Saturday, 14 June 2008

Downtown art
While San Diego frequently loses out to Los Angeles when it comes to seriously good commercial galleries, it does have a fantastic Museum of Contemporary Art, with buildings downtown and at La Jolla. The MCASD has a great location at 1001 Kettner Boulevard ...... in a building which is part of the main trolley (tram) station, so browsing is frequently interrupted by the rumbling of the passing trolleys, and the red blur as they woosh past the windows of the space downstairs. It's great! That's the MCASD on the right (above), with the sign of the big yellow cross. You can catcch trolleys from here to Tijuana, and to San Diego's Old Town and various sporting arenas.
Recently, the museum expanded into a new space on the other side Kettner, which continues the station theme: this new part, the Jacobs Building,
is the renovated baggage building of the historic Santa Fe train depot.This is a beautiful old railway station built in the lovely Spanish mission style. Inside the main hall there's a vaulted and beamed ceiling and the walls between the arched windows are covered in beautiful tiles. We had a quick stroll through the gallery at 1001 Kettner, but were more excited to see that the artist exhibiting across the road in the Jacobs Building was Maya Lin, the young American artist and architect who had designed and created the stunning Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington DC. (I fell over when I was taking this pic in April — effective isn't it?) Maya Lin won a big public competition in 1981 to design this memorial, when she was just 21. When the public found out her work wasn't going to be another traditional piece of sculpture — in which DC abounds — there was enormous outcry. But she seemingly won over the entire country when, at just 22 years of age, she spoke before the US Congress about her design, a representational wound in the earth that symbolises the loss of 58,000 young Americans. The names of every one of them are inscribed into the highly polished black granite wall, and it is without question one of the most moving of all the momuments and memorials in DC. Friends and families of the dead soldiers file past looking for their loved ones' names, and some even take rubbings or leave flowers and other little tributes.
Landscape and architecture play a big part in this artist's life and work, and her show in San Diego, Systematic Landscapes, combined the two in highly original ways. One room had a sculptural installation of 50,000 blocks of wood arranged on the floor in a hill, or a wave, that rose 3 m. Spectacular.
Cameras weren't allowed in the museum (so I pinched the pic above from the MCASD website), but if you click here you'll see a brief video of this work being installed.
In another room, black aluminium tubing had been suspended from the ceiling in a grid of the contours of a submarine mountain, the very tip of which was an island in the south Atlantic, 1600 km from Antarctica. It was quite something to walk beneath it and look up into it.
:: We'd have finished the day with a visit to the MCA's third building, in La Jolla, but won't be venturing anywhere near there until the US Open is over. From my bedroom window, I can see the huge blimp hovering over the course on the cliffs at Torrey Pines, from which they film a lot of the aerial stuff.


M said...

so much better than an official tourist guide. Must get me back to the US to have a decent look.

peppermintpatcher said...

Oh wow! Beautiful. You have a good eye for detail and your stumbling shot is incredible.

Congratulations to your son on his graduation too. It is such an exciting time in their lives!