Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Outdoor Sculpture in San Francisco

Outdoor Sculpture in San Francisco: a Heritage of Public Art is a well-rounded introduction to the sculpture of the City. The authors included work based on artistic merit and historic significance. Other requirements for inclusion were that the sculpture was located in San Francisco, out-of-doors and in a public space. It is organized roughly by chapters based on location or theme, in chronological order. The title not only gives a thoughtful artistic assessment of many pieces, but provides context to the political machinations of the time as it affected the art and its placement. Some background information on individual sculptors and on different spheres of the sculpting world – in California, the United States and Europe is also helpful. Crisp black and white photographs give illustrative detail.

San Franciscans and visitors to the City will recognize many familiar pieces, and enjoy learning new details. The first chapter discusses the work placed in Golden Gate Park. A monumental piece by James Happersberger memorializing the recently assassinated president, James Garfield, was the first sculpture to be placed here, and many other memorials followed. Douglas Tilden’s Mechanic’s Monument is noted in the second chapter on the downtown area, its dynamism still a defining feature. As the decades progress, readers are treated to works by Benjamin Bufano, Henry Moore, Ruth Asawa and a great number of other important sculptors.

Back matter includes notes, photography credits, and a directory organized alphabetically by sculptor’s name, giving the title of the piece and location. The bibliography is divided into sections by material type. A brief background on the authors and lastly, an index are also included.

For other resources on sculpture in San Francisco the exhibition catalog American Sculpture: the Collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco provides a brief biography on featured sculptors and interesting details on some of the works. The Checklist of the Collection lists all sculptors alphabetically by name and title of sculpture.

For those interested in seeing the sculpture, art and other sights of San Francisco on foot, Cityguides is an excellent way to learn about the history and culture of different neighborhoods of the City. Tours are given by volunteers who do extensive research on their topic and are free for individuals. Group tours can be arranged, (there is a charge for these) and proceeds benefit the San Francisco Public Library.

A popular outdoor exhibition, Hearts in San Francisco shows the work that could be found in the City from Valentine's Day through November, 2004. Local artists were given a heart shaped form in either steel or fiberglass on which to create a unique work. These pieces were eventually auctioned off to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

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