The San Diego County Operations Center showcases a tour-worthy collection
You can register to vote online or by mail. But residents of San Diego County should go to the new Registrar of Voters office and see the two big heads.
These heads are not bureaucrats, but rather the culmination of a three-year project to integrate public art into the County Operations Center campus. The heads, each measuring 6.5 feet tall and 4.5 feet in diameter, are works by famed ceramist Jun Kaneko. Installed at the end of October, they are “under wraps” for unveiling at the registrar building dedication on Dec. 3.
“We wanted something that had a presence and would hold people’s interest,” says Gail Goldman, who consults on public art for cities across the United States and in Canada. For the past few years, she has been working with a three-member selection committee in conjunction with a .5 percent allocation for artwork from construction costs of San Diego County buildings beginning in 2009 and just ending. The museum-quality collection, representing an investment of almost $2 million, deserves a visit even if you have no business to conduct with the county.
Jun Kaneko’s sculptures join Zadok Ben-David’s 16.5-foot, COR-TEN steel sculpture (titled Perhaps) as outdoor installations. Lobby atriums in five buildings became ideal sites for suspended sculptures that can be viewed from two levels. Paintings and photography — all by San Diego artists — hang in the campus commons building and medical examiner/forensics offices.
“The medical examiner staff wanted artwork that would contribute to a calm and comforting environment,” Gail says. They include paintings by Italo Scanga, Marie Najera, Ellen Salk, Gail Roberts and Manny Farber. Paintings and photographs in the Campus Center were done by William Glen Crooks and Philipp Scholz Rittermann, respectively.
“Approximately 75 artists were considered,” Gail says.
For the site-specific, suspended sculptures, she presented about 20 artists. The committee then asked eight of those artists for conceptual proposals.
For the commissioned artworks, Gail says, she considered “artistic excellence, innovation and originality; capacity for working in media and with con-cepts appropriate to the project goals and site; and experience successfully completing work of similar scope, scale, budget and complexity.”
The other major aspect of the program involved artifact displays. Local sculptor Jay Johnson says he was contacted by Gail initially for a suspended artwork, but then was offered a commission to create infor-mative displays of historical documents, photographs and objects used in county operations and even parts of the buildings torn down.
Jay laughs when he recalls that his first question after accepting the commission was, “Where are your artifacts?” (logically assuming they had been gathered in one location). But the reply he received was, “That’s what you are going to find out.”
Jay and researcher David Richardson began amassing artifacts from county staffers, including old keys, signs and obsolete machines such as a mechanical calculator. The
displays, which Jay calls “assem-blages of interesting objects,” are artworks themselves. For one display, he had LED light boxes built to showcase six stained-glass windows from the 19th century installed in the San Diego County Superior Court building in 1889.
“There was one for every state, when there were 42 states,” Jay says.
For another display, he had the signature of Abraham Lincoln enlarged and printed on alum-inum. The signature came from an 1865 deed returning San Luis Rey Mission lands to the Catholic Church after the Civil War.
In late July, Gail led a tour of the campus for San Diego Museum of Art’s Contemporary Arts Committee. Several of the artists were present to discuss their works. Joyce Cutler-Shaw explained that her sculpture titled Orbital Loops was inspired by a newspaper article about the Cassini spacecraft on its trajectory to Saturn.
“This was a chance to draw in space,” said Joyce, who described how the 24 interlocking loops of 2-inch aluminum tubes — powder-coated in a lustrous blue-green — had to be disassembled and brought individually into the county building, where they were then reassembled.
Standing below her seven sculptures that bring jellyfish to mind, Anne Mudge said, “I thought of these as being bio-morphic chandeliers.” Made of hand-woven, polished stainless-steel wire, the grouping is titled Littoral Drift. “They’re about contrast,” Anne said. “They’re about expansion and contraction, light and dark, earth and air. ...I knew I wanted to do some-thing that was fairly ephemeral, but I had to contend with this space. Part of the design was in response to that, which is the reason for the very strong verticals.”
Christopher Puzio created two pieces for the smaller lob-bies in the medical examiner/forensics building. Cell Cluster is composed of aluminum circles and ovals cut with a water jet and then welded into one large oval. In contrast to the smooth/rounded sculpture, Star Cluster takes an amorphous shape with individually cut pieces of aluminum welded in what appears as random “disorder.”
“The idea was to tie in dif-ferences in scale,” Christopher said during the tour.
In the commons building, William Glen Crooks spoke about his three paintings; and photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann explained how he achieved the temporal effects of his photographs. He shot the 12-panel Alfa Lightning, Interstate 10, Arizona, USA (which captures lightning strikes in daylight) on a road trip from Texas to San Diego. It leads to thoughts about movement and perspective.
“The eyes see everything,” he said. “The mind zooms in.”
“This really was a fabulous opportunity,” Gail says of the construction project, “because it presented the ability to take a look at a project in a very cohesive way and put together a collection where the pieces complement each other and create a holistic experience.”
By Janice Kleinschmidt • Photo perhaps by Zadok Ben-David
A project to bring art to the public in partnership with building owners grows stronger
SEATTLE ARTIST Roy McMakin stood next to an office building on Eads Avenue in La Jolla and asked strangers to name their favorite color. The hue of that color they then selected from swatches was painted on a cinder block on the building wall.
The result is a serendipitous patchwork, 30 squares by 29 squares, titled Favorite Color — the second work in the Murals of La Jolla project.
“I think it’s a great idea to enhance the natural beauty of La Jolla and provide added value to people that visit us from other parts of the city or just tourists in general,” says Leon Kassel, who owns the building on which Roy painted. “I’ve had comments from neighbors; they just love it. And my tenants are proud of it, of course.”
The heads of La Jolla’s major visual arts organizations held their inaugural Murals of La Jolla meeting in June 2010 and by the end of the year had two completed projects: Kim MacConnel’s Girl From Ipanema on the back side of the Lapiz Building, visible from Drury Lane (see page 8) and Roy’s Favorite Color.
This April, Fred Tomaselli of Brooklyn, N.Y., Julian Opie of London and Gajin Fujita of Los Angeles raised the count to 12 (counting Opie’s double-sided installation as two murals).
“We always have a number of murals in the pipeline,” says Lynda Forsha, project curator, principal of Art Advisory Services and member of the mural advisory committee that matches buildings and artists.
“We scope out buildings that look like they have potential because they have big walls. We contact the building owners and ask if they are interested [in participating in the mural program]. The committee meets, and we generate a list of artists.
Once selected, an artist develops a proposal to be ap-proved by the committee and the building owner. Roy, who now splits his time between homes in Seattle and San Diego, recalls how the Favorite Color concept came to him
“I saw all the 9-inch grids and was intrigued and responded to that.” He came up with 55 color swatches, and the blocks were painted in sequence from top left across and down to the bottom right. Building owner Leon chose a hue of orange for his favorite color and says it is “somewhere in the top right corner.
Leon also favors John Baldessari’s Brain/Cloud (with Seascape and Palm Tree) outside George’s at the Cove on Prospect Street (and visible from Coast Boulevard below) and Kim MacConnel’s Girl From Ipanema. on a building owned by Leon’s brother-in-law.
“We have murals that inspire imagination,” Leon says
According to Roy, he and a lot of other artists are “not that enthusiastic about” going through what he calls the “cumbersome” public art process, whereas Murals of La Jolla places their work on private property where they are intended for a large-scale public viewing. Because they are on private property, the works are not subject to city ordinance
“It’s not signage. It’s art,” Lynda says. The project is funded by private donations, and the advisory committee has maintenance built into its budget, with each mural expected to remain on view for at least two years. The first two murals were painted directly on the buildings. Subsequent murals have been printed on vinyl and then stretched over frames mounted to the buildings. The first to be “rotated” — Anya Gallaccio’s Surf’s Up on Fay Avenue — was replaced in April by Gajin Fujita’s Tail Whip. The other two recently installed murals are on new building sites.
The committee’s strengths, Lynda says, are the members’ expertise and contacts in the world of art. “I have been impressed that the [committee] has been able to get world-famous artists to put their work in La Jolla,” Roy says, acknowledging that point.
A Fine Line: By Janice Kleinschmidt • Photography by Roy Porello
MAKERPLACE OFFERS JUST ABOUT ALL THE INGREDIENTS AN ARTIST NEEDS
ON AN APRIL EVENING, a crowd gathered at McNabb Martin Contemporary Art Gallery in Little Italy, sipping wine and martinis. Servers circulated with hors d’oeuvres, and a DJ pro-vided a musical backdrop. The red carpet and klieg lights in front of the gallery heralded Morgan Ervin’s opening solo exhibition.
In the crunch of days prior to the show, Morgan found expert help at MakerPlace, a business on Moreno Boulevard where artists, designers, professional craftspeople, engineers and hobbyists share a dream shop: 14,000 square feet of space with all kinds of equipment for working with wood, metal, plastic, fabric, electronics and paint.
Since its debut in March 2012, MakerPlace has signed up 350 members. Pat Downing was one of the first.
“I joined because they had a sheer for cutting metal,” the sculptor says. “I was out to buy one, and the guy didn’t have one. He said, ‘Go down the street [to MakerPlace]. They’re opening soon and they have one.’”
Pat works primarily in steel and copper, but also makes wooden bases and clear-coats the metal.
“It’s nice to go in the wood shop, stay in the same building and work in the metal shop, stay in the same building and go to the paint booth,” he says.
Morgan joined MakerPlace about a month after it opened. His works involve laser-cut acrylic lettering, wood back-grounds and aluminum frames — all of which require tools and equipment.
“But what really keeps me there is the community of artisans and craftspeople. There are so many people that are at the top of their game,” he says. “It’s been great having such an incredible resource of people to draw from when I need really specific things built.”
Because he needs his own large space for detail work and a closed environment for pouring resin, Morgan also rents a 4,000-square-foot studio nearby. “I rented there because MakerPlace is down the street,” he says.
Brothers Michael and Brian Salmon bought their first laser cutter about seven years ago to make custom skateboards and then determined the profit margins in the skate industry were too low to sustain their business.
“Fortunately for us in the early days, everybody assumes a laser cutter can do everything under the sun,” Michael says. “Being creative and resourceful people, we never said no to a job.”
Expanding their abilities and networking, the brothers became a go-to design and fabrication source. After opening a shop in North Park, one of their clients, Steve Herrick, asked if they ever considered opening a shop where others could use equipment. They found the two-story Morena Boulevard space on Craigslist, got the keys in December 2011 and held a grand opening the following March.
“We had to start with a broad web of equipment for everybody, and then we started honing in,” Michael says. “Most of our stuff came from auctions.”
In addition to the professional-grade laser cutter that once sat in Michael’s living room, MakerPlace has a CNC mill, CNC router, CNC plasma cutter, lathes, drill presses, a wide range of saws, sewing and embroidery machines, a printer/plotter, welders, sanders, grinders, soldering equipment, oscilloscopes, a silk-screening kit, 3-D printers, a painting/spray booth and more. Members are required to take a three-hour shop orientation class; additional hands-on classes (also open to nonmembers) are offered regularly.
Last year, MakerPlace held a DIY Fest at Westfield UTC Mall, during which about 15 members showcased and sold their work. From that exposure, Pat Downing picked up two commissions for the mall. The first, a fold-formed copper sculpture, was installed in front of the entrances to Tiffany & Co. and J. Crew. The second, a 4-foot, hammered-copper birdbath, was installed in May in The Gardens in front of Pottery Barn.
MakerPlace members Kylie Sigurdson and Liz Brown turn salvaged items into what Kylie calls “lighthearted and funky” home décor. Their pieces involve woodworking, sewing, silk screening, laser cutting, welding, sandblasting and painting. Though they met in college and have individually pursued artistic careers, MakerPlace became “a big catalyst” for their collaboration under the name Monkeycat Studios, Kylie says. “It’s a good environment for creativity.”
As Michael recognizes, MakerPlace succeeds by bringing many elements together.
“We are the facility. We are the service. We are the community,” he says. “But it’s our members that make us.”
Photo caption (above): An exhibition at McNabb Martin Contemporary Art Gallery showcased works by Morgan Ervin, who creates his pieces at MakerPlace, as well as in his own studio. In preparing for the show, he enlisted the services of other MakerPlace members. For example, one member with metalworking expertise made the aluminum frames.
A Fine Line: By Janice Kleinschmidt