Saturday, October 21, 2017

Consider the Open House at State Archives Today

On a rainy day, just some interesting bits others have posted...

Archives has an Open House today from 10am to 3pm on Summer Street at D Street. They're running with a "Game of Thrones" theme, and I can't tell if it's witty or they tried too hard. But the historical artifacts are always interesting regardless!

Here's a very old plan of Salem from 1848 - in "Champoeg County"! - that doesn't seem to have been reproduced very much. It was tweeted out without caption, and a quick google didn't turn up anything about it. Though the City "" site is down just now, they have in the past reproduced a sketch from 1850 of William Willson's 1845 plat (itself copied from a 1929 news article). At least as far as online sources go, this gets us closer to the "original" concept! There might be more to say later on it.

A plat of Salem from 1848,
"Champoeg County Oregon"
via Twitter
The work on Union and Commercial is proceeding. Here's an image from a couple of nights ago. It will be great to check out when it is finally done.

Progress on Union and Commercial - via Twitter
The new downtown sculpture is nice, but the optics at this exact spot on Liberty and Chemeketa aren't very good: We removed benches and installed art. That's an unfortunate succession, and even though it's unintended, it points to the idea of downtown as playground for the wealthy.

Artist Mel Katz (L) and "Receptacle"
on Liberty and Chemeketa
via Facebook
But just on a quick-hit first impression, even though this is pretty abstract, it feels a whole lot more spritely than "The Cube" on Liberty and State. It's also got more room to breathe. This seems like a more successful installation and a better use of abstraction than the "Mirror Maze" mural on the alley. It's a little playful and blooms outward. It doesn't demand that you try very hard to decode some advanced meaning. It's just a splash of color.

Have you walked by it? If so, what did you think?

Postscript, October 27th

Finally got a chance to walk by the art.

It is swamped by the busy facade
(maybe in the morning it would look better)
From across the street, it was maybe a little invisible, and I wondered what kind of art might be a better match for this site. I think I want something actually more monumental here. Or something much smaller and more finely grained. Big and brash or more subtle. This is too in-between.

It occupies a space where a bike rack was
Looking at the void between the sculpture and the first street tree, it seemed like more was missing.

The City removed a lot of useful things for it: A bike rack,
garbage can, and two benches
Streetview turned up two additional bits of furniture: a bike rack and garbage can, in addition to the two benches. If the City's going to start replacing useful things with art, this is a strong move in the wrong direction!

As a sculpture, it's a thin blade
In line with the new mural the sculpture became invisible. It's a blade, visible from two main orientations only. It would be nice to have more of a procession, wouldn't it? Maybe folks didn't want to layer competing or clashing art in this perspective, but they also could lead from one to the other in a kind of implied narrative or unfolding.

So yeah, it's not very satisfactory, either.

The art installations right now are proceeding independently of the streetscape project. At Council on Monday, a critic said
The Salem Arts Commission refused to postpone the painting of the two murals downtown to make sure they fit with whatever theme we select for Streetscape - now we have two awful murals that will clash with Streetscape.
A hallmark of murals is a serendipitous randomness. Usually the designs aren't part of some grand program or master vision. Even if there is a series of them, they are discrete one-off designs. So it is probably a mistake to want a master plan and over-arching theme for them.

But the art pedestal program might benefit from a little more vision and coherence. It seems driven by a very ad hoc art selection, what things become available by donation? And then an equally ad hoc decision, where can we put this thing? It's all too accidental. Budget constraints may mean that the Arts Commission can't be too picky. But right now the program feels like street bric-a-brac more than a strong series of lively art moments. (See notes on "The Cube" and the Setziol.)


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I'm waiting for someone to complain that they see a cross in the sculpture. Actually, it does not 'speak' to me. I'd prefer a nice bench.

Jim Scheppke said...

To me it looks like a deconstructed New York Yankees logo sitting on top of a cubist rendition of Mr. Peabody. Is the artist a Yankees fan?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with more photos and thoughts on the sculpture.