Saturday, June 10, 2017

The New Walker Sculpture Garden

The Sculpture Garden has always been my favorite part of the Walker Art Center.

It's free, it's open, you can bike to it, the walls aren't white, and even if the art is bad, there's plenty of green space, trees, and urban vistas to make the visit worthwhile.

I'm not saying all the art in the Walker's permanent collection is bad. But it might be that the frame of mind you have to jack yourself into to appreciate it  isn't all that healthy, and the lengthy essays full of gassy vagaries that hang beside each piece might just be an unexplored cause of dementia.

They opened the new sculpture garden today, with the help of an 8-million-dollar grant from the State of Minnesota and plenty of private donations, too. We arrived on bicycles, braving the 90-degree heat and the fierce winds gusting down from Kenwood and across Cedar Lake.

The first thing you notice is that the gardens are far more open than they used to be. Lots of trees have been removed, making the Minneapolis skyline just across the highway far more visible. On the other hand, the arbor walk on the south end of the park, where most of the interesting plantings used to be, seems to have been obliterated.

There are quite a few new pieces of art. A giant blue chicken, for example, and a brick tower with a statue of St. Lawrence, patron saint of librarians and archivists, inside. (It happened to be closed.) Frank Gehry's glass fish is gone. The spoon bridge is still there, needless to say, though they moved it to a more central location. Other pieces have also been repositioned. About half of the space has been given over to prairie grasses that haven't sprouted yet, and several killdeer are nesting on the hard-baked soil.

My overall feeling was that the new garden is larger, more open, yet still "nice." It's hard to say whether the relative lack of shade will become a drawback with the passage of time.

We listened to Senator Amy Klobuchar deliver a speech during which she quoted Picasso—The purpose of Art is to shake the dust off of daily life. She also reminded us that T.B. Walker, a lumber baron from the 1870s, established the original Walker museum in his home, and opened it to the public! Both she and Olga Viso, the Walker head, made sincere and thoughtful references to the Native Americans who succeeded in having a sculpture of a gallows removed and ceremonially buried. The spirit of community pride and involvement was in the air.

I didn't see any Native Americans in the crowd, but it was otherwise robustly multi-ethnic. Asian, Indian, Somali, Black, white, Latin American. One young couple I passed was conversing in Italian. Many children attended with their families, and I even saw one man wearing overalls smeared with oil paints! (What? No brushes in the side pocket?)

We went inside past the attractive restaurant/bar, which I'd never seen before, and wandered up to the rooftop terrace to look out over the garden and the city. There were only eight or ten people up there, some of them sitting in the shade around a single table while others were stretched out flat on what appeared to be brightly colored beanbag beds.

On our way back down through the galleries we paused briefly at the Merce Cunningham show, though I wasn't paying much attention. The scene outside, fun of laughter, movement, food trucks and sunglasses, had been colorful enough.


1 comment:

Luis Diaz said...

Thanks John for the blog post. We will have to go see it when we come back in July.