Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

July 17, 2012 at 9:17pm

Plinth fail

"Jericho," metal sculpture by Grey Brogdon. Photo by Gabi Clayton.

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The Percival Landing Plinth Project is a good idea that so far hasn't panned out too well.

When the city rebuilt a large section of Percival Landing they included 15 plinths (sculpture stands) designed by project artist Elizabeth Conner with the idea of filling the plinths with art. The plan was to invite local artists to submit work and the best of the submitted pieces would be displayed on the plinths for up to a year with one piece to be chosen for the "People's Prize"to bepurchased for the City's public art collection.

Two problems with this: One, not enough artists submitted works, so the choices were slim; and two, when "the people" choose the winner always appeals to the lowest common denominator.

Artworks chosen for the first year were bland and uninspired. For the most part they looked like garden ornaments. Now the second round has been installed, and the overall quality is slightly better. There are fewer lawn ornament pieces, but what we have instead is a bunch of stuff that looks like 1930s modernism. Nobody got the message that it is now 2012.

The problem, I believe, is that there simply weren't enough works to choose from. Or perhaps it was that the people who did the choosing are not art professionals. One member of the Art Commission who asked to not be identified said there were very few entries and pretty much everything that was entered was accepted and that, furthermore, their criteria was not so much choosing the best works of art but simply finding enough for all the plinths.

A couple that look interesting and, from certain viewpoints even impressive, are Don Freas' "Ring Dance #2/Core" and Grey Brogdon's "Jericho. Both are large, soaring images that are pretty impressive when seen in front of a blue sky. Freas' piece consists of interlocking rings and Brogdon's of stacked cubes that imply a denial of gravity. Unfortunately these things have been done to death over the past century.

Roy Evans' "Butterfly" is a giant butterfly hovering over a sunflower. It looks like something made from pipe cleaners by a 12-year-old.  Karsten "Boysen's "Nike Goddess of Victory" is a modern art version of the winged "Victory of Samothrace." Not bad from certain angles, but it has also been done to death.

One of the better pieces is Sylvia Perle's "3 Graces," a bas relief knockoff of relief sculptures by Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin. Unfortunately, relief sculpture should not be displayed in the round.

The walk along Percival Landing is one of Olympia's most enjoyable walks, and I love the idea of the plinth project. But it's just not working yet.

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