Tag Archives: stuart collection

The Trees are the Instruments

“I’m profoundly influenced by the natural world and a strong sense of place…I hope to explore the territory of sonic geography–that region between place and culture…between environment and imagination.”
– John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams has been hailed by the New Yorker as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” After studying at the California Institute of the Arts, Adams embarked on a prolific career encompassing a variety of genres and media, including television, film, children’s theater, voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra, and electronics. His Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning orchestral composition, Become Ocean, has become one of the most popular concert pieces in the modern repertoire.

Much of John Luther Adams’ work as a composer and, increasingly, a conceptual artist is rooted in his love of nature combined with what he calls the “resonances” of a particular environment. For the Wind Garden, his installation commissioned by the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, that environment is a eucalyptus grove located in the campus Theater District. Based on a carefully determined site plot, 32 accelerometers were attached to the highest branches, measuring the movements of the trees in the wind. As the velocity of the wind changes so, too, does the amplitude of the sound. Tonal variations and harmonic colors are provided by two virtual “choirs,” a Day Choir tuned to the natural harmonic series, and a Night Choir tuned to the sub-harmonic series. The results are broadcast by 32 small loudspeakers hidden among the trees. Both volume and pitch change in real time throughout the day and with the sun’s movement over the course of the seasons.

Because the composition is driven entirely by wind and the sun’s light, it never repeats itself. The listener is surrounded by sounds that vaguely recall bells, voices, strings, and other acoustic instruments, but it’s impossible to describe them in just those familiar terms or to know their exact source. Like some of Adams’ other recent pieces, the Wind Garden has been described as “indeterminate,” but the composer argues that it’s more accurate to call it “self-determining,” not reliant on musicians or conventional instruments. Rather, Adams notes that “the trees are the instruments” while acknowledging the sophisticated technology employed to “give voice” to the trees.

Adams hopes that each unique encounter with the Wind Garden and its rich, ever-shifting harmonic palette will encourage both “deep listening” and an enhanced appreciation of the natural environment.

Watch The Wind Garden by John Luther Adams – Stuart Collection at UC San Diego

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Pay Attention – New Documentary Features UCSD’s Stuart Collection

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An eternal question: What is “public art?”

The definition of public art continues to evolve, but at its most basic level public art can be defined as “work created by artists for places accessible to and used by the public.” In other words, there’s no velvet rope ‘twixt the art and the patron. It’s worth noting that the art/public art field distinguishes between “public art” and “art in public places.” The former term implies a contextual, often collaborative approach to the creation of art that takes the site and other local factors into account, while the focus of the latter is on the art itself, not where it will be sited. Put another way, “public art” is site-specific, or designed for a particular environment – for instance, a university campus.

“UCSD may not have a football team, but it does have the Stuart Collection.”
– A UC San Diego student

Established in 1982 by retired businessman James Stuart DeSilva, the Stuart Collection of public art at UC San Diego is unique in several respects:

Commissioned Works

Whereas other collections – for example, UCLAs Murphy Sculpture Garden – consist of acquisitions, all works in the Stuart Collection are commissioned; prominent contemporary artists are invited to survey the campus and develop proposals based on their site selection. Proposals are reviewed and approved by an Advisory Board, and most of the works are constructed on-site rather than in a studio.

Self-Funded

The Collection also differs in its funding model. Other collections, such as the J. Michael Bishop Art Collection at UCSF Mission Bay, typically rely on a percentage of construction budgets (1% is common) allocated for public art, but the Stuart Collection is entirely self-funded by grants and donations.

Variety of Forms

An unusual emphasis on variety is another hallmark of the Stuart Collection. Unlike a conventional sculpture garden the works span a variety of forms, materials, genres, etc., and are often “one of a kind” in relation to the artist’s body of work. As the pieces are varied, so too are the artists themselves, ranging from painters (Elizabeth Murray) to installation artists (Nam June Paik) to composers (John Luther Adams). Several of the artists who’ve created pieces for the Collection are not otherwise known for public art (John Baldessari, William Wegman, Terry Allen).

However varied in their form and function, all of the pieces in the Stuart Collection share a common goal. They don’t proselytize or attempt to define “good art” but, in the words of artist Bruce Nauman, they do ask the viewer to “pay attention,” to regard their familiar environment in a different way and, in the process, perhaps see themselves in a new way as well.

Watch Pay Attention: The Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, then browse more programs that explore UCSD’S Stuart Collection.

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“Naked Art” Concludes, But It’s Just the Beginning

Today’s premiere of “Naked Art: Museums without Walls” concludes the inaugural documentary mini-series for our new YouTube original channel, UCTV Prime. After traveling to three different UC campuses and talking with artists, curators, faculty, students and others who helped make each of the campus’ public art collections a reality, we like to think we’ve shown our growing YouTube audience the range of personalities, sensibilities and landscapes contained within this distinctive research university that spans ten campuses across the state.

The final installment refelects upon the diverse definitions, purposes and modes of public art from UC campuses and elsewhere, and includes comments by artists, curators, students and other participants in the “Naked Art” series. Taken together, the four-part series just might open your eyes to the works of art that cross your path nearly every day.

More importantly, “Naked Art” offers just a taste of what we’ve got in store for you this year on UCTV Prime, starting with “Prime: Vote,” a series about issues in the public debate during this important election year. The series launched last week with three thoughtful commentaries by UC faculty.

Then stay tuned in April for the seven-part miniseries “The Skinny on Obesity.” If you’re a fan of UCTV, then you’ve probably seen or at least heard of UCTV’s popular video lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” featuring UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig on the damage caused by sugary foods. With over 2 million YouTube views to date, the video has become a viral sensation, sparking TV news stories, newspaper articles, even spin-off books by YouTube fans. UCTV Prime decided it’s time to dig deeper into not only the dangers of sugar and its substitutes, but what the latest research is telling us and why it’s changing everything we thought we knew. You won’t want to miss it when it premieres April 13.

And there’s plenty more to come, so if you haven’t subscribed to the UCTV Prime YouTube channel yet, do it today! In the meantime, enjoy these final thoughts on what it means to leave pieces of art out in the wild.

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UCLA’s Murphy Sculpture Garden Gets “Naked” on UCTV Prime

It’s time for another stop on UCTV Prime’s tour of UC’s most prestigious public art collections –“Naked Art,” as we like to call it.

This week it’s all about UCLA’s Murphy Sculpture Garden, which spans more than five acres on the Westwood campus and boasts more than 70 sculptures by artists such as Jean Arp, Deborah Butterfield, Alexander Calder, Barbara Hepworth, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Auguste Rodin, and David Smith.

We visited the tranquil setting on a sunny January morning and spoke to the collection’s curator from UCLA’s Hammer Museum, Cindy Burlingham, professor and artist James Welling, and some UCLA students who pick this special location to study, relax – even practice their fire-spinning technique!

Take a virtual study break and discover UCLA’s “Naked Art” on UCTV Prime, our new YouTube original channel. You can also check out photos from our visit to the UCLA Murphy Sculpture Garden on our Facebook page, and find out more about public art at UC on our “Naked Art” series page.

If you haven’t already, stop by our “Naked Art” YouTube playlist to watch the first stop on our public art tour at UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection and a catch a trailer for next week’s episode that shows what happens when public art meets science and research on UCSF’s new Mission Bay Campus.

And don’t forget to enter the “Show Us Your ‘Naked Art’ and Win!” contest for a chance to win a book about UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection or UCLA’s Murphy Sculpture Garden.

And, of course, subscribe to UCTV Prime’s YouTube channel to keep up with our latest programs, such as “Prime: Vote,” a new series premiering March 13. The first installment features insightful and reasoned commentaries by three UC faculty on important issues the country and candidates are facing during the 2012 election season.

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Show Us Your ‘Naked Art’ and Win!

Untitled, Michael Asher (1991) Stuart Collection at UC San Diego

“That’s art?!”

In the words of Mary Beebe, director of UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection, “Art means paying attention to the world around you.”

This is especially true with public art, deliberately placed outside the confines of a museum for anyone and everyone to encounter. Sometimes that extra bit of attention leads to transcendence; other times, just plain disbelief. Or maybe there’s a sculpture, statue, mural or drinking fountain you walk by every day without even noticing.

We hope that UCTV Prime’s debut series, “Naked Art,” awakens you to the public art placed around your community — and we want you to share it in our “Show Us Your ‘Naked Art’ and Win!” promotion!

Whether you love it, loathe it– or never even noticed it — grab your camera and document it. Then upload it as a video response to any of UCTV Prime’s Naked Art YouTube videos, or post a photo on the UCTV Prime Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a beautiful art book about the Stuart Collection or UCLA Murphy Sculpture Garden, both featured in the “Naked Art” series. Check out the contest rules and get us your submission by April 3, 2012.

"The Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden at UCLA"
"Landmarks: Sculpture Commissions for The Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego"
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