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Campus 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

Learn more about progress on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project.

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.

Learn more about progress on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project.

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.

anti_gravity_1 anti_gravity_2 anti_gravity_3

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)

 

 

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