Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The National Sculpture Garden

I forgot to mention that the West Building of the National Gallery of Art now occupies the site formerly occupied by the Sixth Street Station (Pennsylvania Station) of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad, built in the 1870s and demolished in 1908. On July 2, 1881, President Garfield went to that station to leave town, since anyone with any sense leaves Washington during summer, but instead was shot by Charles J. Guiteau there.

While the station stood, a plaque marked the spot. As I knew from reading Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowel, 2005), nothing marks the spot now. But near the U.S. Capitol, Garfield has a statue. I didn't see it this time around.

Across 7th St. from the West Building is the National Sculpture Garden, bounded by 7th St., Madison Dr., 9th St. and Constitution Ave. It's a part of the National Gallery of Art, and relatively new, opening only in 1999. At its heart is a large fountain. Not an ornate one -- you might expect a little sculpture at such a place -- but still a great place to sit and soak your feet. Dozens of people were doing that on the warm late afternoon we visited. We all did too.

The garden has 17 works installed in the landscaped area around the fountain. Below is probably the best known of them, "Typewriter Eraser: Scale X" by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (1999), with an orange traffic cone for scale. I don't think I've seen a regular-sized one in years. A typewriter eraser, that is. I suppose that's part of the charm.

These are two views of the stainless steel and concrete "Graft," by Roxy Paine (2008-09).

Next is "Moondog," by Tony Smith, who died in 1980. The painted aluminum work was created posthumously in 1990, based on versions done in 1964 and 1970.

Finally, "Thinker on a Rock" by Barry Flanagan (1997).

The rest of the works can be seen at the National Gallery's web site, except that it needs to be updated, since "Graft" seems to have taken the place of a work called "Cluster of Four Cubes," which is still listed.

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