Above: John David Mooney, St. Louis Night Garden, 1986
There are multiple reasons why many sculptures you might be familiar with or expect to see during your visit are no longer on view at Laumeier, ranging from works designed to be temporary, returned loans in connection with a solo exhibition and others having been stored away to protect them from the elements. As an extension and expansion of last year’s program, Sculpture Focus, a monthly offering that featured an in-depth look at one work from the Park’s Collection, the curatorial department at Laumeier Sculpture Park introduces a new program, Where Did They Go? This monthly series will focus on a work that has “been and gone” during our last 35 years of exhibitions.
Laumeier boasts a rich history of temporary loans and site-specific sculptural installation, including works by Andy Goldsworthy, Lynda Benglis, Richard Serra, Nancy Graves and Alice Aycock, among many others. Inspired by recent research conducted for the Library: Laumeier Branch initiative, Where Did They Go? features commentary from selected artists and oral history from staff and docents. The information serves to provide an in-depth look at the chosen artwork in regards to its meaning, the artist’s original concept and its installation and placement in the Sculpture Park’s landscape.
We hope to continue our dialogue about the history of Laumeier through the evolution of sculptural forms and how, as an institution dedicated to outdoor sculpture, we have influenced the much broader conversation about art in the public realm.
Patrick Dougherty, Whim Whams, 1992
In his proposal for Whim Whams, Patrick Dougherty wrote: “I found Laumeier Sculpture Park a unique and provocative space. Its staff has a compelling interest in the daily user, the public who walks the dog, finds romance and picnics within its acreage.” Inspired by this sense of community and interdependence, Dougherty’s Whim Whams was a series of seven monumental, twirling, triangular structures made of maple saplings. The large scale sculptural installation started with one structure in the gallery and six others placed on the Museum terrace, each sprawled, slouched and spun across the terrace and towards the lawn. The structures were built in such a way as to convey the feeling of a primitive village in motion and to suggest a windblown façade. Dougherty described this as: “a façade which settles a tribal sense of community onto the residence of this once private estate.” Like a wayward vine, the work emphasized a sense of natural phenomena in contrast to the building methods embodied by the conventional architecture of the Museum. Patrick Dougherty’s Whim Whams was featured in the exhibition titled The Nature of Sculpture: Works by Susan Crowder and Patrick Dougherty, March 15–May 25, 1992.
“Memories Of” by Laumeier Docent Pat Leigh
When Patrick Dougherty came to Laumeier in 1992, to create his work, Whim Whams, a number of docents volunteered to help with the sculpture as he was building the pieces, several on the patio and the other in the galleries. We helped gather branches and saplings from throughout the Park with Patrick several times during the course of his residency. He then weaved them into massive hut-like structures, large enough for several people to sit in, which we sometimes did. Each Friday at 5 p.m., we would gather there and have wine and admire the progress and talk about the importance and ideas of the site-specific installation. Patrick seemed to appreciate our help, and was friendly—not to mention, handsome—and genuinely interested in the various jobs and tasks the docents participate in at Laumeier.
Andy Goldsworthy, Laumeier Stone, 1991
Working outdoors with snow, sand, rocks, clay, leaves, saplings and ice, Andy Goldsworthy uses found natural materials in an intimate way to create a sense of intrigue about nature as well as a sense of urgency about how quickly nature is spoiled. Over a period of five days in 1991, Goldsworthy created several installations, using a large and irregularly shaped outcropping of limestone (vaguely resembling the snout of an alligator) hanging over a creek bed deep in the Laumeier woods. Laumeier Stone, 1991, consisted of a variety of ephemeral works on and around this unusual shaped stone using different colored leaves applied to the surface in a rainbow pattern, creek bed slate stacked horizontally completely surrounding the protruding rock, and coating the rock with adobe-colored mud, which he harvested from the Laumeier soil. An exhibition of Andy Goldworthy’s sculpture Cairn, 1994 and photographs of his Laumeier Stone, 1991 were on view from June 4–August 7, 1994. Laumeier Stone marked his first public commission in the United States.
Meg Webster, Pass, 1991-96
Meg Webster's natural "installation," Pass, 1991, was comprised of a wild garden with a meandering path that took on the character of both a sculptural and landscape artwork and dealt directly with her concerns for saving the Earth's natural resources. The plan of the garden was articulated by several circular forms such as trees, a clover mound, perennial flower bowl and large bird and egg ponds.
Conceptually, Pass acted as a passage from one field into another and as a transition from one condition of landscape into the terrain of another. During its lifetime (1991-97) Webster's Pass expressed a myriad of topics--nature's abundance, ecological principals, and the instability of the man v. nature relationship. By combining the cultivated with the wild, Pass was "groundbreaking" environmental work for its time as it demonstrated, early on, such environmental issues as soil conservation, composting and the act of reforestation.
Luckily though, we have a series of four diaries kept by docent and Pass volunteer gardener, Pat Leigh. Each spiral bound diary, beautiful objects unto themselves, documents the "growth" of the work from 1993-96. Filled with glued-down color photos and scrawled with pencil notations of flower identification, animal traces, and weather conditions the diaries are important documents to Laumeier's history and exploring them breathes life back into Webster's "temporary" sculpture.
Richard Serra, To Encircle: Base Plate Hexagram; Right Angles Inverted, 1970
Although Richard Serra’s, To Encircle: Base Plate Hexagram; Right Angle Inverted, was not a site-specific commission for Laumeier, it was and continues to be an unequivocal example of the seamless melding of art and site. Serra’s steel circle, whose highest point was meant to be flush with the surrounding ground level, measures over 25 feet in diameter and extends over half a foot into the ground. To Encircle… is comprised of two curved Angle irons, both with a metal flange that extends inward from the rim toward the center of the circle – one flange on the surface, the other unseen in the ground. Once installed, the sculpture is at once “continuous and discontinuous.” With this particular sculpture, Serra, who is widely known for his ostensibly simple forms, seeks to draw attention to the unnoticed; to where we look, but do not see. Incredibly subtle, To Encircle… also challenges the precious-object mentality; by placing the sculpture in the ground itself, Serra not only removed the plinth, but also shifted away from art object to concept.
Originally installed at 183rd Street and Webster Avenue in The Bronx from 1970 to 1972, To Encircle… made its way to Laumeier in 1978 where, unlike the majority of our sculptures, it was placed in the main entrance road. This subtle sculpture remained at Laumeier until moving to the St. Louis Art Museum where it was installed in the south wing entrance. In preparation for their expansion, however, the sculpture was removed and stored.
“Memories Of” by Laumeier Librarian Joy Wright
My first day at Laumeier was in August of 2004. I eagerly parked my car and went in for my training. As Laura, the retiring librarian, walked me out at the end of the day, she started laughing. "You parked on top of the sculpture." I immediately panicked thinking I had inadvertently run over a piece of art. I glanced toward my car and didn't see anything, so I said, "Where?" She said, "Did you see that metal ring in the asphalt? That is a Richard Serra sculpture." I panicked thinking that I had damaged a Serra sculpture, until I realized that if you drove down the drive, you would, in fact, have to drive over the sculpture as dozens of people did every day. The Serra was placed in the old entrance drive – its circumference stretched completely across the driveway. After my stomach returned to its proper place, I saw the humor, but at the time, I thought my first day was going to be my last.
David Nash, Black Through Green, 1993
Black Through Green, 1993, is a large-scale yet subtle intervention in the eastern woodland and is a prime example of Nash's romantic preoccupation with the fate of nature. Nash's dying oak tree trunks sliced with chain saws were slowly burned on open fires until they were perfectly scorched and set in a hillside as a series of 26 steps. Each 14 feet long, the charred timbers are irregularly spaced in sets of duos and trios. Black Through Green, like many of Nash's works, was based on factors of environment and human interaction which determine the duration of the object and has broken down over time. Intrigued by the way in which the organic object comes to being, lives and finally disappears from space, he allows the material to impart its own narrative. As intended by Nash, the hikers' footsteps have now naturally eroded the wood into a trail within a trail through sculpture. During the course of his two-week residency in 1993, much of the creation and installation of the work was filmed by camera crews from BBC Wales, who were working on the documentary: David Nash at the Edge of the Forest.
Alice Aycock, The Hundred Small Rooms, 1984
Resembling a building described by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Alice Aycock's The Hundred Small Rooms (on view at Laumeier from 1984-1992) was a fantastical structure that was quaint, functionless and conceptually dangerous. One of the leading artists to emerge in New York in the 1970s, Aycock is known for her references to magic, myth, architecture and the histories of science. A childhood fear and a trip to the beehive tombs at Mycenae inspired Aycock's interest in the structure of the maze and labyrinth inspiring her to write an ethereal tale that combined building motifs with her personal memories and dreams. The Hundred Small Rooms was a labyrinth of rooms arranged in a tower 28 feet high and 12 feet square and consisted of tiny pristine cottages with white picket fences stacked to make a high rise with 64 rooms. The tower was based on one segment of the drawing I have tried to imagine the kind of city you and I could live in as King and Queen, 1978, in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum. One other sculpture from this drawing titled The House of Stoics was created for the village of Miyazaki-Mura in Japan.
Where Did They Go? is meant to communicate topics and discuss the history of our collection including works from our past. Sometimes works have complex histories but are important to share nonetheless and Aycock's The Hundred Small Rooms, is one such sculpture. During its time in the collection, the work underwent continued maintenance because of damage caused by visitors. In 1990, the work was moved just 70 feet from its original location. Unfortunately, The Hundred Small Rooms was subject to years of wear and tear from relentless vandalism and a weakening structure. In 1992, staff determined that the structure was destroyed and beyond repair. The Hundred Small Rooms was an exemplary work within Aycock's oeuvre. A favorite among visitors, it still inspires guests to ask, "Where did it go?"
Ursula Von Rydingsvard, Untitled, 1988-89
Ursula Von Rydingsvard's work Untitled, 1988-89, was a long-time public favorite in the Park's collection, but a combination of material decomposition and current available resources have taken the work permanently off view.
Untitled was installed at Laumeier as part of a unique program from 1980-90 that focused on site-specific commissions and brought together artists with tradespeople from the County Parks Department in creative collaboration. Sited in a heavily wooded area of the Park's landscape, Untitled consisted of 45 red cedar, individually-carved chambers set in a grid pattern, this sculpture addressed ideas of enclosure and protection, while exploring the relationship between nature and the materials of nature.
When Untitled was installed in 1989, Von Rydingsvard was engaged in a movement that challenged notions of large scale sculpture and public art. In her artistic practice, Von Rydingsvard works with raw wood, reclaiming the essence of her material using a traditional hand chisel and mallet. Working against the conventions of sculpture, Von Rydingsvard sought an extremely personal connection to her work, knowingly employing materials with a limited shelf-life, and embracing the beauty in gradual decay.
Von Rydingsvard's pioneering concepts are still explored by artists today and can be experienced through sculptures still on view at the Park. The "life" of this particular work demonstrates how Laumeier's curatorial team balances caring for the works in our collection that are inherently volatile while working in conversation with the artist to determine when the work no longer represents their intentions, to when and how to decommission the work when it has deteriorated beyond further restoration.
In 1988, Laumeier Sculpture Park acquired approximately 4,500 pounds of incongruous rocks from the Art Museum of South Texas. The rocks, broken chunks of red slate that comprised artist Richard Long’s Red Slate Circle (1980), were on loan from the work’s original owner Sondra Gilman, a long-time art and theater patron. Red Slate Circle would make its home at Laumeier for the next ten years. Situated on a western plot of Laumeier’s Museum Lawn, the pieces of Red Slate Circle were placed one by one according to Long’s instructions, “touching but not overlapping,” “in a haphazard pattern [. . .] each stone [. . .] on its widest, flattest, most stable side.” Outlined by a pencil drawing that formed a 21-foot diameter circle in the grounds of the park, Red Slate Circle emphasized time, texture, ritual and an ongoing relationship between human intervention and nature.
British artist Richard Long radically changed notions of sculpture when he began to use walking as an artistic medium in the 1960s. While marking landscapes through walking has been a central part of Long’s artmaking – from his Bristol home’s countryside to the Andes Mountains in South America – he has also used snow, stone, slate, mud, and seaweed as materials in his work. His use of elemental materials and basic, archetypal shapes such as lines, circles, and spirals represents a rich conceptualism and simplicity that run through Long’s expansive practice.
While on loan at Laumeier, Red Slate Circle traveled to Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art and was included in a 1990 exhibition titled Terra Incognita: New Approaches to Contemporary Landscape. Travel, routine maintenance, and museum traffic took its toll on the piece, however, and in 1993, Red Slate Circle was disassembled, packed in crates, and stored. In 1998, Laumeier returned the piece to Gilman so that it could be preserved, who in turn sold it to the now-defunct Grant Selwyn Fine Art gallery in New York. Versions of Red Slate Circle currently reside in the museum collections of the Guggenheim in New York and the Tate Britain in London.
Written by: Tiffany Barber, Curatorial Assistant, Laumeier Sculpture Park
ArtTable Summer Mentored Internship for Diversity in the Visual Arts Professions
For the park’s tenth anniversary in 1986, Chicago based artist John David Mooney was commissioned to create St. Louis Night Garden. A temporary garden of lights and candles, the work blanketed over six acres in the center of the Park in translucent white and brown paper bags with sculptural electrical elements, each covered with brightly colored Plexiglass. Arranged in designs within the rolling landscape, patterns of illumination became stronger as the twilight deepened into darkness.
Girl Scouts, art students from local universities and other volunteers helped realize the monumental installation. According to our records, an estimated 10,000 people visited Laumeier Sculpture Park during the two evening performances-the most ever to visit the park in connection with an art-related event at that time.
In addition to his art practice, Mooney also founded the John David Mooney Foundation. For 30 years now, the Foundation, comprised of an international team of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, has worked with artists to push the boundary between art and science by creating accessible art experiences within the public domain.
In memory of renowned artist Sir Anthony Caro's passing last month, the last installment in theWhere'd They Go? series features a sculpture that was part of the exhibition Inside/Outside (September 23 - December 10, 1978) curated by St. Louis art dealer Nancy Singer.
For the exhibition Singer chose Anthony Caro's Durham Steel Flat, 1973-74, a large composition in rusted Cor-ten steel made from soft-rolled steel ends abandoned in a steel mill yard in County Durham, England. A structure of sliced and diced rusted steel slabs that balances between architecture and sculpture, Durham Steel Flat was considered one of Caro's most seminal works. For a short time, this work joined the piece Java, 1976, which is part of Laumeier's Permanent Collection, and three other loaned works by Caro: Box Flat,1977, Pleats Flat, 1977 and Trunk Flat, 1977.
In each of these works, Caro used cranes to lift the sheets that allowed him to process spatial arrangements, using hard materials flexibly, creating a dramatic interplay among its components. A strong showing of public works by one of the world's pre-eminent sculptor's, is yet another testament to Laumeier's historical importance in terms of large scale sculpture by internationally acclaimed artists.