Site Specific Works Challenge Perception Of Art
A lot of art works are hard to categorize.
Just the other day I was giving a group a tour of our world renowned Laumeier Sculpture Park. I told them that Laumeier had many works of art that were traditionally placed around the park such as Ernest Trova's “Falling Man” and Mark DiSuvero's works, but Laumeier is also very famous for its site-specific works of art. Beverly Pepper's "Cromlech Glen, an Earth Work" and Mary Miss's "Swimming Pool Complex" were early major commissions. According to Dana Turkovic, Laumeier's curator, Laumeier was on the ground floor having commissions such as these.
Site-specific work is not transportable like a typical painting or sculpture in a museum, but is created by an artist for a specific site and its surroundings. Site-specific works can include dance or music or art works in other disciplines. Em Piro, Director of St. Lou Fringe says, "Site-specific projects also challenge artists to think seriously about the in-the-now relevance of their work. When pieces are brought to life outside of a stage, gallery, or venue, they become that much more visceral and relevant to our times".
Sarah Frost, award winning visual artist, recently created a site-specific work for Gallery 210 at UMSL. Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Rochester Art Center, describes the piece entitled, "Site.” "It is a monumental curved swath that bisects Gallery 210's space to create an architectural barrier. The jutting structure references the human body and invites the viewer to explore the enigmatic materiality and meaning of leftovers. This precise geometric cut is comprised of hundreds of bamboo poles joined by hand-tied ,white fabric lashings organized structurally to resemble the still commonly used bamboo scaffolding so prevalent throughout parts of Asia".
CAM, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, just closed an exhibition entitled, "Place is the Space" featuring seven artists known for their consistent production of site-specific work as well as their ability to address what Brad Cloepfil, founding principal of Allied Works Architecture, tried to express in his building at 3750 Washington Boulevard which is now ten years old. These artists addressed what Cloepfil identifies as key aspects of the building: boundary, intersection, public accessibility, scale, surface and transparency. There was one piece that caught my ears, a work entitled "Audible Interruptions," an audible work in the hall and even the restrooms of the building by poet Jessica Baran and artist Kevin Harris.
When I think of other internationally famous artists who have created site-specific works on a very grand scale, I think of Christo and his wrapped buildings and islands, Robert Smithson and his "Spiral Jetty,” near Rozel Point and the Great Salt Lake and Olafur Eliasson's “Waterfalls” which he created in New York City all come to mind. These works, of course, have been documented on film.
Site-specific works have certainly knocked art off the pedestal and can challenge our perception of the definition of art.
Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some 30 years on numerous arts related boards.