Sunday, March 24, 2013

118 Modules

118 Modules The latest obscure artwork in our ongoing tour of obscure things is 118 Modules, on the SW corner of the parking garage at SW 10th & Yamhill. It's yet another find from the big Travel Portland public art map. The map's description:
Smart Park, SW 10th & Yamhill
John Rogers 118 Modules
1979 slip-cast white stoneware
The RACC page about it has a bit more to say:

This is John Rogers’ first public art commission. He has since created numerous large-scale public art projects from Alaska to Florida. A Portland native, Rogers studied ceramics at Portland State University, and currently works with diverse materials such as metals, glass, ceramics, stone, cement, plastics, and light.

“I like to mix qualities found in the organic world with the technical world… My art relies on a firm understanding of the interplay between art, architecture and engineering. From these disciplines I develop sculptural forms that create a dialogue and tension with the architecturally defined space, as well as the surroundings.”

There are also Smithsonian art inventory & CultureNOW pages that don't add a lot. It also shows up in a big .CSV file cataloguing local public art, hosted on Github of all places. An interesting idea, anyway.

118 Modules

This is at least the third artwork I've posted about that was funded under the late, lamented, Comprehensive Education & Training Act (CETA), which I gather was a great big 1970's style unsupervised crockpot of federal money. The other two pieces (that I'm aware of) are Uroboros and Disk #4; I think 118 Modules is probably my favorite of the three, although Uroboros had an interesting, photogenic texture when you got up close to it.

118 Modules

So the question you're probably wondering now is whether there really are 118 modules or not. I did actually try counting & came up with fewer than that, but then I realized some of the modules are divided into halves, quarters, or even smaller fractions, and those pieces all probably count toward the total number of modules. At that point laziness kicked in and I shrugged & stopped counting. In my defense, I'm pretty sure that not knowing whether there really are 118 modules or not adds a sophisticated new layer of complexity to the piece. Also, counting the modules is sort of like tugging on Superman's cape: What if, hypothetically speaking, it turned out there were really only 115 modules? What then? An angry taxpayer lawsuit? A quiet renaming? The piece gets de-accessioned and goes up on eBay? Honestly, I have no idea how these things usually work, but it's bound to be ugly, so maybe we just shouldn't go there.

118 Modules

Urban Arrangements

Urban Arrangements

Today's adventure in obscure-stuff-we-all-walk-by-every-day-without-noticing takes us to SW Yamhill outside Portland's downtown Nordstrom store, where Urban Arrangements adorns an otherwise blank brick wall. The big Travel Portland public art map describes it briefly:

Nordstrom, SW Yamhill btw Broadway & Park
Garth Edwards Urban Arrangements
1990 brushed stainless steel
Urban Arrangements

The artist's website lists it along with another piece located at the Lloyd Center Nordstrom store, which I'm not familiar with. The site doesn't have photos of either one, although quite a few others are pictured, including a number of animal designs that I rather like. Anyway, that's pretty much all there is on the interwebs. The CultureNOW page for it is just a stub, and RACC has nothing about it, I suppose because it's probably owned by Nordstrom and thus not "public" in the sense of ownership.

Urban Arrangements

Since I don't have anything else that's actually relevant to share, I'll go off on a tangent here and point you at the website of a different artist by the same name. At first I thought they were the same guy, which would make for a more interesting blog post since the second guy also claims to have invented a "Unified Field Theory", which would be the holy grail of modern physics, no artist since DaVinci has accomplished this sort of thing, etc., etc. The web design is also pretty great, assuming you miss GeoCities.

Urban Arrangements

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)