Commissions Mark First U.S. Permanent Outdoor Works by Nairy Baghramian, Theaster Gates, Mark Manders, Philippe Parreno, and Aaron Spangler
MINNEAPOLIS, January 21 2016—The Walker Art Center announces an expansive new program of acquisitions and commissions by leading international contemporary artists for the redeveloped Walker campus and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The works will be installed following completion of the first substantial update to the 19-acre campus in more than a decade, with the Garden set to reopen to the public in June 2017.
The Walker opens this new chapter by adding 16 artworks in the Garden and throughout the campus via commissions, gifts, and purchases. Artists included are: Nairy Baghramian, Frank Big Bear, Tony Cragg, Sam Durant, Katharina Fritsch, Theaster Gates, Robert Indiana, Kcho, Liz Larner, Sol LeWitt, Mark Manders, Matthew Monahan, Philippe Parreno, Eva Rothschild, Monika Sosnowska, and Aaron Spangler. These artists bring a range of diverse, global voices from seven countries, increase the number of women artists represented, and include many notable career firsts. Commissions include the first permanent outdoor works by artists Nairy Baghramian, Theaster Gates, Mark Manders, Philippe Parreno, and Aaron Spangler. Each of the commissioned works is site-specific, establishing a new contemporary dialogue with existing works and building upon the Sculpture Garden’s strong historic presentation of both figurative and geometric abstract works.
We are thrilled to announce the addition of these new works to the Walker campus and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by some of today’s most significant artists,” says Olga Viso, Executive Director of the Walker. “These acquisitions affirm the Walker’s long-standing mission to collect artists in depth as well as to add important new global artistic voices to the collection. These additions enhance the strength of our collection and form a vital piece of our vision for the new campus to be shared with the Twin Cities community and visitors from around the world.” These 16 works join recent additions to the Garden under Viso’s leadership of works by Jim Hodges, Pierre Huyghe, Kris Martin, and Dahn Vo.
First created through the vision of the Walker’s Director Emeritus Martin Friedman nearly 30 years ago as a partnership between the Walker and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was the first public/private urban sculpture park of its kind and has served as a model for urban sculpture parks nationwide. Anchored by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, the Garden has welcomed more than nine million visitors since first opening in 1988, showcasing more than 40 works from the Walker’s internationally renowned collection ranging from figurative, abstract, and historically notable sculpture. Part of the institution’s 75th anniversary as a public art center, the campus renovation and Garden reconstruction includes: a new entrance pavilion, indoor and outdoor dining, expanded green space next to the Walker and along Hennepin Avenue, five added acres for artwork, modernization of outdoor spaces with sustainable technologies, and a seamless integration of the Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Nairy Baghramian (Iran, b. 1971)
Berlin–based artist Nairy Baghramian frequently engages social and political issues in her sculptural practice. For the Walker commission, Baghramian will create her largest public installation in the United States 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.
Frank Big Bear (US, b. 1953)
Since the 1980s, Duluth–based artist Frank Big Bear 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.
Theaster Gates (US, b. 1973)
Chicago–based artist Theaster Gates’s project for the Walker 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.
Mark Manders (The Netherlands, b. 1968)
Dutch artist Mark Manders 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 squarefoot area in the Garden. Manders uses deceptive materials for the work—first constructed from molded wet clay and wood, 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.
A key artist of his generation, Philippe Parreno’s work spans a diversity of media including, film, sculpture, drawing, and text. The Walker commission for fall 2016 will be his first permanent site-specific installation in the United States.
Aaron Spangler (US, b. 1971)
For the Walker commission, Minnesota–based artist Aaron Spangler 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 (UK, b. 1949), Level Head, 2007
Investigating forms found in nature—from rock stratigraphy and molecular structure to forms of the human body—Tony Cragg seeks to discredit the conventional separation between man and nature. Level Head represents a new body of work for Cragg 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 (US, b. 1961), Scaffold, 2012
Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant weaves relationships between historical and cultural events of past and present as a means to reflect on the political dimensions of contemporary culture. While Scaffold references an important history, its appearance does not immediately disclose its somber points of reference. Scaffold weaves together vastly different moments across US history, bound by the common theme of capital punishment. Durant combines the designs of gallows used in executions beginning with the abolitionist John Brown in 1859, the thirty-eight Dakota men executed in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862, through to the Lincoln Conspirators (1865), Haymarket Martyrs (1886), and Saddam Hussein’s hanging in 2006. By referencing different historical executions, Durant’s sculpture points to broad range of socio-political topics, such as slavery, Native American and African American civil rights struggles, treason, anarchy and democratic values. With the death penalty as its focus, Scaffold opens a discussion around criminal law and the politics of incarceration –themes which continue to resonate today. In looking to the past, Durant’s sculpture raises the question of how we remember and engage issues connected to fraught and difficult past events.
Katharina Fritsch (Germany, b. 1956) Hahn/Cock, 2013
Mining the history, myths, and fairy tales of her native Germany through her own thoughts and dreams, Katharina Fritsch 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. Fritsch’s largest public art piece in a US museum collection, will be installed in north end of the Garden.
Robert Indiana (US, b. 1928), LOVE, 1966—1998
Robert Indiana’s LOVE first appeared in the artist’s work 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 (Cuba, b. 1970), La soledad, 1999/2005
Kcho (Alexis Leiva Machado) 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 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 (US, b. 1960), X, 2013
Los Angeles–based Liz Larner 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 (US, 1928—2007), 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, 1988/2016
For the inauguration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 1988, Walker Art Center Director Martin Friedman commissioned Sol LeWitt 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 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 (US, b. 1972), Hephaestus, 2013
Los Angeles–based sculptor Matthew Monahan’s works explore 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 (Ireland, b. 1971), Empire, 2011
London–based artist Eva Rothschild 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 (Poland, b. 1972), Untitled (gate), 2014
Warsaw-based artist Monika Sosnowska 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.
ABOUT THE WALKER ART CENTER AND THE MINNEAPOLIS SCULPTURE GARDEN
One of the most internationally celebrated art museums and multidisciplinary art centers, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is known for presenting today’s most compelling artists from around the world, as well as modern masters. In addition to traveling exhibitions and its world-renowned collection, the Walker presents a broad array of contemporary music, dance, design, and theater, and the best in film and moving image arts. For more information, please visit: walkerart.org.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Reconstruction Project and Cowles Conservatory Renovation Project is led by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in partnership with the Walker Art Center and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. For more information, please visit: minneapolisparks.org/currentprojects.
In 2015, the Walker celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding as a public art center dedicated to presenting and collecting the art of our times with a series of institutional initiatives, exhibitions and events from the fall of 2014 through 2015. Although it was more than 125 years ago when lumber baron Thomas Barlow (T. B.) Walker built a room onto his Minneapolis house, mounted his 20 favorite paintings on the wall, and opened his door to the community, it was in the year 1940 that the Walker’s contemporary-focused mission to be a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and active engagement of audiences was born. Supported by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Walker became a public art center presenting the work of living artists, forming a collection beyond the 19th-century holdings of its founder to the multidisciplinary works of today’s artists. Daniel Defenbacher, the Walker’s first director, set forth the concept of a multidisciplinary center for the WPA, and in 1939, embarked on the largest community art center launch of his career: the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. On January 4, 1940, the new Walker Art Center opened its doors.
On the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the Walker launched several institutional initiatives including the campus renovation, a capital campaign and new staff appointments. A robust program of exhibitions included the major historical surveys International Pop and Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, and the contemporary solo exhibitions of contemporary artists Liz Deschenes, Andrea Büttner and the upcoming presentation of Lee Kit. Two exhibitions, 75 Gifts for 75 Years, and Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections, on view through 2016, underscored gifts and acquisitions that have consistently breached the boundaries of media or disciplines. These initiatives build on the rich traditions of the Walker as a center for cross-disciplinary programming and community engagement, started by Defenbacher in 1940.
The Walker Art Center campus acquisitions are made possible by Walker trustees and donors including the Ahearn Family Foundation, Martha and Bruce Atwater, Beverly Grossman, Karen and Ken Heithoff, the LeWitt Family, Martha “Muffy” MacMillan, Elizabeth Redleaf, and Dr. Phyllis Kammerman Sher and Dr. Kenneth Swaiman. Also critical in supporting these acquisitions is the Frederick R. Weisman Sculpture Acquisition Endowment Fund, created in 1988 through a gift by the late Frederick R. Weisman which supported the commission of Oldenburg and Van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry.