publication of the International Sculpture Center
2004 Bellevue Sculpture Exhibition
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in Downtown Park in Bellevue, Washington, the 2004 Sculpture Exhibition
had something for everyone. The small park is a semi-formal setting, with
a large pond and artificial waterfall at its center, informal trees around
the perimeter, and large areas of unarticulated green lawns, all ideal
settings for outdoor sculpture. But there is a danger in any bucolic outdoor
setting for art. People mainly come to parks to relax and stop thinking.
The challenge in sculpture set outdoors is to invite people to do more
than that. The best public art is active, not passive: it impinges on
viewers and expands them.
Alzate, Corridor III, 2004. Mixed media, 300 feet by 7 feet.
Bellevue sculpture show, juried for the first time this year, was selected
by Robert Duncan, chairman of the International Sculpture Center; Bryan
Ohno, owner of the Bryan Ohno Gallery in Seattle; and Gerard Tsutakawa,
a well-known sculptor based in Seattle. It included 24 sculptures in widely
ranging materials, chosen from 100 submissions. My three favorites were
the works of Oscar Alzate, Carlos Basanta, and Marta Moreu.
Corridor III was a 300-foot-long zig-zag passageway fenced off in green
silk. The side walls were seven feet high. It was set not in a grassy
wonderland, but off in a corner of the park in a less groomed place near
some scrubby trees. The Corridor was all encompassing: once you entered
it, you were shut in, you couldnt see out, and you had to go to
the end, an unseen destination. You had no way of knowing how long it
would take. But you could look up at the sky and see the reflections of
the sun on the green silk. So even as you felt controlled and even trapped,
you could sense that there was a larger world out there, a world beyond
your reach. Alzate is from Colombia; his earlier work was about the worldwide
drug war. This piece made no reference to that subject except on a psychological
level. It was out of the way, it gave you only one way out, it seduced
you with its surface, and it distanced you from the natural setting (there
was also some tangled string that created another barrier around it).
For children, it was a fun place to explore, for adults it had a bigger
Basant, The Man Who Stole the Golden Egg, 2004. Mixed media,
five and a half feet high.
Basanta, a native of Spain who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, created
the humorous The Man Who Stole the Golden Egg, a slightly larger-than-life
stick-figure man weighed down by a large concrete egg. Basantas
recent work has celebrated the egg shape in large and small formats, often
with an aesthetic frame of metal. He regards the egg as a perfect shape
that refers to positive qualities such as hope and wholeness.
But the label on this sculpture stated that Straining under the
weight of his new acquisition, The Man Who Stole the Golden Egg struggles
to carry his own greed. Basantas sculpture was a great image
for a park, where a plain egg as a metaphor would tend to just fade away;
a figure carrying an egg engages all different ages in its humorous, but
also serious, subject.
Moreu, also from Spain, contributed a bronze sculpture of an elongated,
weightless man holding a jump rope. He is suspended at the top of a jump,
with only the rope touching the ground. As with Basanta, Moreu has attended
to the environment of the park, creating a work both fun and touching.
The man in the air is vulnerable and graceful, possible and improbable,
harmless and perhaps helpless. Moreus other sculpture includes weightless
figures jumping horses, like circus performers. She celebrates the impossibilities
of human actions.
to these three artists, several others created successful additions to
the natural park setting. Shirley Wiebe placed two feathery frond-like
plants of galvanized diamond mesh steel at the center of the
waterfall. They glistened and moved in the wind and sun. Bill Vielehr
from Boulder Colorado, created cast and fabricated metal shapes that he
called 3D Drawings. Their subtle surface patterns of hieroglyphics,
wrinkles, lines and squares changed constantly as you walked around them.
Brian Zebold of Seattlealso played on the idea of drawing with his flat
steel totem-like forms.
Hoseys Terminal Thrust consists of a complex group of steel sculptures,
forms emerging from within forms in an effect akin to birthing. His recent
meeting with the Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro seems to have been
extremely fortuitous. In contrast to Hoseys heavy steel shapes,
Richard Swanson s Prairie Tops, made of baled hay shaped into tops,
danced across the grass. The artist is from Montana, and his use of hay
brought a little prairie to the Northwest. The original work had more
tops and was set in a field as a collaboration between a choreographer
and a sculptor.
also used materials in a playful way, weaving the larger-than-life figure
The Proud One from packaging strap material. The arms of the headless
standing figure unraveled in the breezes, as the sun played on the plastic
material to create constantly changing reflections.
exhibition was a survey of the range of materials possible for sculpture.
In addition to those discussed above, there was chewing gum, fused glass,
stone, and wood. I only wish that more of the artists had gone beyond
predictable content like gates, icons and totems. The best works engaged
us with unpredictable materials, eccentric forms, and unusual concepts.
And, of course, humor is always the best attribute of all for sculpture
in a public park.
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