Friedman and David Fisher, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening,  Dedication Ceremony Ribbon Cutting, 10 September 1988

Martin Friedman and David Fisher at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden ribbon cutting, September 10, 1988

Now that Friedman and Fisher had discussed the logistics of how the park would be run, they were in need of an architect to design the grounds. Friedman turned to Edward Larrabee Barnes, a New York–based architect responsible for the construction of the 1971 Walker building, in hopes that he would return to the area to design the park. Barnes accepted the architectural position as the head of the project and began plans for the renovation. Working alongside Barnes in the design and construction of the garden was landscape architect Peter Rothschild. Barnes and Rothschild began the project by researching and gathering inspiration from 18th-century Italian gardens. In their plans for the garden, Barnes and Rothschild incorporated traditional allées that separate formal green areas, resembling gallery spaces for the sculptures. These roofless green spaces divided the land and created a symmetry that is a staple of their inspirational 18th-century gardens.

Peter Rothschild, John and Sage Cowles, E.L. Barnes and Alistair Bevington, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Peter Rothschild, John and Sage Cowles, E.L. Barnes and Alistair Bevington, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, September 10, 1988

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden plans, Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates with Peter Rothschild

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden plans, Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates with Peter Rothschild

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Plans, Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates with Peter Rothschild

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden plans, Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates with Peter Rothschild

When considering the land on the west side of the garden, Barnes and Rothschild worked with Alistair Bevington, a trained architect working primarily in sculpture involving stained glass. Bevington was responsible for the design and construction of the Cowles Conservatory. Donated by Sage and John Cowles, the space would feature permanent and seasonal floral displays that highlighted both native and exotic plants. Bevington worked alongside Barnes and Rothschild to create a glass building in order to house these plants, while still featuring sculptural works and remaining consistent with the aesthetic of the park.

Cowles Conservatory, Final model for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1988

Cowles Conservatory, final model for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1988

Interior of the Cowles Conservatory with a view of Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Interior of the Cowles Conservatory with a view of Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, September 10, 1988

Throughout all of the planning and construction, the architects worked with individual artists in order to create a space that assisted in the viewing of their sculptures. One of the more obvious examples of this collaboration can be seen when looking at Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry. Oldenburg and van Bruggen were asked to create a large-scale fountain that would be located centrally in the garden. The consideration of the location of this sculpture in relation to the rest of the park and the surrounding landscape, creates a monumental and iconic view for this artwork. Barnes and Rothschild not only considered the needs of the large-scale sculptures in their design, but also found ways to incorporate the environment in the viewing of smaller works. The location of George Segal’s Walking Man may draw viewers to the lonely figure walking along one of the garden’s paths.

View of Spoonbridge and Cherry with surrounding landscape, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Spoonbridge and Cherry, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, New York Times article on Spoonbridge and Cherry, Page 106, 17 April 1988

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, New York Times article on Spoonbridge and Cherry, April 17, 1988

George Segal and Babe Davis with Walking Man, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

George Segal and Babe Davis with Walking Man, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

After the park was completed and ready for public viewing, the Walker hosted an opening-day ceremony on September 10, 1988. Once Friedman and Fisher performed the ribbon cutting, the public was invited to walk around the garden and partake in events inspired by the design of the park.

Martin Friedman and David Fisher performing the ribbon cutting, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Martin Friedman and David Fisher performing the ribbon cutting, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

Educating the public on the sculpture garden through the creation of art and the interpretation of what they are seeing was a large emphasis of the 1988 opening festivities. The education program used inspiration from both the artworks and the landscape to create workshops for the public to participate in. One of the most popular workshops, Mini-Sculpture Gardens, provided each person with a square-foot box of soil that could then be turned into their own sculpture garden. During this workshop, students created mini-sculptures for their gardens and planted trees throughout their landscapes. The Sculpture Ahoy! workshop gathered inspiration from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry and encouraged participants to create boats that could be sailed on the body of water surrounding the sculpture. Other workshops offered during the opening day included Sculpture Ahead, where participants were given a hat to create paper sculptures on, and Primary Flowers, in which students could spray paint white flowers with the primary colors. These workshops allowed participants to collaborate with one another, as well as the design of the park.

Mini-Sculpture Garden, Education Workshops, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Mini-Sculpture Garden education workshops, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

Primary Flowers, Education Workshop, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Primary Flowers education workshop, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

In support of this educational philosophy, a variety of musical artists were invited to perform during the opening day. The Minnesota Pop Orchestra, Moore by Four, and Preston Reed warmed up the Vineland Place stage for the featured performance. The Spoon Band with Charlie Mcquire and Pop Wagner offered an interactive performance for the public to participate in. Inspired by the Spoonbridge and Cherry, the band used wooden spoons in their songs to create a beat. They also provided viewers with spoons and instructions on how they could be used to tap along and follow the beat of the music.

Spoon Band-Charlie Maguire and Pop Wagner, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Spoon Band-Charlie Maguire and Pop Wagner, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

Aside from the education workshops and musical performances, those who attended the 1988 opening day were invited to observe and interact with the sculptures. Due to the movement and curiosity evoked by Arikidea, Mark di Suvero’s 26-foot high installation was a crowd favorite. Many visitors took advantage of the suspended wooden platform that hangs down from the steel beams above and explored the industrial, yet airy, structure. Di Suvero was one of many artists present during the opening day that were available to offer reflections and insights regarding their work. In addition to di Suvero, artists such as Brower Hatcher, Frank Gehry, and Martin Puryear enjoyed the opening day festivities.

Crowds with Mark di Suervo’s Arikidea, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Crowds with Mark di Suervo’s Arikidea, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

Mark di Suvero with the Daytons and Arikidea, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, 10 September 1988

Mark di Suvero with the Daytons and Arikidea, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Opening, September 10, 1988

The opening day of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden exemplified the main concept of why the park was created, as an outdoor space where the public could gather in celebration of the arts. During the opening day, the public was invited to partake in education workshops, musical performances, and of course, viewing the park. The archived photos and history that I have uncovered through my research show the success that collaboration had from an early idea to the development and opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Nam June Paik at the Walker: A History of Experimentation

Last summer, I initiated the conservation of Anti-Gravity Study, a two-channel, 25-monitor video artwork by Nam June Paik, whose tapes are part of the Walker Archives’ documentation collection. While working on this project, I also discovered the rich history that Paik has with the Walker, and the following is an account of this research as well […]

Paik installing Fish Flies on Sky (1976), another artwork in which monitors were mounted to a gallery's ceiling. Photograph: Paik Estate 

Paik installing Fish Flies (1976). Photograph: Peter Moore Estate

Last summer, I initiated the conservation of Anti-Gravity Study, a two-channel, 25-monitor video artwork by Nam June Paik, whose tapes are part of the Walker Archives’ documentation collection. While working on this project, I also discovered the rich history that Paik has with the Walker, and the following is an account of this research as well as the ongoing conservation of Anti-Gravity Study. 

An artist who continually reinvented every medium with which he engaged, Nam June Paik is perhaps best known for recognizing video’s creative potential and elevating it to artistic status. Born in Seoul in 1932, Paik began his career as a musician, creating experimental compositions while also realizing new sounds with classical instruments. He pursued these experiments in Germany, where he collaborated with composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage and met George Maciunas, who would later invite Paik to join Fluxus when he moved to New York City in 1964.

In the late 1950s, Paik expressed increased interest in the theoretical and conceptual properties of video and a desire to further expand his technical knowledge and skill of the medium. During this time, he carried out his own experiments with video technology, especially in regards to using magnets to alter the polarity of the cathode ray tube inside televisions. Paik also made connections with members of the scientific community to merge the disciplines of art and technology through the works he produced.

In 1963, Paik met engineers Hideo Uchida and Shuya Abe, and it was this partnership that led to the creation of the Paik/Abe Synthesizer, a revolutionary device that allowed artists to manipulate closed-circuit video broadcasts and pre-recorded footage themselves as opposed to having to rely on technicians. The objectives of the synthesizer are echoed throughout Paik’s entire oeuvre and artistic process as he strived to challenge conceptions of the medium and the role technology increasingly played in everyday life: “the key point of today is how to strike the best balance in the interface of the man/machine, or hardware/software. It has been a basic philosophy behind the design of video synthesizer” [source].

The art world soon took notice of Paik’s experimentation with video. In 1965, the New School for Social research organized Paik’s first solo show, Nam June Paik: Cybernetics followed by the Bonino Gallery’s Paik exhibition—Electronic Art—the same year.

Martin Friedman, the Walker’s director from 1961 to 1990, heard about Paik while collaborating with the Howard Wise Gallery on the exhibition Light/Motion/Space. In a letter from Wise to Friedman, Wise describes Paik as follows, “40-ish, Korean, produces patterns in TV tubes by use of magnets. Hand operated. He is Charlotte Moorman‘s partner, or perhaps assistant.” Friedman was intrigued and eager to include Paik in the exhibition. He even expressed interest in inviting both Paik and Moorman to perform at the Walker.

Cover of Lights in Orbit catalogue.

Cover of Lights in Orbit catalogue

Light/Motion/Space featured artworks by artists who were experimenting with light as an artistic medium, and included 65 artworks. Thirty-five of the works were on loan from Howard Wise and shown in the earlier Lights in Orbit (1967), and artworks by eight additional artists were added to Light/Motion/Space. This exhibition also proved to be an excellent platform to introduce Paik’s video artworks to Midwest audiences, since it featured a group of international artists, all of whom pushed the boundaries of their respective medium.

Light/Motion/Space featured Paik’s Electronic Blues (1966) and Electronic Waltz (1967). These two color, single-channel videos were part of Paik’s “dancing patterns” artworks that he created during the mid-1960s using magnets to manipulate a video’s image. One of the most iconic of these was Magnet TV, which is also an early example of Paik’s “prepared televisions” and his first video sculptures. With these artworks, Paik deconstructed the television while adding a participatory element to the medium, since viewers could influence the television’s image by moving its magnet.

Cover of Light/Motion/Space catalogue.

Cover of Light/Motion/Space catalogue

In Paik Video, art historian Edith Decker-Phillips explains the creative and technical process behind these artworks:

“The power of attraction of the magnet hinders the electronic beam from filling up the rectangle surface of the TV screen. The field of lines is drawn up and builds veil-like patterns within the gravitational field of the magnet. If the magnet stays in this fixed position, the picture remains stable. There are only minor variations created by fluctuations in the electrical power supply. By moving the magnet, forms can be endlessly varied.” 

Using light as an artistic medium within Light/Motion/Space. UNTITLED (1966) by Ben Berns.

Using light as an artistic medium within Light/Motion/Space. UNTITLED (1966) by Ben Berns.

Electronic Blues (1966) displayed television news coverage of politicians, including future American president Richard Nixon. The magnet attached to the monitor impacted its electronic signals, causing the broadcast video to become distorted and creating what Friedman aptly referred to as Nixon’s “malleable physiognomy.” In this case, however, the magnet proved detrimental to the artwork—and exhibition—by causing the television to implode and smoke to fill the gallery. The exhibition briefly closed after this incident.

Friedman immediately phoned Paik about this problem, and an apologetic Paik arrived from New York on the afternoon of the same day to replace the monitor’s cathode ray tube and fix a short circuit. Unfortunately, the work continued to malfunction and was not featured in the exhibition when it later toured to the Milwaukee Art Center. Paik also did not see any use in replacing it with one of the other, yet older, color televisions in his equipment library:

“Easiest solution for all and probably the only one possibility is to forget about my color TV work in Milwaukee, but it might hurt me in the long range, if the rumour spreads in this small art world that my work is fragile.”

Richard Nixon's "malleable physiognomy" on view in Electronic Blues.

Richard Nixon’s “malleable physiognomy” on view in Electronic Blues

In more recent years, time-based media conservators have assumed the challenge of restoring and preserving Paik’s works for future generations of viewers. Paik, however, was already acutely aware of the technical challenges his works posed in 1967.

Paik also referred to the mishap at the Walker in a letter and follow up phone call to Friedman while in the midst of applying for a Rockefeller Foundation grant. Friedman recalls the exchange (which he shared in his May 2007 Art in America article, “Nam June on the Mississippi”):

‘“Please don’t expose me!’ [Paik] implored. The call was followed by a two-page letter describing his intention to establish the ‘world’s first studio for electronic video art’ at the State University in Stoney Brook. It concluded with an urgent request. Paik entreated, ‘Don’t forget to add that as far as you know, I am neither a Hippie nor a Beatnik. I am pretty SQUARE [emphasis Paik’s].’”

Whereas magnets attached to the monitor’s picture tube also manipulated the imagery of Electronic Waltz, this artwork didn’t carry the same radical weight as Electronic Blues with its malleable politicians. Exhibited on a television encased in a wooden frame, Electronic Waltz instead captivated viewers with its gyrating Möbius band that changed color as it moved against a black background.

The television used for this artwork was gifted to Paik by Jasper Johns sometime during the early 1960s. In a conversation with Walker Visual Arts Curator Joan Rothfuss in 2002, Johns revealed that the previous owners of the house he purchased on Riverside Drive in New York in 1963 left the set behind. Having recently met Paik, Johns was familiar with his experimental use of video technology and growing interest in color television, which was still a relatively new invention at this time and one that Paik had recently began incorporating into his video artworks. Johns later regretted offering the television to Paik: upon further inspection, he discovered that its dials could calibrate the television solely to one color—red, green, or blue. He found this to be a marvelous feature, but didn’t know Paik well enough to rescind his offer. Johns’ generosity, however, was the Walker’s gain since it allowed the museum to become one of the first American art institutions to usher Paik’s foray into the possibilities color television technology provided the medium of video.

Martin Friedman and Hubert Humphrey, 38th Vice President of the United States, viewing Electronic Waltz.

Martin Friedman and Vice President Hubert Humphrey viewing Electronic Waltz

In 1975, Friedman invited Paik back to the Walker to discuss creating an entirely new video artwork for The River: Images of the Mississippi. According to Friedman, the focus of the exhibition was “on how that ‘father of waters’ had been perceived not only by explorers and the first settlers along its banks but also painters and early photographers who wended their way along its 2,500 mile course.” Friedman saw Paik’s TV Sea at in January 1975 at the Bonino Gallery, and was eager to see how Paik would use video to depict the mighty river.

This issue of Design Quarterly was the catalogue for the exhibition.

An issue of Design Quarterly was dedicated to the exhibition

A merging of the natural with the scientific was a recurring motif throughout Paik’s oeuvre, particularly during the 1970s. TV Garden (1974–78), one of these seminal works, featured color television sets of various sizes installed on a gallery’s floor among live plants. All of the monitors played Paik’s earlier collaboration with John J. Godfrey, Global Groove (1973), which merged art, performance, and technology. In Fish Flies on Sky (1975), monitors of various sizes were mounted to a gallery’s ceiling and played a video of goldfish swimming.

TV Sea installed at the Guggenheim. This artwork is also part of the museum's collection.

TV Sea installed at the Guggenheim. This artwork is also part of the museum’s collection. Photo: Guggenheim Museum

In the resulting Anti-Gravity Study, Paik articulated the ethos of The River exhibition while simultaneously building on this visual language of nature and technology.

Bob Harris, a filmmaker who Paik worked with this project, helped create the footage for Anti-Gravity Study. In summer 1976, Harris traveled from the Minneapolis to New Orleans along the Mississippi River capturing his journey on 8mm, color film, and focusing his lens on wildlife, riverboats and barges, the St. Louis Arch, and fish swimming in ponds at the St. Louis Zoo. Paik later transferred this footage to video and skillfully edited two channels for Anti-Gravity Study using the Paik/Abe Synthesizer.

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Within The River, Anti-Gravity Study was displayed on 20 color and five black-and-white CRT monitors that were on loan from General Electric solely for the exhibition. A custom bracket was constructed to mount them 10 feet high to Gallery Four’s ceiling.

In the exhibition’s brochure, Anti-Gravity Study is described not as a video artwork but as a video environment. This description is particularly apt since Anti-Gravity was exhibited within its own black box, where visitors could lie down and become ensconced in an accelerated version of Harris’ voyage down the Mississippi. Anti-Gravity was also the last of the exhibition’s 274 artworks and installed in a section called 20th Century Images along with the only other moving image artwork, Louis Hock’s 16mm, color multi-projection film, Mississippi Rolls. 

Paik worked with Charles Helm, then the Walker’s audio-visual producer and technical director for performing arts, to install the monitors, which were each calibrated to a different color and mounted at various angles. Using the Walker Archives’ resources, including photographs, exhibition records, and a building diagram of Gallery Four, Helm, Walker Archivist Jill Vuchetich, and I were able to better ascertain how and where the monitors were mounted.

A video environment within the Walker's Gallery 4.

Anti-Gravity Study, a video environment within the Walker’s Gallery Four

The floor of the gallery was carpeted and viewers could stand, sit on the stairs, or lie down. And since the monitors were each mounted at different angles, a visitor’s experience of this artwork was influenced by their location within the space. If sitting at the top of the galley’s stairs, for example, visitors would likely have only seen the different colors of the monitors beaming down onto the floor, instead to the footage itself that would be seen by lying directly underneath the monitors. The absorbing atmosphere of this artwork encouraged visitors to pause and perhaps even stay awhile after they came to the end of The River.

Anti-Gravity currently exists only as the 3/4-inch tapes that were used to exhibit the work in 1976. This placed great emphasis on stabilizing these tapes, as well as on the importance of exhibition documentation.

Due to the deterioration that had taken place over time, I didn’t want to risk playing the 3/4-inch tapes myself. I instead worked with DuArt Restoration in New York City, which cleaned the tapes, baked, and transferred them onto an archival videotape master and digital file. And despite not having the same video environment as 1976 viewers, being one of the first people to view this footage in forty years was truly an incredible experience:

Anti-Gravity Study was accompanied by a version of Paul Robeson singing ‘Ol Man River, whose lyrics describe the flowing Mississippi contrasted against the hardships of African Americans laborers. Within the context of this artwork and exhibition, the song was slowed down to half its speed, creating a droning effect that could be interpreted as expressing these workers’ exhaustion as they worked along the river. An additional soundtrack of crickets and other insect sounds was added to this song, but played back in real time.

Besides undertaking efforts to stabilize and transfer the videotapes, recreating the soundtrack was an additional factor. This part of the project is ongoing, but a short clip of its progress can be heard below:

Whereas Anti-Gravity Study demonstrated the Walker’s commitment to exhibiting media artworks and collaborating with Paik, none of Paik’s artworks had yet been acquired by the museum. Friedman thought it was time to rectify this absence, and in 1987, he approached Paik about acquiring one of his artworks for the permanent collection. Paik instead suggested combining the earlier Electronic Waltz and footage from Anti-Gravity Study alongside new material. The result was 66-76-89 (1989), a four-channel video sculpture displayed on 32 monitors of various sizes that combined two earlier artworks shown within Walker exhibitions and showcased Paik’s mastery of video imaging effects and Chroma key technology. These effects are both commonly found throughout his entire oeuvre, and especially in artworks from the mid-1970s onward.

66-78-89

66-78-89

After 1990, the Walker acquired other seminal Paik artworks, including TV Bra for Living Sculpture and TV Cello. Paik’s single channel works, including Global Groove and Merce by Merce by Paik (1975), are also represented in the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection. 66-76-89 is currently on view as part of Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections. TV Cello was recently on view as part of Art Expanded: 1958–1978.

The conservation of Anti-Gravity Study is ongoing. For questions regarding this artwork or to provide information on its history, please contact Caylin Smith.

“A Startling Development for an Art Museum”: WCCO Broadcasts the Walker’s Opening Night, January 4, 1940

Sculpture demonstration with Jean Severson and WCCO radio personalities, Clelland Card and Florence Lehman, opening night, January 4, 1940.
Walker Art Center lobby, opening night, January 4, 1940

Walker Art Center lobby, opening night, January 4, 1940

It was a chilly night 75 years ago on January 4, but that didn’t stop 3,000 visitors from coming to celebrate the opening of the Walker Art Center. But even if the weather did stop Minneapolis residents, they could’ve tuned into WCCO from 9 to 10 pm for a live radio broadcast of the festivities. Equipped with portable microphones, announcers Florence Lehman and Clellan Card roamed the building from galleries to basement interviewing staff and guests along the way. Here’s an excerpt from the radio transcript to give you a sense of opening night.

Artist-instructors in the Walker Art School, 1940

Artist-instructors in the Walker Art School, 1940

Clelland Card: Here we are in the Walker Art Center, a scene of one of the most interesting ideas in the nation. There are a large amount of visitors present. This is a startling development for an art museum. It tells an absorbing and thrilling story. We must throw away our old ideas of what an art center is like. It is no longer something you would rather stay away from. This is different. As you walk in you see brightly colored walls and ceilings. Would never dream an art school could look like this. 1940 art comes in bright colors. We all dislike the mausoleum atmosphere of the old museums. Here there is action, fun, and enjoyment. People are busy doing things with their hands; that is part of the art center purpose.

Now let’s talk to the man who runs this place, Mr. Dan Defenbacher. Am I in an art center or a manual training center?

Mr. Defenbacher: A museum in the modern manner. The term implies a museum which breaks with tradition. We break with tradition by placing the same stress on present-day art as we do on the past art.

Walker Art Center opening night.  Left to right: Colonel F.C. Harrington, WPA; Daniel Defenbacher, Walker Art Center Director; Clement Haupers, WPA

Walker Art Center opening night. Left to right: Colonel F.C. Harrington, WPA; Daniel Defenbacher, Walker Art Center Director; Clement Haupers, WPA

Florence Lehman: Now we are in the sculpture studio. This is Jean Severson. What are you making?

Jean Severson: A portrait sketch of the model in front of me.

Lehman: What goes into the sketch?

Severson: There’s an armature under here.

Lehman: What’s an armature?

Severson: An armature is the foundation of the model. It holds the clay. Some are made of wood, others of wire. There is wire in this sketch.

Lehman: Can anyone work in here?

Severson: Yes. Everything is free; anyone can come here.

Sculpture demonstration with Jean Severson and WCCO radio personalities, Clelland Card and Florence Lehman, opening night, January 4, 1940.

Sculpture demonstration with Jean Severson and WCCO radio personalities Clelland Card and Florence Lehman, opening night, January 4, 1940.

Clelland Card: This is the most restful trip I have made in an art gallery. There’s no gallery fatigue here, no squinting of eyes. All exhibits are made attractive with captions, easy to look at. By reading the captions one gets the whole story of the pictures in everyday language, everyday terms. It is hard to believe these walls were before a uniform drab white. They have been done over in very pleasing colors.

Old formal display cases gone. Cases are made of painted wood extending from top to floor with only opening for object or objects displayed. For example, here is a black vase shown against a turquoise wall. Vases having designs are shown against background lighted just right. The brief description I am giving doesn’t do justice to this. You must come and see for yourself.

"The Tea Ceremony," display case for the T.B. Walker collection, 1940

“The Tea Ceremony,” display case for the T.B. Walker collection, 1940

Card (interviewing Hon. Gov. Harold Stassen): How do you like the art center?

Stassen: I am enjoying it very much. I find it very stimulating. It’s very thrilling. Judging from the turnout, bringing this number of people out on a cold evening speaks well for Minneapolis. The art center is full of people.

Card: What significance do you feel the art center has on our locality?

Stassen: This is a splendid forward step in broader appreciation of art. Pleased to see a step of this kind taking place in Minneapolis.

Card (interviewing Sydney Stolte, State Works Progress Administration [WPA] Administrator): Do you feel that without WPA this new art center would not have been possible?

Stolte: Not entirely so. Many factors must qualify to make a WPA project. The Minnesota Arts Council, to whom our community should give great credit, is a large factor. An art project is a big project. Many people are not aware of the many talents of our own artists. The Art Project was set up to help artists badly hit by the depression.

Left to Right: S.L. Stolte, WPA,  Minnesota Governor Harold E. Stassen,  and D.S. Defenbacher, director, Walker Art Center opening night, January 4, 1940

Left to Right: S.L. Stolte, WPA, Minnesota Governor Harold E. Stassen, and D.S. Defenbacher, director, Walker Art Center opening night, January 4, 1940, standing in front of an exhibit panel for “Time Off,” organized by the Walker Art Center and Life magazine.

Lehman (interviewing lithograph printer Morris Olstad): Do you print on pieces of paper?

Olstad: A drawing is made on stone or zinc plate, etched and then printed. The coated transfer paper on which the drawing is made is placed between damp blotters and run through the press under pressure.

Lehman: How do you know how much pressure to use?

Olstad: Have to use your own imagination, must get just enough.

Lehman: Must have to work at it a long time to know just the right amount of pressure to use. How long have you done this kind of work?

Olstad: Thirty.

Lehman: I guess that is long enough.

Printing demonstration, Walker Art Center, 1940

Printing demonstration, Walker Art Center, 1940

Walker Art Center opening January 4, 1940

Walker Art Center membership desk, opening night, January 4, 1940.

Card: We certainly have enjoyed our visit here. We hope all of you will have the chance to come down here soon and have a good time, see the beautiful things here.  (Signs off)

 

 

Eric Sutherland and the Lost Art of the Darkroom

(3 darkroom photos) Eric Sutherland took these photos of his darkroom in the basement of the original 1927 Walker building so that a precise replica of the workspace could be created in the 1971 Barnes Building.  The same sinks and cabinetry were used until the photography department converted to digital technology in 2003.

In today’s digital world it can be hard to remember that photography once relied on cameras, chemicals, and a darkroom. For many decades the magic of an image did not just occur with the snapping of the shutter, but also in the darkroom where the manipulation of exposure could produce dramatic effects.  The Walker Art Center darkroom was the domain for many exceptional museum photographers in the last century.  But photographer Eric Sutherland had a special attachment to the Walker’s darkroom.

Sutherland was the Walker’s staff photographer from 1953 to 1978, shooting some of the center’s most iconic images, including Marcel Duchamp’s portrait, Christo’s Balloon Ascension (1966), and Dan Flavin’s corridor of lightUntitled (1971), featured on the cover of the  November/December issue of Walker magazine. In these photographs Sutherland captures the spirit of the moment with his meticulous attention to detail and his command of darkroom technique. This is particularly evident in the series of photographs that he shot of Duchamp. Duchamp with Bicycle Wheel (1913) captures the artist in what appears to be a spontaneous moment, with martini in hand and an impish grin. By contrast, the rarely seen image of Duchamp with his readymade Why Not Sneeze (1921), taken at the same event as the Bicycle Wheel shot, creates shadows that makes Duchamp look sinister.

Contact sheet for opening of Marcel Duchamp exhibition, October 19,1965

Contact sheet for the opening of Marcel Duchamp’s Walker exhibition, October 19, 1965. Left with director Martin Friedman; middle with Why Not Sneeze (1921); right with Bicycle Wheel (1913)

But in the darkroom Sutherland had precise control over the look of his final prints. Through the use of an enlarger he would project the negative onto chemically sensitive paper, process the paper through a series of chemical baths, then hang it to dry. He might make several prints before arriving at the exact effect he is looking for. Some areas of the negative would require more or less light to create the desired result. Sutherland created detailed “dodge” and “burn” tools in order to manipulate the amount of exposure certain areas of the paper received.

In addition to his darkroom wizardry, Sutherland kept copious records. His scribbled notes are legendary, rigorously jotting down film types, exposure times, chemical temperatures, and personal evaluation on negative sleeves, film boxes and contact prints. His thorough documentation preserves his method and and process and provides insight into how a photograph was once made.

Negative, sleeve and "burning" tool used to increase exposure in a particular area when printing while limiting the exposure of light to the remainder of the paper.  The image is one featured in Design Quarterly # 81, devoted to the newly completed Barnes Building (1971) and its gallery and work spaces within.

Negative, sleeve, and “burning” tool used to increase exposure in a particular area when printing while limiting the exposure of light to the remainder of the paper. The image is featured in Design Quarterly No. 81, devoted to the newly completed Barnes building (1971).

Barnes building office suite, 1971 for Design Quarterly # 81, 1971

Barnes building office suite, 1971, for Design Quarterly No. 81, 1971

In 1968, when the Walker Art Center was preparing for a new building by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, Sutherland turned his camera on his own darkroom. He took detailed photographs of the layout of his operation so that it could be recreated in the new building exactly as it was in the old building.darkroom_002 darkroom_001

(3 darkroom photos) Eric Sutherland took these photos of his darkroom in the basement of the original 1927 Walker building so that a precise replica of the workspace could be created in the 1971 Barnes Building.  The same sinks and cabinetry were used until the photography department converted to digital technology in 2003.

Sutherland documented his darkroom in the basement of the 1927 Walker building so that a precise replica of the workspace could be created in the 1971 building. The same sinks and cabinetry were used until the photography department converted to digital technology in 2003.

It was an eerie experience to stand in the darkroom in the Barnes building and look at the photographs that inspired it: the two spaces were nearly identical, just as Sutherland planned. Today the photos remain an interesting and haunting set of images that detail a process that is no longer practiced and document a space that is no longer a darkroom. Thanks to these images and Sutherland’s notations we have a comprehensive and preserved record of how photographs were created in the 20th Century.

Circa 1976 staff gathering on terrace, Eric Sutherland far left.

Staff gathering on the Walker terrace, circa 1976. Sutherland, waving, at left.

Chance Encounters in the Library

The following is the first in a series From the Rosemary Furtak Collection, which will take a closer look at artists’ books from the collection as they relate to current exhibitions and happenings at the Walker Art Center. Commonly known as An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . the full title of this book sprawls across […]

The following is the first in a series From the Rosemary Furtak Collection, which will take a closer look at artists’ books from the collection as they relate to current exhibitions and happenings at the Walker Art Center.

An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . edited by La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low, Second Edition 1970. Courtesy Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library

An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . edited by La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low, Second Edition 1970. Courtesy Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library

Commonly known as An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . the full title of this book sprawls across its first five pages: An anthology of chance operations concept art anti-art indeterminacy improvisation meaningless work natural disasters plans of action stories diagrams music poetry essays dance constructions mathematics compositions. It was first published in 1963, edited by La Monte Young and Mac Low and designed by George Maciunas. As the first collaborative publication from these artists, it played an integral role in the formation of Fluxus. The colorful pages present chance operations from a multitude of artists, including Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, and George Brecht, among many others. A true artists’ book, Maciunas worked closely with the artists to present their contributions in forms that reflected the artists’ ideas.

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

For example, this contribution by Dieter Roth presents his tool for creating chance poems. Placed over a page of text, this loose piece of paper with punched out holes – a “poetry machine” – reveals a new chance poem. While the poem captured below might read like nonsense, imagine a dozen of these poems assembled together. Or a hundred. It starts to take on a new substance.

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

As identified by Fluxus artist and theorist Ken Friedman, chance is a key Fluxus idea. As a technique, it enables artists to break from routine. Friedman explains that as something created by chance is put into a new form, it is no longer random but evolutionary[1]. This spirit of creating change and new activity is central to Fluxus.

A few weeks ago, the Art Lab at the Walker Art Center hosted the first of a series of free Fluxus Club events designed by artist Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Fluxus Club invites visitors to participate in an ongoing Happening installation of scores, announcements, rules, poetry and more. Visitors are encouraged to explore the galleries of Art Expanded, 1958-1978 for inspiration. They are also invited to view books and resources in the library, which will be open to the public during Fluxus Club sessions.

For the first installment of Fluxus Club, we selected several Fluxus materials and resources for visitors to page through for inspiration. In addition to Fluxus selections, visitors are welcome to browse the stacks for other material of interest. In a library, serendipity can play an important role in bringing people and books together. Sometimes the best discoveries happen by chance.

Fluxus Club participants in the library. Photo by Erin Smith for Walker Art Center.

Fluxus Club participants in the library. Photo by Erin Smith for Walker Art Center.

Footnote

[1] Ken Friedman, “Fluxus and Company” in The Fluxus Reader, ed. Ken Friedman. (West Sussex: Academy Editions, 1998), 248-9.

In 1976, a Dystopian River and Inflatable “Plumes of Fire”

American muralist Terry Schoonhoven was commissioned by the Walker Art Center to create his mural No River Wall Painting for the 1976 exhibition The River: Images of the Mississippi. It loomed large—24 by 35 feet—and foreboding in the Walker’s outer lobby, depicting the riverfront as dystopian industrial district, going to rack and ruin in mounding […]

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Trevor Schoonhoven, No River Wall Painting, 1976

American muralist Terry Schoonhoven was commissioned by the Walker Art Center to create his mural No River Wall Painting for the 1976 exhibition The River: Images of the Mississippi. It loomed large—24 by 35 feet—and foreboding in the Walker’s outer lobby, depicting the riverfront as dystopian industrial district, going to rack and ruin in mounding decay, a parched riverbed supporting barges going nowhere and tipped oil drums lodged in the scorched silt. Meanwhile, just off in the distance, gleaming new city buildings emerge—reaching up and away from the riverfront and the industry of the past.

It must have been an eerie experience gazing upon this almost-life size view of the “Mighty Mississippi” looking so miserable. Schoonhoven and The Fine Arts Squad, which he co-founded, had a knack for creating fantasy environments which enticed the viewer with their potential reality. The riverbed depicted here is a scene from a dark dream but one that must have resonated at the time, as environmental concerns were fueling a rapidly growing ecology movement in the 1970s.

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Schoonhoven sketch

In this preliminary sketch, also included in the exhibition, Schoonhoven includes these notes: “Dry river view. Sky cool and metallic. Looks like it’s imported from another planet. Mississippi river bed cracked, features similar to area around Badwater in Death Valley. Evidence of drifting land, sand flats. Clear brilliant light. The Los Angeles river would feel right at home here.”

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Schoonhoven preliminary sketch

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Terry Schoonhoven working on No River Wall Painting in the Walker lobby, 1976

Another highlight of The River exhibition, albeit brief, was Otto Piene’s Black Stacks Helium Sculpture. It was commissioned by the Walker and installed on October 30, 1976, at the Northern States Power (NSP) South East Steam Plant (located at S.E. Main Street and 6th Avenue).

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Otto Piene

Otto Piene, then director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was on hand for the installation of this work of “Sky Art,” a term he coined in 1969 and which allowed him to use landscape and cities themselves as the focal point of his work.

The entire installation process of the four 300-foot-long red helium-filled balloons was estimated at three to five hours. The streamers, three feet in diameter, were to be pumped up every two days for as long as they would last, an expected two weeks.

1976 Helium Stacks install_001

Lisa Lyons, a Walker assistant curator at the time, recalls a meeting with then-Walker director Martin Friedman and officials at NSP about using the stacks: “After looking at Otto’s preliminary drawings, they were concerned that the big red balloons issuing from the top of the disused stacks would call to mind smoke and pollution. But ultimately, they signed on, and the piece was installed without a hitch, until, that is, someone took aim at it.”

Originally scheduled to be on view through November 13, vandals shot three of the four streamers full of holes within the first days of the installation. The work was not reinstalled.

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Article from the Minneapolis Tribune, November 1, 1976

“An inflatable sculpture that was installed Saturday on the smokestacks of a power plant had been shot full of holes by vandals by Sunday afternoon, according to Walker Art Center spokespersons,” read a news story in the Minneapolis paper. “Of the original four 300-foot-long, red helium-filled balloons only one was floating yesterday from the stacks of the NSP Co. steam plant at Main St. and 16th Ave SE. The work by Otto Piene had been commissioned by the Walker Art Center in conjunction with its exhibit called The River: Images of the Mississippi.”

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Black Stacks Helium Sculpture by Otto Piene

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Black Stacks Helium Sculpture by Otto Piene

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Black Stacks Helium Sculpture by Otto Piene

Martin Friedman, Walker director from 1961 to 1990, described them as abstract plumes of fire.

Opening day cake for the 1976 exhibition, The River: Images of the Mississippi

The exhibition ran from October 3, 1976 to June 9, 1977. And of course, there was a cake for the opening.

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An issue of Design Quarterly was dedicated to the exhibition

Mickey Friedman wrote in the exhibition’s catalogue:

“River imagery is explored in this exhibition as it exists in painting, prints, photography, maps and, indirectly, as it occurs in planning and architecture. Though architecture does not immediately reflect an image of a river, the character and course of the waterway affects the forms and functions of architecture related to it and conversely, future river imagery may be the consequence of architectural proposals made today.”

Her opening paragraph foretold the future. Schoonhoven’s noir-ish view of the riverfront gratefully did not come to pass. Crossing the Stone Arch Bridge today offers a cityscape that took decades to form and was indeed the consequence of conversations and proposals that had begun in the 1970s and ’80s. Instead of warning people away from its banks with mounds of aggregate and earth-moving machines, the river now invites exploration, into its present amenities as well as its stories from the past, and is the “next frontier” in Minneapolis’ nationally known parks system.

2014 Mill District from Stone Arch_crop

Riverfront 2014 photo by Barb Economon

For more moments from the Walker’s 75 years as a public art center, visit our Walker@75 page.

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