Tons of Rock, Steel and Art in San Diego

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Last week, I was invited to spend a couple of days in San Diego as a guest of the Museum of Contemporary Art and that turned into a big adventure. The Museum has two facilities, one in La Jolla and the other in downtown San Diego. In a few months, the Museum is expanding into an impressive historic structure, a former Santa Fe depot baggage building. It's located directly across from the Museum's existing building in downtown San Diego. The renovation of this 1915 building by the architect Richard Gluckman is almost finished and the resulting galleries with their abundance of space and daylight are nothing short of inspiring.

As luck would have it, a day or two prior to my visit, the Museum had completed the truly heroic labors of installing Richard Serra's monumental sculpture consisting of six blocks forged out of steel: each standing about five feet high, each weighing about 22 tons. The brutality of its geometry creates a good contrast with the gentle arches of the outdoor loggia where the sculpture is placed.

It's only a short twenty minute drive from downtown San Diego to bucolic La Jolla where I was eager to see a recently installed, gigantic sculpture by Nancy Rubins. Made out of dozens of small boats, kayaks and surfboards and strung together by hundreds of feet of wire, it literally erupts from the Museum wall in an attempt to reach the ocean. The large ambitious exhibition of art and design from Tijuana titled "Strange New World", with its 150 works made by 41 architects, artists, designers and filmmakers, currently occupies most of the Museum galleries in both the La Jolla and San Diego locations. We will have a chance to see this exhibition when it comes here in January to the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

In La Jolla, on the sprawling UC San Diego campus, I saw the latest addition to their first-rate collection of outdoor public sculptures: the humongous teddy bear by Tim Hawkinson, whose recent tour de force show at LACMA introduced the public to his unique brand of inspired madness.

His bear looms above the ground, reaching 23 feet high, and is made out of giant boulders. The search for local rocks lasted for a year and one can hardly imagine the complexity and logistics of transportation and installation of the rocks, the largest weighing more than 200,000 pounds. The bear really rocks. And, did I mention how cute and cuddly it is?

Back in San Diego, I squeezed in a visit to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park to see the new, ground-breaking exhibition that explores the artistic and filial relationship between the Surrealist painter, Matta and his son, Gordon Matta-Clark. I've never seen that many first rate paintings by Matta made at the height of his creativity in the 1930's and 40's. His son, Gordon Matta-Clark, became a celebrated conceptual artist, who famously turned buildings into sculptures by slicing through abandoned buildings and sawing holes through its floors, walls and ceilings. There is a third artist here, Marcel Duchamp, whose presence casts a long shadow over the exhibition and suggests a fresh way of interpreting the art of both father and son. Unfortunately, this thought-provoking exhibition is not scheduled to travel-- which is a pity. But, after all, it's only a two hour drive away.


Museum Of Contemporary Art, San Diego Museum of Art
Nancy Rubins permanent sculpture in MCASD-La Jolla
"Strange New World: Art and Design from Tijuana"
Through September 3, La Jolla
Through September 17, downtown
Nancy Rubins permanent sculpture in MCASD-La Jolla
Richard Serra permanent sculpture in MCASD- downtown

MCASD La Jolla
700 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92037-4291
858-454-3541 (24-hour recorded information/p>

MCASD Downtown
1001 Kettner Blvd (at Broadway)
San Diego, CA 92101
619-234-1001 (during business hours)

Tim Hawkinson, "Bear," 2002
Installation, May 2005
Stuart Collection
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0010

"Transmission: The Art of Matta and Gordon Matta-Clark"
San Diego Museum of Art
Through November 12
1450 El Prado
Balboa Park
San Diego, CA