With less than one week to go until the opening of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing, we’re down to the details: a paint touch-up here, a TV monitor hung there. Oh, and a chandelier installed from the ceiling!
This week’s focus was populating the Porch and Promenade with the rest of the large pieces that needed to be installed. Three new acquisitions found their home in the gallery building, but not before some serious prep work was done by our registration and installation teams.
The 219 individual parts that make up Fred Wilson’s To Die Upon a Kiss came together over the course of three days. The first was spent unpacking and cleaning every ornate detail, and the second was used to affix a unique identification number to each piece. On the third day, the 6’ x 6’ chandelier began to take shape in the Promenade. The installation team used two “scissor lifts” to bring each of the parts up to the core of the chandelier, which, at its highest point, is roughly 15 feet off the ground.
Wilson is known for his works that investigate African identities in the context of historical European and American art to illustrate the “invisible” African presence. Inspired by the highly decorative chandeliers that adorn the palazzos lining Venice’s Grand Canal, Wilson created a sculpture that refers to the enduring, but rarely discussed, African population in Venice, a traditional crossroads of cultures. The title of To Die Upon a Kiss are the dying words of Othello from Shakespeare’s tragedy. The color of the sculpture’s glass elements gradually shifts from opaque black at the bottom to colorless glass at the top, with deliberate gradations of gray in between. The work is a rumination on death, Wilson says, or more specifically, the slow ebb of life.
On Wednesday, the team set to work installing a piece that was equally, if not more challenging. The major difference? It had only one part. But that part weighed 1,750 pounds. For weeks, a crate labeled “Roni Horn” has been sitting in the galleries, waiting patiently for its turn to be installed. It’s a highly-anticipated work. Never having been professionally photographed, this week was the first time that many involved could fully appreciate the beauty of this piece made by the famous American visual artist and pioneer in the use of large-scale cast glass.
Her untitled abstract sculpture, made of lime-green glass, is cast in one block. The work was created by releasing molten glass into a mold over a twenty-four hour period, which was then allowed to slowly anneal over three to four months. When the piece was removed from the mold, it was left in its natural state with mold marks and other flaws readily apparent. Exposed to light or to the shadows of an overcast day, Horn’s glass sculptures capture and reflect moments of instability and change. Literary themes appear throughout much of her work, and a collection of interviews with the American writer Flannery O’Connor provided the subtitle for this piece: “The peacock likes to sit on gates or fenceposts and allow his tail to hang down. A peacock on a fencepost is a superb sight. Six or seven peacocks on a gate is beyond description, but it is not very good for the gate. Our fenceposts tend to lean and all our gates open diagonally.”
The final new acquisition to be placed this week was Kalus Moje’s work, The Portland Panels: Choreographed Geometry. Inspired by the historical glass mosaic technique, Moje has pushed the ancient tradition into the realm of abstract art in the creation of his largest work to date. Four separate kiln-formed and diamond-polished glass panels form one large composition, each panel consisting of thousands of strips of cut glass. The work exemplifies his penchant for color and pattern, and reveals the influence color and design theories from many mediums in his work, with inspirations ranging from Josef Albers, to de Stijl, Russian constructivism, and op art.
Meanwhile in the Amphitheater Hot Shop, the Hot Glass Demo Team collaborated with the Ladd Brothers to work out the details of their 2300° performance for opening weekend. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Steven and William Ladd have designed a Hot Glass Performance entitled Chapel, incorporating enormous glass ants, which the hot glass team has been making for weeks. They will be used along with a confessional, glass wall, and giant glass bombs to transform the stage. The Ladd Brothers’ work is deeply personal, drawing on childhood experiences and memories. Chapel is no different, bringing them back to Sainte Chapelle in Paris where they entered the church confessionals as kids. They are inspired by the medieval gothic glass windows of the cathedral. The bombs, they say, represent sins and the ants are a symbol of community. With Chapel, the Ladd Brothers hope to create a space to reflect, relax, or be inspired.
The Ladd Brothers, who do not work in glass, were certainly inspired as they watched their designs come to life on the Amphitheater Hot Shop stage this week. Make sure you’re there to be inspired by the Ladd Brothers and the Hot Glass Demo Team during 2300° on Saturday, March 21, from 6-9 p.m.
There are many opportunities for you to celebrate the opening of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing with us. Check out our list of opening weekend events—you’ll want to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience!