Saturday, March 23, 2013

untitled (underground)

untitled (underground)

Today's thrilling adventure takes us underground, to an obscure tunnel under SW 4th Avenue in downtown Portland, home to the striking (but even more obscure) sculpture pictured above. It's a 1973 piece by Bruce West, the same guy behind Land Form, Sculpture Stage, and one of the many "Untitled" pieces along the transit mall. This one (which is also untitled, as far as I can determine) doesn't show up on contemporary public art guides, but Cafe Unknown stumbled across it in a vintage mid-1970s walking map, and went to investigate. That post pressed a lot of my buttons (abstract art, vintage 1970s stuff, obscure things around town, "secret" underground tunnels, etc.) and it was inevitable that I'd have to track the thing down myself sooner or later. Although the tunnel part is less exciting than you'd think; it looks like just another beige office corridor, albeit without windows.

The vintage pamphlet described the piece this way:

Between the Georgia Pacific tower and parking garage across 4th St. is a tunnel. And in the center of this tunnel is a Bruce West sculpture with an undulating chrome surface which reflects into many more on its adjacent mirrored walls. Enter the garage building from 4th St. and take the elevator to "C" level. This not only leads to the tunnel but to the G.P. historical museum.

The historical museum (which I visited as a Cub Scout many years ago) is long gone, but the sculpture is right where it was back in the 70s.

untitled (underground)

As you might imagine, there's basically nothing on the net about this thing. The artist's website mentions it briefly:

1973 Free Standing Sculpture - 8'x5'x2' - Pressed Formed and Chrome Plated Steel - Georgia-Pacific Headquarters Corporate Collection - Portland, OR
untitled (underground)

It also shows up twice in the library's Oregonian database. On August 12th, 1973, a small item titled "G-P building adds sculpture" described the new acquisition:

A chromed steel sculpture by Bruce West, commissioned by Georgia-Pacific for the tunnel between its headquarters building on SW 5th Avenue and adjacent parking garage, is the firm's latest acquisition for its collection of art by Oregonians.

Fabricated in welded-steel modules, then chrome-plated and assembled into a curving-surfaced, monolithic form, the sculpture is about eight feet high, with its reflective surfaces picking up mirrors and brightly painted ceiling of the tunnel.

The Cafe Unknown post speculated that the sculpture had once sat in the building's lobby or somewhere else a little more prominent. But the article indicates it was designed for its current location, and the mirrored walls are part of the design. The ceiling, however, is no longer "brightly painted". In 1973 that almost certainly meant "fluorescent orange", so today's sedate color scheme is probably a good thing, quite honestly.

I should point out that the building now belongs to Standard Insurance, as Georgia-Pacific's headquarters left town in the early 1990s if I recall correctly. They're now part of the evil Koch Brothers empire (which I try to avoid doing business with), so it's probably just as well that they aren't here anymore.

untitled (underground)

The piece also gets a brief mention in a February 1st, 1981 article, "Making the City Your Playground", February 1st 1981. It's a very quirky article full of suggested kid-friendly activities around town. Much of the article is devoted to visiting area airports, with a bit of walking around downtown looking at art. These ideas would likely be considered too boring for a 2013 version of the article, although obviously it all depends on the kid.

I can't help but wonder whether my mom read this article, because I distinctly recall visiting airports with my siblings for the educational value, and traipsing around town looking at art, which was pretty embarrassing at the time because of all the naked statues. And now here I am writing this humble blog. So from now on, if anyone claims this blog is weird or pointless, I'm just going to go ahead and blame formative experiences and so forth. I'm not saying they're wrong about this blog; I'm just saying I have a reasonable excuse now.

untitled (underground)

No comments :