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First Look: Announcing 16 New Artworks for the Expanded Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

When the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden opens within the redeveloped Walker Art Center campus in June 2017, visitors will see the return of favorite artworks as well as the addition of 16 new pieces, from bold new works sure to become icons to new creations by contemporary artists from Minnesota and around the world. Six commissioned new artworks—by Nairy Baghramian (Iran), Frank Big Bear (US), Theaster Gates (US), Mark Manders (The Netherlands), Philippe Parreno (France), and Aaron Spangler (US)—will be joined by newly acquired pieces by Tony Cragg, Sam Durant, Katharina Fritsch, Robert Indiana, Kcho, Liz Larner, Sol LeWitt, Matthew Monahan, Eva Rothschild, and Monika Sosnowska. Filling the newly unified 19-acre Walker campus, the new additions will range from Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue rooster to a collage by Minnesota’s Frank Big Bear in the Walker’s new entry pavilion, first permanent outdoor commissions by Theaster Gates and Mark Manders to Philippe Parreno’s first permanent site-specific installation in the United States. Here’s a first look at the art and artists that will animate the new Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Commission: Nairy Baghramian

Representative work: Nairy Baghramian, Cold Shoulder, 2014, as installed in Serralves Park, Porto, 2014. Photo: Filipe Braga, © Fundação de Serralves, Porto. Commission supported by a gift from Karen and Ken Heithoff

Berlin-based artist Nairy Baghramian (Iran, b. 1971) frequently engages social and political issues in her sculptural practice. For the Walker commission, Baghramian will create her largest public installation in the US to date. Often taking overlooked metaphors of the extensions of the body—such as a dental retainer or shoulder pad—she dramatically alters their scale, negotiating the space between abstraction and figuration.

Commission: Frank Big Bear

Representative work: Frank Big Bear, Time Zones (Red Owl) (detail), 2012
Collection Walker Art Center, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2013

Since the 1980s, Duluth-based artist Frank Big Bear (US, b. 1953) has made deeply personal work that weaves together images drawn from the history of art, urban America, Native American heritage and identity, and his formative years at the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Known for his intricate colored pencil drawings, Big Bear uses vibrant hues in mosaic-like patterns to create portraits and fantastic scenes rife with people, animals, historical events, and supernatural figures. In November 2016, he will be the first artist commissioned for the Walker’s new entry pavilion. Big Bear’s Walker project will launch an annually rotating series of site-specific, wall-based commissions by artists working in a range of media, including wall drawing and painting, wallpaper installations, moving image projections, and design projects.

Commission: Theaster Gates

Representative work: Theaster Gates, Cosmology of Yard, 2010, as presented at the Whitney Biennial. Photo: Kavi Gupta Gallery (TBC)

For his Walker project, Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates (US, b. 1973) will mark his first permanent outdoor commission. Addressing issues of inequality through large-scale urban interventions, Gates has influenced a new generation of artists, students, and community members through his socially engaged art practice. For the Walker commission in the Garden, he will create a sculptural structure to be installed in a site chosen by the artist for its proximity to existing works by Sol LeWitt and Joseph Beuys. The work will take the form of a passageway and platform, constructed from a variety of materials, including some recycled from the Garden renovation.

Commission: Mark Manders

Representative work: Mark Manders, Room with Unfired Clay Figures, 2011–2015
Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Mark Manders (The Netherlands, b. 1968) creates surreal and hauntingly evocative sculptural installations, and his Walker commission marks the artist’s first major public artwork in the United States. Featuring stoic figures reminiscent of ancient Greece, this new commission includes five discrete sculptural elements deployed in a 10,000 square-foot area in the Garden. Manders uses deceptive materials for the work—first constructed from molded wet clay and wood, and then cast in bronze—which will be painted to look indistinguishable from the original components, encouraging viewers to investigate the artist’s process and reimagine once-familiar objects and materials.

Commission: Philippe Parreno

Philippe Parreno
Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Philippe Parreno works across film, installation, sculpture, and performance, transforming the surrounding architecture and collapsing the boundaries between artistic disciplines. The Walker commission for fall 2016 will be his first permanent site-specific installation in the United States.

Commission: Aaron Spangler

Representative work: Aaron Spangler, I Owe My Soul To The Company Store, 2009-2010
Collection Walker Art Center; Butler Family Fund, 2011

For the Walker commission, Minnesota-based artist Aaron Spangler (US, b. 1971) will create his first public sculpture for the Garden, which also marks his first foray into working in cast bronze for the outdoors. Spangler is known for his intricately carved basswood sculptures and woodcut prints drawn from Native American mysticism, natural phenomena, rural American life, and his personal history in northern Minnesota.

Tony Cragg, Level Head, 2007

Collection Walker Art Center; Gift of Elizabeth Redleaf, 2015
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Investigating forms found in nature—from rock stratigraphy and molecular structure to forms of the human body—Tony Cragg (UK, b. 1949) seeks to discredit the conventional separation between man and nature. Level Head represents a new body of work for the artist that investigates the space between abstraction and figuration. A bronze volume composed of sequential human facial profiles, the sculpture stimulates multiple perspectives from various vantage points. Cragg’s sculpture will be installed in the east-west allée of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden alongside existing figurative works by artists including Henry Moore, Thomas Schütte, and George Segal.

Sam Durant, Scaffold, 2012

Collection Walker Art Center; purchased with funds provided by the Frederick R. Weisman Collection of Art, 2014. Photo: Rosa Maria Ruehling, courtesy the artist, Blum & Poe, Paula Cooper Gallery, Praz-Delavallade and Sadie Coles HQ.

Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant (US, b. 1961) weaves relationships between historical and cultural events of past and present as a means to reflect on the political dimensions of contemporary culture. With Scaffold, a project commissioned for dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany, Durant has created a structure that at first resembles a 1970s playground and that also functions as a gathering place as well as a space of memorial and contemplation. Its intersecting forms of staircases, vertical elements, and platforms, however, are actually Durant’s representation of various gallows (also referred to as scaffolds) used for public executions throughout history. Assembled side by side, one on top of the other, these politically and culturally charged sites are deftly integrated by the artist to form a unique, composite history of capital punishment.

Katharina Fritsch, Hahn/Cock, 2016

Pictured: maquette for Hahn/Cock, 2015
© 2016 Katharina Fritsch/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Andrei Dureika

Mining the history, myths, and fairy tales of her native Germany through her own thoughts and dreams, Katharina Fritsch (Germany, b. 1956) explores the nature of human perception by creating a tension between the familiar and the odd. Her sculptures, which are often based on recognizable mass-produced objects or images, are known for their formal clarity, which the artist accentuates through alterations of scale, color, material, surface, or repetition. Hahn/Cock, a monumental sculpture executed in ultramarine blue, stands more than 20 feet tall when installed. This playful piece blurs the boundaries between iconic symbol and the everyday. It will be Fritsch’s largest public art piece in a US museum collection, and will be installed in north end of the Garden.

Robert Indiana, LOVE, 1966/1998

Walker Art Center; Promised gift of Gillian and Simon Salama-Caro
© Morgan Art Foundation, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

LOVE first appeared in the work of Robert Indiana (US, b. 1928) in the 1960s, and has since become an iconic image with broad cultural resonance. The Walker has a long history of collecting Indiana’s work, starting in 1963 with the two-paneled painting The Green Diamond Eat and The Red Diamond Die (1962), one of the cornerstone works of Pop art in the Walker’s permanent collection. The version of the sculpture to be installed in the Garden is executed in Cor-Ten steel.

Kcho, La soledad, 1999/2005

Collection Walker Art Center; T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2015
©Kcho, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York

Kcho (Alexis Leiva Machado, Cuba, b. 1970) is a Havana-based sculptor, draftsman, and painter whose work is grounded in his experience growing up on a small island off of the Cuban mainland. Often using found or used objects—boats, driftwood, fishing nets, and even his own schoolbooks—Kcho fuses these elements together to create large-scale assemblages that reference his personal experience but also speak to more universal themes. Executed in bronze, La soledad (“loneliness”) is comprised of a chair elevated atop stilt-like oars, suggesting notions of isolation, passage, and the cultural importance of those who have left the island. Kcho’s work has been exhibited and collected by the Walker since the mid-1990s. La soledad will be the first outdoor work by the artist in a US public collection.

Liz Larner, X, 2013

Collection Walker Art Center; Gift of Dr. Phyllis Kammerman Sher and Dr. Kenneth Fred Swaiman in memory of their parents, Shirley and Seymour Kammerman and Shirley and Lester Swaiman, 2015
Photo: Gene Pittman, ©Walker Art Center

Los Angeles-based Liz Larner (US, b. 1960) has worked in a variety of media, combining traditional sculpture with digital innovation, and in recent years has begun to incorporate three-dimensional animation programs and computer modeling. In X, she uses advanced computer imaging to distill industrial stainless steel, symbolizing the intersection of art and technology in a simple, elegant form. The piece will be installed on the Walker’s new entry pavilion opening in November 2016.

Sol Lewitt, Arcs…, 1988, realized 2016

Collection Walker Art Center; Gift of the LeWitt family in honor of Martin and Mildred Friedman and Angus and Margaret Wurtele, 2015; fabrication and installation made possible with funds generously provided by the Prospect Creek Foundation. Image: © HGA Minneapolis

For the inauguration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 1988, Walker Art Center Director Martin Friedman commissioned Sol LeWitt (US, 1928-2007) to envision a crosswalk connecting the new garden with the Walker on the opposite side of the street. After seven harsh Minnesota winters, the piece was deinstalled in 1995. But as part of the Walker’s 75th anniversary, the artist’s estate has gifted the crosswalk to the Walker to be installed where it can be maintained as a work of art. The site-specific work—entitled Arcs from four corners, with alternating bands of white and brown stone. The floor is bordered and divided horizontally and vertically by a black stone band—will reside on the rooftop terrace overlooking the downtown skyline and the Garden beginning in November 2016. The Walker has more than 200 works by LeWitt in its collection, including sculpture, wall drawings, books, works on paper, and a major work in the Garden.

Matthew Monahan, Hephaestus, 2013

Collection Walker Art Center; Gift of Beverly Grossman, 2015. Photo: courtesy the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York

The art of Los Angeles–based sculptor Matthew Monahan (US, b. 1972) explores the sculptural traditions of past eras while using unorthodox materials. Drawing on narratives and forms from the ancient civilizations of Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, Monahan combines timeless copper, metal, and brass with more contemporary materials including beeswax, drywall, and paint. Hephaestus portrays the Greek god of metallurgy—strong masons, sculptors, blacksmiths—through a seemingly fragile framework supporting copper and metal sheets. Monahan’s interpretation gives homage to the ruins of ancient civilizations and a documentation of the human violence associated with these historical sites. First shown at the 2013 Venice Biennale, this piece will anchor an allée of figurative works in the Garden by artists of several generations.

Eva Rothschild, Empire, 2011

Collection Walker Art Center; Gift of Martha “Muffy” MacMillan, 2015. Photo: Jason Wyche, courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

London-based artist Eva Rothschild (Ireland, b. 1971) draws upon geometric forms and industrial materials in her sculptures, often creating large-scale works with a delicate, precarious quality at odds with their strength and permanence. Her sculpture Empire, executed in painted steel, is the artist’s first public art commission to be shown in the United States, initially exhibited in 2011 by the Public Art Fund in New York’s Central Park. The mammoth, multidirectional archway meets the ground at ten different points, encouraging viewers to not only look at the sculpture from afar, but also experience the physical space around, beneath, and in between its spindly legs. Empire is one of several works by a younger generation of female sculptors being added to the Garden who are exploring notions of abstraction in their work.

Monika Sosnowska, Untitled (gate), 2014

Collection Walker Art Center; T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2015
© Monika Sosnowska. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Warsaw-based artist Monika Sosnowska (Poland, b. 1972) is known for work informed by the functional, structural elements of everyday life, from staircases and windows to residential and commercial buildings—details that articulate the rebuilding of Poland’s Communist past as well as those that reference international modernism. Her large-scale sculptures and installations manipulate industrial, often architectural forms into disorienting configurations, altering the viewer’s perception of physical space, and challenging deep-seated certainties and assumptions related to memory and societal structures. Untitled (gate) takes as its point of departure a metal gate the artist saw in Łódź, Poland, which she then manipulated to form a graceful, abstract torque of steel that renders its architectural origins nearly unrecognizable.