Emeryville Art Walk - February 4, 2009


Opening Remarks


(in front of Ruby's Cafe - Hollis & 63rd)

Public art always evokes a strong response, whether it be a quizzical musing of Calder's Hawk For Peace in Berkeley or a blunt dismissal of Henry Moore's Large Four Piece Reclining Figure (Davies Symphony Hall) with “please curb your sculptor”. Successful public art, like the Anish Kapoor “bean” and Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in Chicago, engages the public and allows each person to interact and relate to the art in an individual way. Such art can be good or bad, successful or not. Each piece should be judged and/or appreciated based upon its own merits.

From the Newport News Public Art Forum:

“Public art can make strangers talk, children ask questions, and calm a hurried life. It enhances the quality of life by encouraging a heightened sense of place and by introducing people to works of art that can touch them and generations to come.”

The pieces we'll see today say much about place and the people who live in an urban environment like Emeryville - and seek occasional respite from it. The art is sprinkled among office parks, transit hubs, residential enclaves, shopping centers and massive factories. What does each piece have to say about the community, the people who live and work here and the physical structure of each distinct neighborhood?

In the middle of our walk, we will join up with Lisa Sullivan, the public art coordinator for the city of Emeryville. She'll tell us how Emeryville legislated a public art program and tied it to the rapid development of this town.

Head south down Hollis on the west side of the street.

Aquatic Circus (near Hollis & Powell - not on art map)

This is the most recent installation of Greg Hawthorne in Emeryville. We'll see several others shortly.

Greg Hawthorne is a Big Sur artist who is a painter turned sculptor. His work with the Post Ranch in Big Sur was the catalyst for his changing mediums. Son of an architect who admired Charles Eames and Frank Lloyd Wright, he later returned to the aesthetics of those men in developing the ergonomics of his pieces. Hawthorne has more than 50 water installations and believes he has only “scratched the surface.”

Turn around, head north and cross the street at 59th St to 5900 Hollis St.

Paolo Soleri Wind Chimes and Francis Collins Floor Design (inside)

Paolo Soleri, an Italian “eco-architect,” migrated to central Arizona early in his career. His most ambitious project was Arcosanti near Scottsdale, AZ. Soleri created elaborate windchimes, such as the ones you'll see inside, to fund the operational costs of Arcosanti. The bells appear in several places throughout the building so look carefully. You will also note a substantial collection of paintings on display and, in the center of the public area, the marble floor construction.

Exit building, head south, crossing 59th to the first Seyed Alavi “Signs of the Times” display.

Seyed Alavi - Signs of the Times

Seyed Alavi is a graduate of San Jose State and the SF Art Institute. His work is often engaged with the poetics of language. The Signs of the Times project utilized electrical boxes and the international pedestrian stick figure to present a series of poetic vignettes. The artwork aims to be read as a sign, which asks one to reflect on some of the issues surrounding the nature of our lives as human beings. 28 traffic boxes were transformed and Alavi collaborated with eight students from Emeryville High on the project. This is an excellent example of drawing the community into the art process.

Turn around, cross 59th St., then cross Hollis. Proceed to 6121 Hollis - an outdoor courtyard.

Untitled Sculpture - Meyer Parry

Unable to find any additional info about Parry. The piece exhibits some asian art aesthetics and represents an abstract dragon figure.

Cross the courtyard to the north

Wing Triangles 5 & 6 - Max DeMoss

Max DeMoss is a Southern California artist who's sense of the classical greek aesthetic was instilled in him by his father.

Cross the courtyard to the west to the fountain.

Platter 143 - Max DeMoss

Another work by DeMoss

Turn south and proceed to Commuting.

Commuting - Greg Hawthorne

This piece differs drastically from the last in that it is very Picasso-esque and is a dramatic anachronism as the mounted horseman faces the Amtrac Station and the I-80 freeway.

Continue west on 59th St. to the Emeryville Amtrak station. Proceed to the east tower of the pedestrian overpass.

Centennial Murals: Emeryville Youth Art Program

Another example of public art engaging the public. The tiles surrounding both towers of each end of the pedestrian walkway allow Emeryville school children to recite history, take pride in their community and express their desire for the future.

Continue south into the Amtrak station.

Transcendental Zephyr - David Kerchman

Kerchman is a Berkeley artist who connects architecture to graphics with his company, Flying Colors. His banners in the train station attempt to capture the surrounding communities with the colorful banners and the train tracks with the surrounding metal mesh.

Exit train station via east entrance and cross Horton to the outdoor courtyard of EmeryStation 1.

Santa Lucia Rock Fountain & Eclipse - Greg Hawthorne

Once again, very different pieces from the others we've seen. The rock fountain unadorned and a more traditional treatment. Eclipse, while not unlike Commting in it's geometric structure, is much more bold and dramatic and responds well to he space in which it has been placed.

Proceed south on Horton (west side of street) and stop just beyond the large parking lot entrance at Stanford.

(Looking at the architectural details on the NW side of the Bayer Building) - Just to demonstrate that art is where you find it, note the decorative wing jutting out - could be considered anything from a prairie style detail to something from Bauhaus - and the tanks that are just part of the building but that are reminiscent of something by Charles Sheeler.

Proceed south on Horton, under Powell St to 53rd St.

(looking to west) This is the proposed site of the Horton Landing Park Art.

Proceed south on Horton to just south of 45th St. and cross to east side of street (4300 Horton at 45th St.)

(Looking in entryway of building) This building was originally designated as artists lofts, as evidenced by the unique artwork in the lobby, but has since been occupied not only by artists but also offices and other commercial interests.

Proceed east on 45th St and stop in the middle of block, facing north.

The building across the street is the 45th St Artists Cooperative which was founded in 1974. It is an artist-owned and operated facility, housing about 80 people.

Return to Horton, turn south and proceed to Park. Turn east on Park and cross Hollis. Gather in front of new city hall.

(Lisa Sullivan meets us and provides a brief history of the public art ordinance and a tour of the installations surrounding city hall)

Solar Rose - Roger Berry

Roger Berry hails from Chico and has an impressive number of pieces scattered across the US, among others - the Brutus sculpture in the Berkeley Rep.

Three Spaces of Respite - Sheila Ghidini

The artist says of her work, “I enjoy creating situations that compel the traveler to slow down, to stop and take notice of what might otherwise be overlooked. And in the process, it is my hope to rhyme the integral aspects of a site with conceptual and formal grace.” The idea of this particular installation was to provide employees and visitors respite from the urban fray. Each design references a different culture and invites the viewer to visually ponder the construction of each pattern.

Proceed up Hollis on the east side of the street, crossing 45th St.

Seyed Alavi - Sign of the Times

The History of P.G. & E. - Scott Donahue

Donahue is a prolific east bay artist with numerous installations, several of which are in Emeryville. This particular piece, which is evocative of a WPA piece, was designed to be visible to passing traffic as well as the occasional pedestrian.

Cross Hollis and continue north on to 53rd. Circle through the Novartis park, then cross 53rd to the entrance of Novartis.

Two Figures: Three Columns - Stephen DeStaebler

DeStaebler, a renown sculptor, was born in St. Louis but received his masters degree from UC Berkeley. De Staebler's sculpted human figures or fragments of figures explore broad humanistic themes: the transiency of life, birth and decay, the triumph of the spirit, and the fragmentation and wholeness of a solitary journey with and against the elements. This piece is particularly interactive. Move around the perimeter and observe how the piece changes.

Cross Hollis again at 53rd and proceed north to Stanford Ave.

Seyed Alavi - Sign of the Times

Turn east and proceed to Doyle St. Head south on Doyle to the Pickleworks.

Pickleworks Gate - Vicki Jo Sowell

Sowell's art is sprinkled throughout Emeryville. Be sure to visit the exhibit under the I-80 freeway near Denny's. You'll also have a chance to see her work at the Emeryville Fire Station when we return. Though many of her works seem whimsical, her focus is quite serious. In her own words, “To express our own version of existence we must will and will with all our strength and heart and brain. Even when human genius shines, nature is superior in everything... If I am fortunate to make art over a long period of time, nature may show me forms which our watching eyes can see, but which our intelligence has not understood or suspected before. My art is about acceptance, revelry, and revelation in the drawing of real form and substance into space. Through this union our human concerns, our complex yearnings and psychology gain their fullest meaning.”

Proceed north on Doyle across Stanford and Powell to 59th St. Cross over to the path just west of the public garden - part of the Emeryville Greenway.

(Invite people to explore the garden at another time and mention informal “art” details sprinkled through garden.)

Look Closely - Wowhaus (Scott Constable and Ene Osteraas-Constable)

A husband and wife team, Wowhaus explores the common denominators of everyday experience, the central question of how things, places and relationships acquire meaning. “We are interested in the social underpinnings of ‘ordinary' or vernacular forms; in the social networks that sustain and foster community and innovation.”

This series of sculptures starts here and spreads up Doyle St. the length of the Greenway. Each is functional sculpture that features flora and fauna photographed by Ene on site along the Greenway. The bench at the end of the garden path features images of produce grown in the garden.

Proceed north on Doyle, stopping to observe more pieces in the Look Closely series, turning west at 64th St.

(Note Hubcap Facade architectural detail and Seyed Alavi box on corner.)

Cross Hollis and turn south, stopping in front of the Emeryville Fire Station.

Pumpers and Sparky - Vickie Jo Sowell

This piece is reminiscent of the other powder coated steel installations you'll find under the I-80 freeway, in front of Michael's Art Supplies and at a more recent installation in Richmond.


That concludes our walk today. While we've visited only some of the many pieces included in the Emeryville Public Art program, I hope you've gained some insight into the program, the pieces themselves and the artists who are engaged in public art projects. Just as importantly, I hope you've been able to discover a side of Emeryville that isn't always evident. I encourage you to visit the other pieces on the map at some time and to come back to view new installations as they develop. A self-guided version of this walk will appear on our Path Wanderers' website and the map is available on the city of Emeryville's site at http://www.emeryville.org/index.aspx?NID=275 .