Alexander Calder, Eagle (1971)
Alexander Calder, Eagle (1971)

Last weekend partly in order to escape the heat and partly because it was well overdue I took a trip to the Seattle Art Museum and after it closed I headed out to the new sculpture park.  It was a good afternoon and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.  SAM is a decent art museum though they only have a smattering of the modern art that I particularly enjoy.  A very nice Ruaschenberg that I was happy to see especially taking in account his recent passing. The current exhibition is “Inspiring Impressionism” – once again milking the last movement in art that seemed to have really grabbed Americans. That’s a post in itself but I find it interesting that American’s acceptance of abstraction goes that far and no further.

The Olympic Sculpture Park is about a mile north of SAM downtown and is terraced park that descends three levels to the waterfront.  It crosses two roads via overpasses that are themselves used as art or places to show them.  On a hot sunny day like the day I went there was plenty of people and I was amused to see them use the sculptures themselves as opportunities for shade.  The park itself is not packed with the sculptures, there is clearly space for plenty of new works. Additionally at least two of the pieces were temporary installations that are slated to be replaced by other things.

Seattle Cloud Cover
Teresita Fernández Seattle Cloud Cover (2004/2006)

At the eastern entrance to the park is a large pavilion, which was closed by the time I arrived, but it apparently has an installation inside (which looked unimpressive through the windows) and a cafe and work rooms or some such.  I moved passed that pretty fast and though there were sculptures right there one’s eye is drawn right toward the Calder, which is definitely their centerpiece.

Alexander Calder, Eagle (1971)

Though one’s Wakeeye is drawn to the Calder you do walk past a number of pieces before you get to it.  Below a set of grassy steps from the pavilion is a giant rusted steel sculpture by Richard Serra called Wake.  Theses huge sculpture that you can walk around like this I always think as indicative of a certain style of sculpture that gained prominence through companies becoming huge in the twentieth century and wanting things on their vast properties. Wake is from 2004 and was probably commissioned for the park, so perhaps this categorization is a bit unfair.  This one though I thought provided some nice opportunities for photography that involves planes framing things and one such a sunny day I got a lot of enjoyment from that.

Richard Serra's Wake
Richard Serra, Wake (200)

This little paths that wander through the park are filled with local plants all nicely labeled with little placards.  The park really is incredibly well done and while I found only the Calder to be a great piece of art nothing struck me as horrible or not worth displaying. The most recent stuff all seemed a little vacuous, but was often interesting and well done. Just west of Wake, nestled among the paths was this chrome piece which I think is pretty demonstrative of this.  I love how it fits in with its surroundings by reflecting them but otherwise, its a bit meh.

Beverly Pepper Perre's Ventaglio III (1967)
Beverly Pepper, Perre’s Ventaglio III (1967)

As I mentioned above the park is in three sections each bisected by roads. The first of these cuts had a sculpture of a giant typewriter eraser down by the road.   The littlTypewriter Erasere plaque associated with it had this quote from one of the sculptors,  Claes Oldenberg on it:  “I make my art out of everyday experiences, which I find as perplexing and extraordinary as can be. We don’t copy the objects we use, we try to transform them and we hope they go on transforming as you look at them. The idea of endless public dialogue, visual dialogue, is very important to us.” I don’t know, that really just seems too much to me.  The concept of focusing on the everyday, it just doesn’t spark endless dialogue to me. In fact its point just seems to be nothing beyond what they say. Clearly that’s enough for them.

Eagle (section)

Alexander Calder, Eagle (section) (1971)

At this point I took a little walk down an encircling path so that I came up around the Calder from the other size. The Calder is fantastic, I’ve long been a fan of his mobiles and it was great to see a giant stabile here in Seattle. What I like so much about Calder is the way that his sculptures use negative space and shadow. The form of this sculpture carves out wonderful little spaces that so appeal to my eye.  I took a lot of photos of this effect, heightened by the deep blue sky. After this you cross another bridge and you find yourself in the third section which requires you to descend to the waterfront.

At the bottom is the waterfront park which is mostly a bicycle path and boardwalk. But Schubert Sonatathere are a few more sculptures down here including the one controversial one.  A major doner insisted that a sculpture of a naked man be created with his funds and so it was done.  Of course some prudes took exception to this, but really talk about a tempest in a teapot. The sculpture is of a naked man and boy each inside their own fountain.  The water shoots up and around them at different heights.  I nice use of the fountain and the sculptures seemed well enough done. Figurative sculpture is about the last thing I’m interested in, but I think combined with the fountain it’s a nice enough piece.

Father and Son
Louise Bourgeois Father and Son,  (2004/2006)

So that was my first trip to the Olympic Sculpture Park. I can definitely say it won’t be my last, I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on what new pieces and installations they’ll be putting here. For more photos and information of these and other sculptures check out my Olympic Sculpture Park flickr set.