Category Archives: Fountain

Fountain: Time to Cast Away Stones ~ 13th & K

Where are we going?
What have we wrought?
How are we loving?
What have we thought?

These questions, carved in stone and almost hidden under a cascade of water, are posed by Stephen Kaltenbach on his fountain sculpture at the Sacramento Convention Center called, Time to Cast Away Stones. In my image below, you can just begin to make out the carved letters underneath the flow of water, but you can find some wonderful photos of the fountain that reveal the carved letters of the questions quite clearly on Jenny Arnez’s blog post.

Time to Cast Away Stones consists of two rectangular sculptured stone fountains, separated by a walkway and running lengthwise along the center divider of 13th Street at the entrance to the Sacramento Convention Center. The sculptures evoke Greek or Roman ruins and you can find many interesting images within the seeming jumble of stone.

Kaltenbach graduated from UCD, lived in New York where he was part of the avant-garde scene there in the late 1960s, and then moved to Sacramento to teach art at CSUS from 1970-2005 (1).

In an article titled, “Altered Ego: Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer on Stephen Kaltenbach,” the author describes some of the most interesting aspects of Kaltenbach’s uniqueness as an artist:

Kaltenbach followed what he called a protocol of opposites: Whenever he identified a structurally embedded social pattern of behavior among his artist peers, he would do the opposite….Against the idea that artists should exhibit only in galleries and museums, he committed “Street Works” in public, often unannounced, using graffiti stamps, stencils, sidewalk plaques, and disguises. (2)

Going against the grain of the art scene of keeping artistic ideas to one’s self, Kaltenbach intentionally sought to keep his creativity open and looked for opportunities to share artistic possibility with others (3). He called this spreading of influence Casual Art, and Teach Art was one element of the Casual Art principle that his role at CSUS gave him a platform to embody (4).

From November 1968 and December 1969, Kaltenbach anonymously placed twelve full-page ads, which he referred to as ‘micro-manifestos’ in Artforum. The ads consisted of mostly white-space with a few words in plain type-face text centered on the page. You can see an example of one called, “Become a legend,” in the lower right corner of this image. The twelve micro-manifestos (5):

ART WORKS. (Nov 1968)
ART. (Jan 1969)
Tell a lie. (Feb 1969)
Start a rumor. (March 1969)
Perpetrate a hoax. (April 1969)
Build a reputation. (May 1969)
Become a legend. (Summer 1969)
Teach Art. (Sept 1969)
Smoke. (Oct 1969)
Trip. (Nov 1969)
You are me. (Dec 1969)

Kaltenbach called these “a passing on of possibilities” (6) and, in an article titled, “The Enigma of Stephen Kaltenbach, Almost,” Elaine O’Brien writes:

“These ads are word-works that specifically targeted the Artforum audience and effectively participated in the conceptualist project to multiply doubt, but they also evidence Kaltenbach’s heightening ironic self-objectification.” (7)

Since his move from New York, his public pieces became more populist in a move that could draw criticism from the conceptual art world (8). Even as he created more realist and decorative pieces, his conceptual work continued, and as this quote describes, the strangeness of his living in both the populist and conceptual worlds is just another element of his artistic uniqueness:

“Only a playful ease with unease can yield pleasure and possibly reveal the complexity of an artist whose work is elusive on principle” (9).

Three other public art pieces by Kaltenbach can be found in Sacramento (10):

The Crocker Art Museum’s permanent collection is home to an extraordinary painting by Kaltenbach. “Portrait of My Father” is a photo-realistic painting with a scrim effect that brings an ethereal quality that “gives a little barrier between you and the subject, and the chromatic spectrum makes you think about things that are unseen but there” (11).

Portrait of My Father, Crocker Art Museum online catalog

The Crocker describes the work as a “testament to life, love, and the loss confronting us all.” (12). In the seven years he worked with this painting, he experienced personal transformation through grief of his father’s death and dark psychedelic trips to finding faith and becoming a Christian (13).

On her blog, Jenny Arnez describes how the title of this piece reminds her of a biblical quote and the affect it had on her:

“Time to Castaway Stones” brings to mind Ecclesiastes 3:5. The New King James version says, “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” The sculpture causes me to think and question not only our society’s actions but my own daily choices as well.(14)

Although I’m not familiar with the biblical reference, I had a similar experience in terms of reflecting on the four questions Kaltenbach poses for us:

Where are we going?
What have we wrought?
How are we loving?
What have we thought?

Title: Time to Cast Away Stones
Artist: Stephen J. Kaltenbach (
Date: 1999
Media: Cast Cement
Location: Sacramento Convention Center, 13th & K

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(14) (

Gold Rush Fountain ~ 5th & I

A stand of beautiful white-barked trees forms a soft backdrop for the Gold Rush fountain in front of the Sacramento Federal Courthouse at 501 I Street. This fountain is more than just a cascade of water; cartoonish bronze figures dot the entire plaza. Anthropomorphized animals, Native Americans, Western miners, pioneers, and even Uncle Sam, are in and around the symbolic river creating an allegorical image of the Gold Rush.

One online article referred to the sculpture as a “whimsical representation of early California history” (1). Otterness’ figures are whimsical but the piece as a whole is not simply whimsy. Like much of Otterness’ works, Gold Rush also speaks to the darker elements of the story. The plaque nearby describes that “Otterness’ intention is to prompt viewers to reevaluate certain beliefs (and myths) about American history.”

While designing a different piece for the bankruptcy court in Sacramento, Otterness, faced criticism from a judge regarding his initial design — a chess board with 6′ tall chess pieces in the form of money bags (2). The article by Pranay Gupte quotes the judge saying: “Forget it. The last thing that anyone wants to see outside a bankruptcy court is a radical economic critique.” (3) Otterness worked with the feedback and his design evolved. He described this process as “a kind of surrealistic collaboration with a very conservative judge” and said the process taught him “that when it comes to public art, you need to work closely with local officials and others who understand the environment, the local culture.” (4)

Otterness’ public art work appears across the US, Canada, and worldwide (5). One of his best known works is, Life Underground, that includes more than 100 different pieces scattered throughout subway stations in NYC. Otterness described the subject of Life Underground as “the impossibility of understanding life in New York” (6).

“His style is often described as cartoonish and cheerful but tends to carry a political punch. His sculptures are filled with multiple meanings and allude to sex, class, money and race.” (7)

Controversy surrounds Otterness an awful act of animal cruelty that he did as art in 1977 (8). He issued an apology but it is a disturbing fact of his history.

I like this quote from Otterness about how he wants us engage with his work:

My work is really social commentary….I want people to touch these sculptures, to discuss them, to argue about them, to find in them whatever meaning they might draw from my work. Not everything in my work is explainable, of course. But that’s good, too. It’s sometimes good to leave people somewhat puzzled. The important thing is that they touch my sculptures, and talk about them.(9)

The plauqe reads:

A native of Wichita, Kansas, sculptor Tom Otterness is known for creating bronze and cast stone scupltures. Most of his work utilizes allegorical human and anthropomorphic animal figures. Otterness includes humorous elements in much of his work, even when dealing with serious social or political subjects. For the Sacramento Courthouse, artist Otterness created an assortment of knee-high characters reminiscent of California’s early history – animals and fish, native Americans and pioneers. He choose to position his whimsical yet enigmatic figures along the plaza’s fountain, which serves as a reminder of the significant role the Sacramento River and other waterways have played in the history of the state. Using the Gold Rush as his theme, Otterness worked both with and against the artistic traditions of the American West, especially the sculptor Frederick Remington. With the familiar cast of characters, Otterness’ intention is to prompt viewers to reevaluate certain beliefs (and myths) about American history.

Title: Gold Rush
Artist: Tom Otterness (
Date: 1999
Media: Cast Bronze Sculptures
Location: Sacramento Federal Courthouse, 501 I Street

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(4) (

Shimizu Fountains ~ 700 H

Modeled after Japanese origami forms, two very ’70s metal fountains with large burnt orange pools sit in the North and South plaza entrances to the Sacramento County Administration Building (1). These fountains, and an interior wall sculpture of a similar design, were created by Seiji Shimizu in 1977.

The south plaza fountain is the smaller of the two and measures 8 x 3 x 8 ft.

The north plaza fountain measures 12 x 3 x 6 ft.

Research turned up very little information about these fountains or Shimizu himself. I did find references to two of his other works from Japan.

In 1962, he created a geometrical sculpture that hangs from a skylight at Numazu Culture Center (2).

He also created the baptismal font at the Archdiocese of Tokyo Catholic Tokyo International Center (CTIC). The font is shaped like an open hand. Light falls from the ceiling into the hand, and the list symbolizes the “light of God that leads the faith of the catechumen and shows the abundant grace he is going to receive.” (3)

The wall sculpture inside the main lobby is too tall to capture in a single photo.

Title: (untitled)
Artist: Seiji Shimizu
Date: 1977
Media: Metal
Location: 700 H

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Serendipity Fountain ~ 400 Q

Although I’m still discovering the numerous art fountains throughout the downtown area, I’m willing to bet that Serendipity by Mark di Suvero would win in the category of “Most Fun Fountain”. Serendipity sits in the park-like area near the entrance to the CalPERS building at 400 Q.

The spiraling shape of the top sculpture, the varying water jets, and the mosaic tile pool are all fun and interesting, but the piece goes beyond the amusing shapes and colors. Nearby is a keyboard control so you can play with the jets to make the top sculpture move and sway in response to the jets.

There is a great photo of the fountain when it was brand new on the flickr page of SLDdigital, and in the photo you can clearly see the mosaic pattern and metal element for the jets.

In the video below, you can see a slight swaying movement of the top sculpture in response to the water jets:

This plaque describes the inspirational themes di Suvero drew on for the piece:

The inspiration for Serendipity comes out of di Suvero’s roots in California and his deep interest in the role of water has played in the state. The powerful spiral of this sculpture and its multiple jets of water allude to Sacramento’s complex relationship to the water sources contributing to the agricultural bounty of the Central Valley. The sculpture echoes the tree-like form at the building’s entrance, reminding us of the role CalPERS plays as provider to and protector of its members. The vivid mosaic image in the pool beneath is based on the drawing made by di Suvero that reiterates the dynamic form and gesture of the sculpture above.

Last March di Suvero was honored at the White House by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts (1). An online article quotes Obama praising di Suvero: “Exhibited throughout the world, Mr. di Suvero’s exemplary sculptures depict a strong political and social vision, demonstrating the power of the arts to improve our world” (2).

While exploring di Suvero’s works, I learned about Storm King, a 500 acre sculpture park 1 hour north of NYC with works by di Suvero, Andy Goldsworthy, George Rickey, David von Schlegell, and over 100 other artists. This fabulous looking park is now on my list of places to visit during my lifetime.

Motu Viget is another of di Suvero’s fun sculptures. Located in Grand Rapids City, the sculpture is a large steel form with a massive rubber tire suspended in the air and is known popularly as the “Di Suvero Swing” (3). A flickr site has a good photo of the entire sculpture.

Motu Viget is a Latin phrase meaning “strength through activity” and this seems particularly relevant given di Suveros’ history with an accident in 1960 that nearly killed him:

he suffered a near fatal accident that left him confined to a wheel chair for nearly two years. Despite a pessimistic prognosis, di Suvero, through sheer determination, regained his ability to walk. During his recovery, his work took on an even greater monumentality. (4)

This Grand Rapids Press article describes the history of Motu Viget, which was created in 1977, and includes a close-up photo of a couple playing on the swing.

Title: Serendipity
Artist: Mark di Suvero (
Date: 2005
Media: Stainless Steel, Titanium
Location: 400 Q

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von Schlegell Fountain ~ 300 Capitol Mall

What a happy surprise to pass Capitol Mall recently and find water cascading down the fountain at 3rd and Capitol. This 45′ tall stainless steel fountain was created by David von Schlegell whose sculptures were very influenced by his time as an aircraft engineer for the US Air Force (1). Nautical and aeronautical themes emerged frequently in his work (2).

Unfortunately, most times I pass this way the fountain sits dry. It seems they turn it on when the school buses come full of children touring the Captiol area and the Crocker Art Museum. But you can experience the rush of the water over steel and the waves shimmering throughout the pool below in this video:

While it is sad to see the fountain dry most of the time, it is appropriate they turn it on when the children visit since a plaque nearby states that the fountain is dedicated to the Children of Sacramento:

The inspirational quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel (a leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th Century) reads:

…remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art. Start working on this great work of art called your own existence. Remember the importance of self-discipline, study the great sources of wisdom and remember that life is a celebration…

One of von Schlegell’s most well-known pieces is a fountain in Pennsylvania, Voyage of Ulysses. The Philadelphia Public Art site has one of the best photos I could find of the fountain. The Fairmount Park Art Association site describes the relationship between the fountain and it’s title:

In basic shape Voyage of Ulysses resembles a sail, but its appearance varies from different perspectives. Hydraulic engineers helped von Schlegell produce dramatic effects with the water that tumbles against and through the sculpture. In the sculpture’s “duality of stillness and motion”—the fixed metal form combined with the flowing water—von Schlegell hoped that viewers would gain a sense of humankind’s “driving toward the unknown,” as Ulysses did in his storm-tossed ship.(3)

The fountain sits at the entrance of an 18-story office building sometime referred to as ‘Emerald Towers’ and sometimes as the ‘West America Bank Building’. In 2010, this building received LEED Gold certification which is the second-highest rating for existing buildings from the U.S. Green Building Council. (4). Local photographer, Phil Kampel, has a great photo of the fountain and building together.

One of the most interesting angles to view the fountain is from directly behind it. Note that it is designed so that the water that flows down on the other side of the main tower cannot be seen from this angle:

Unfortunately, my thumb made it into the photo without my realizing it. I’ve returned to re-take this photo but have yet to find the water running again.

Sac Metro Arts online gallery of Art in Public Places has a wonderful night view photo of the fountain.

A photo of the fountain reflected in the aqua-silver glass of the building:

Title: (untitled)
Artist: David Von Schlegell
Date: 1985
Media: Stainless Steel
Location: 300 Capitol Mall

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(1) Google Books preview page

Proteus Fountain ~ 9th & H

Summer in Sacramento, the perfect time to seek out public art in the form of fountains.

A large fountain spraying cool water into the air surrounded by dozens of trees creates a nice respite in the courtyard at the entrance of the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse. The fountain is a 32′ diameter sculpture wrought from bronze and cooper by Aristides Demetrios in 1965 and titled, Proteus (1).

In Greek mythology, Proteus is the “Old Man of the Sea” and shepherd of the seals who could assume the form of his choice (2). Thus the adjective protean has positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability (3). I don’t know whether the piece was placed in front of the courthouse with that symbolism in mind, but I very much like that to enter the threshold of this courthouse, one must pass a symbol of flexibility, versatility and adaptability.

For a good photo of the entire fountain from above, click here, and for a 60’s era photo from another angle click here.

Demetrios has another public art piece in the Sacramento area, Cosmos, a red sculpture towering 80′ tall at Olympus Pointe in Roseville (4). Cosmos was installed in the late ’80s on a hill next to the freeway exit near Sierra Junior College. The sculpture must have been very new when I started at Sierra in the fall of 1988, and it remains a landmark to me of that time in my life because we passed it every day driving to campus.

One of the world’s largest aeolian harps (wind harps) was designed by Demetrios and sits atop a hill in an industrial park in San Francisco (5). The harp is 92′ tall and the hill provides a stunning view of the area.

Every year in March, my uncle (an amputee from Vietnam) participates in the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico as a fundraiser for his organization, Disabled Sports USA. This is relevant to this post because Demetrios created a memorial to the Bataan War called, The Eternal Flame of Freedom, that sits on Corregidor Island in the Philippines at the entrance to Manilla Bay. The original Bataan Death March was:

the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army, of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of prisoners. The 60 mi (97 km) march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime. (6)

The sculpture by Demetrios “commemorates the sacrifices, hopes and aspirations, and the heroic struggle by the United States and the Philippines to preserve freedom for future generations. The sculpture stands as a reminder that all men will fight as one if need to be to defend a nation’s liberty. (7)

Appropriate for an Independence Day post.

This detail shot shows how mini-fountains are created within the fountain by the varieties of shapes within the design.

A close-up of the fossil-like design on the metal plates.

As I took photos of the fountain, I wondered if the design includes movement of the water jets or variance in the water pressure. I imagined that one might see a very different looking fountain depending on how the water flowed over the wild metal shapes of the sculpture.

Today and tomorrow the forecast is for 100°+ heat; a good time to enjoy our local fountains.

Title: Proteus
Artist: Aristides Demetrios (
Date: 1965
Media: Bronze and Copper
Location: 9th between G & H

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