Meg Webster, Pass, 1991-92.
Where Did They Go?
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 upcoming Library: Laumeier Branch initiative, which opens in February, 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
About Whim Whams:
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. Below is an account by one of our docents, Pat Leigh:
“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
“Each work teaches me something new. At the heart of what I do is return, to go back to the same work, to understand space around it and the movement around it. That is why I live for.” –Andy Goldsworthy
About Laumeier Stone:
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 (1991-1997) 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 1993-1996. 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
“I feel strongly that these sculptures could not be in a desert. They need the interaction of people.”– Richard Serra
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. Keep an eye out for this work after the opening!
“Memories of” 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
"Working with an existing path through woodlands - unpacked soil edged by dense, green, close undergrowth - sensing the path as an expression of human will - passage - penetrating through the wood, coping with the terrain. Charring the step retainers bring emphasis to their line and angle, and articulates the contours of the slope. Exaggerating their length spreads the sense of 'path' into the winding woodland - natural foot erosion of the steps stepping "into" the sculpture."-David Nash, Excerpt from the artist's proposal letter, dated March 9 1992.
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.