Jumperman ~ 6th & Q

18′ tall Jumperman looks poised to take flight from the entrance of classical modern design building at 600 Q that was once the Dunn Edwards Paint Store (1). The metal sculpture was created by Michael Riegel in 2003 (2).

Riegel has a series of sculptures of similar human figures (3). He has also worked with metals to create mechanical toys and functional tools including sewing scissors at the Smithsonian American Art Museum he created from forged and annealed carbon steel stock: “The curved handles show his interest in Japanese weapons and armor from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries” (4).

Originally built in 1966, the building at 600 Q was redeveloped in 2003 now houses Nacht & Lewis Architects (5). The redevelopment team sought to maintain the classic modern design while transforming it into a dynamic building.

Respecting the strengths and character of the original building, the design team sought to inject a new image and vitality to the structure. Previously painted concrete block was sandblasted and left exposed for its rich natural color and texture. Exterior pilasters at the two-story glass storefronts were painted purple to accentuate their rhythm. Perforated steel plate guardrails painted bright yellow and a metal sculpture enliven the corner entry to the building. Finally, LED lighting was introduced behind a refurbished exterior signage band to illuminate the north and west facades and the streets below.(6)

Several public art pieces by Riegel can be found around the Sacramento area including:

Title: Jumperman
Artist: Michael Riegel (www.mikeriegel.com)
Date: 2003
Media: Metal
Location: 6th & Q


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(1) http://hellerpacific.com/projects/600-q/
(2) http://www.mikeriegel.com/
(3) http://sculpturesite.com/Artist-Detail.cfm?ArtistsID=257
(4) http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=20948
(5) http://www.nlarch.com/portfolio/private_600q.html
(6) http://www.nlarch.com/portfolio/private_600q.html

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)
JOHNNY APPLESEED. (Dec 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 (www.stephenkaltenbach.com)
Date: 1999
Media: Cast Cement
Location: Sacramento Convention Center, 13th & K


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(1) http://www.stephenkaltenbach.com/info/resume.html
(2) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Altered+Ego%3A+Sarah+Lehrer-Graiwer+on+Stephen+Kaltenbach.-a0236980129
(3) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Altered+Ego%3A+Sarah+Lehrer-Graiwer+on+Stephen+Kaltenbach.-a0236980129
(4) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Altered+Ego%3A+Sarah+Lehrer-Graiwer+on+Stephen+Kaltenbach.-a0236980129
(5) http://stevenleiberbasement.com/archive.php?list=extra_art.txt&mfltr=extra_art.txt&afltr=&qfltr=&sort=&offset=220
(6) https://www.crockerartmuseum.org/exhibitions-collections/collections/asian-art/asian-art?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_cust.tpl&product_id=695&category_id=51
(7) http://angelfloresjr.multiply.com/journal/item/7109/The_Enigma_of_Stephen_Kaltenbach_Almost?&show_interstitial=1&u=%2Fjournal%2Fitem
(8) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Altered+Ego%3A+Sarah+Lehrer-Graiwer+on+Stephen+Kaltenbach.-a0236980129
(9) http://www.midtownmonthly.net/art/bad-ideas/
(10) http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/02/3150600/powerful-portrait-at-sacramentos.html
(11) http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/02/3150600/powerful-portrait-at-sacramentos.html
(12) https://www.crockerartmuseum.org/exhibitions-collections/collections/asian-art/asian-art?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_cust.tpl&product_id=695&category_id=51
(13) http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/02/3150600/powerful-portrait-at-sacramentos.html
(14) (http://www.jennyarnez.com/art-2/time-to-castaway-stones

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 (www.tomostudio.com)
Date: 1999
Media: Cast Bronze Sculptures
Location: Sacramento Federal Courthouse, 501 I Street


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(1) www.examiner.com/culture-events-in-sacramento/art-is-all-around-us-walking-tour
(2) http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285)
(3) http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285
(4) (http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285)
(5) http://www.tomostudio.com/exhibitions_publicart_landing.html
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Underground
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Otterness
(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Otterness#Controversy
(9) http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285