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September 5, 2001
STUART COLLECTION TO CELEBRATE 20TH ANNIVERSARY
“Of course, not everyone will like every work, but one person doesn’t like every book in the library either,” Mary Livingstone Beebe told the media in November of 1981 with the founding of the Stuart Collection of site-specific art works at the University of California, San Diego.
“The only disappointment would be no response,” she added, “and that doesn’t seem likely.”
Unlikely, indeed. Heralded by Landscape Architecture as “a true collection of distinguished works by some of today’s most dynamic artists,” the Stuart Collection will celebrate its 20th anniversary Nov. 3. Highlights of the celebration will be a symposium of Stuart Collection artists and distinguished scholars and publication of Landmarks: Sculpture Commissions for the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego. (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.)
Art in America calls the collection “adventurous,” “ironic,” “humorous,” and “striking.” The American Institute of Architects (AIA) honored the collection in 1994 for its “provocative works,” calling it an “amazing collection.”
The 15 artists represented are Terry Allen, Michael Asher, John Baldessari, Jackie Ferrara, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Richard Fleischner, Jenny Holzer, Robert Irwin, Elizabeth Murray, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Niki de Saint Phalle, Alexis Smith, Kiki Smith, and William Wegman.
Founding director Beebe emphasizes that the collection is not about keeping pace with the times – but setting the pace.
The artists will come to UCSD from home/work bases scattered throughout the country to participate in the day-long festivities. The symposium, The Stuart Collection: ADVANCED PLACEMENT Conversations with the Artists, will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in UCSD’s Price Center Theatre. Leading the artists in discussions will be moderators John Walsh, director emeritus, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Robert Storr, senior curator of painting and sculpture, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Hugh Davies, director, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (MCA,SD).
Tours of the Stuart Collection will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m., beginning at Niki de Saint Phalle’s Sun God, the first sculpture in the collection. It is a multi-colored, bird-like figure perched loftily on an arch not far from the UCSD Faculty Club. “On a good day,” the San Diego Tribune wrote at the sculpture’s introduction in 1983, “a seven-point golden crown sparkles in the sunlight.”
The tours will spotlight each of the art works including the most recent, John Baldessari’s Read/Write/Think/Dream, introduced to the campus and the public in July. The art work transforms the facade and interior foyer of Geisel Library into an interactive zone of images, ideas, text, and color. The idea, Baldessari says, “is to honor the students who are central to the university.”
Among other works on the Stuart Collection tour are Alexis Smith’s Snake Path, 1992, Terry Allen’s Trees, 1986, and Richard Fleischner’s La Jolla Project, 1984.
Smith’s Snake Path is a winding footpath, 560 feet long, 10 feet wide, and tiled in the form of a serpent. Its head ends at the terrace of Geisel Library and its circuitous route suggests the symbolic journey from innocence and ignorance to knowledge. More playful are Allen’s Trees, often referred to as “the talking trees.” Three eucalyptus trees, preserved and encased in skins of lead, take on individual personalities and invite interaction with passersby; one emits recorded songs, another poems and stories, and the third is provocatively, silent.
Fleischner’s La Jolla Project is the Stonehenge of the UCSD campus. Seventy-one blocks of pink and gray granite are arranged in configurations of posts, columns, lintels, arches, doorways, and thresholds, creating the allusion of an ancient ruin. Or could it be a contemporary construction site?
Public Art Review praises the Stuart Collection as having “a highly-regarded reputation for seeking challenging works of art and successfully making them a part of the university and its activities.”
In conjunction with the Stuart Collection anniversary celebration, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego is presenting an exhibition, Cross-References: Celebrating the Stuart Collection, featuring works by Stuart Collection artists in its permanent collection. A reception for the exhibition will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the museum, 700 Prospect St., La Jolla. The exhibit will run from Sept. 16 through Jan. 13, 2002.
A grand finale of music and dancing will be held in UCSD’s Ballroom beginning at 9 p.m. Stuart Collection artist Terry Allen’s Panhandle Mystery Band will perform.
All anniversary celebration events are free and open to the public.
The Stuart Collection is the fulfillment of a partnership between UCSD and the Stuart Foundation, an organization founded by James Stuart DeSilva and dedicated to funding experimental and challenging public sculpture projects.
Landmarks: Sculpture Commissions for the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego is the first book on the Stuart Collection. It is a fully-illustrated, 264-page, hardbound volume. Contributing writers are Storr, Beebe, and independent writer and curator Joan Simon.
Beebe describes Storr’s piece as taking the reader on a virtual tour of the campus, exploring how each project makes demands on the viewer both physically and intellectually. “Storr initiates the reader into the basic philosophical underpinnings of each work,” Beebe says, “and considers the place of the Stuart Collection project within that artist’s body of work.”
Beebe’s essay discusses the development of each project, as she says, “from the first call made to the artist to the negotiations endemic in balancing artistic desires and the mandates of a public university.”
Through interviews with the artists, Simon reveals the projects from their points of view: site selection, ideas operative within each site, and thoughts on the creative process, production, and installation of the work.
Landmarks: Sculpture Commissions for the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego will be available at the UCSD Bookstore and the MCA,SD Bookstore. It is $65.
Other events organized in conjunction with the 20th anniversary include:
· Landmarks: An Anniversary Celebration of UCSD’s Stuart Collection, Mandeville Special Collections, Geisel Library; Oct. 15 to Nov. 11.
· Artists’ Books by Stuart Collection Artists from the Athenaeum, Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla; Nov. 2 to Jan. 5, 2002
· Robert Irwin, University Art Gallery, San Diego State University; Oct. 26 to Dec. 8.
For further information on the Stuart Collection’s 20th anniversary celebration or on Landmarks: Sculpture Commissions for the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego, call (858) 534-2117.
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