Weekly Update – Meta Metasequoia and other news

This week’s Weekly has my review of the new temporary public sculpture Meta-Metasequoia at Morris Arboretum and a sketch about Philadelphia artists showing this fall in New York. Below is the copy and here’s the link to the art page.

Out of Their Trees
Getting high at the Morris Arboretum.

Vito Acconci, Flying Floors

Vito Acconci’s Flying Floors, 1998, Philadelphia International airport

Every time I turn around I see public art that includes seating. Even the internationally acclaimed Vito Acconci had to put benches in his public art at Philadelphia International Airport. This bugs me since I don’t want to sit on my art. And I don’t want the art budget to be charged for public amenities that should come from another municipal budget. Nonetheless, I just found a bench in a public artwork, and I’m all for it—the bench and the art.

Margo Mensing and John McQueen

Photo by J. Shermeta/KSS Architects & Ross Stout/Taylor Photographics. Meta Metasequoia, 2006, John McQueen and Margo Messing.

It helps that the bench is 12 feet in the air and perfectly sited to commune with some stately trees (dawn redwoods, or Metasequoias, a species once thought to be extinct but now rescued and propagating nicely). And it helps that the art is about sitting and communing with the world.

Margo Mensing and John McQueen

Photo by J. Shermeta/KSS Architects & Ross Stout/Taylor Photographics ..sitting in the basket

Because the piece Meta Metasequoia at the Morris Arboretum is about functionality, the whole enterprise is a natural and unforced work of public art. John McQueen and Margo Messing made the piece, with architectural design by J. Shermeta and structural engineering by Thomas Langan. And it’s a celebration of the tree for which it’s named.

Margo Mensing and John McQueen

Photo by J. Shermeta/KSS Architects & Ross Stout/Taylor Photographics I was told the Morris might use the work as a bird blind in another area of the gardens when its 3-year run is done in the Metasequoia grove.

It looks like a basket in the treetops, accessible by stairs and held up by a tripod. The piece, which will be in residence for three years, is one in a series of temporary works commissioned over the last couple years for the arboretum’s sculpture garden.

Margo Mensing and John McQueen

Photo by J. Shermeta/KSS Architects & Ross Stout/Taylor Photographics

I fell in love with this piece because it’s shy and unassuming. While big, it’s designed with elegant lines and unobtrusive features that make it all but disappear into the grove of trees. That said, it doesn’t forget to be beautiful. It’s a discrete object with artistic chops. From a distance it resembles a large toy or swing that could’ve been made by Sol LeWitt or some other minimalist sculptor. Sitting inside the basket almost let me imagine I was in the basket of a hot air balloon before takeoff.

The piece does have one drawback that they’re fixing. There’s an audio component that goes on a little too long. Paul Meyer, director of the Morris, says they’ll install an on/off switch to give the viewer control over that part of the experience.

Meta Metasequoia
Through 2008. Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave. 215.247.5777.

Drawing Attention

Philadelphia Weekly cover

Speaking of things that are fun and green, did you see the cover of this week’s issue by the way? Is that a birds’ eye view of Green Line Cafe or what?

Is it just me or are there more Philadelphia artists than ever featured in New York these days? Scratch the surface of the Big Apple’s fall lineup and you’ll find Randall Sellers‘ drawings at Jonathan LeVine’s gallery (Oct. 14-Nov. 11), Jina Valentine‘s drawings (okay, she doesn’t live here anymore, but we still claim her) in “Common Destination: Selections Fall 2006” at the Drawing Center (Sept. 16-Oct. 28), Ron Klein‘s sculpture at Howard Scott Gallery (Sept. 5-30) and Zoe Strauss‘ “Initial Public Offerings” at the Whitney Museum (Sept. 15). And my favorite: Coalition Ingénu, the outsider collective, at the Gallery at HAI (Sept. 13-Nov. 7). Awesome.