de young at heart

Nadonomo has been a total catastrophe. I’ve drafted a major report, reinvented my riding career, been to Oz and Los Angeles, spent time with Jeremy’s parents and thrown a sizeable party for Julia’s first birthday, and the month isn’t two-thirds over. I need a nap.

Today was great fun, though nap-free, because we took Jeremy’s dad Richard to the de Young. I have fallen for Herzog’s lacy copper blocks in a big way, and the museum has become one of my favourite places in San Francisco. Richard is a wonderful architect – he built the house Jeremy grew up in, and where Jeremy and I were married. Richard approves of de Young very much, so now I can like it officially as well.

(If you’ve read Sean Wilsey’s hilarious and horrifying Oh the Glory of It All – the Mommie Dearest of social San Francisco – it is very unsettling to see Dede Wilsey’s name everywhere. Nevertheless.)

We spent some time in the sculpture garden, which has never been a particular favourite of mine. For a long time I’ve leaned towards clever, pointed installations, preferably at Burning Man, ideally built by unprofessional artists: a submarine rising out of the desert, coloured lamps that line up to spell the words “Let go.”

With the exception of a thirty-foot safety pin and maybe the porcelain apples, the sculptures at the de Young aren’t in that ironical vein. I looked at Zhan Wang’s Artificial Rock, a tall nugget of stainless steel that has never impressed me much. It looks a bit like the aluminium foil left over after your last burrito.

I decided that if Approved Art was conceptually inscrutable compared with Black Rock work, it had better outdo Burning Man in technical finesse. And in fact Artificial Rock meets this new standard. The steel is polished to a mirror-bright gloss so that it shatters the copper museum and the grassy knoll over Turrell’s earthwork into fragments. You have to get right up close to see your face in it, and when you do, there are two or three faces looking back at you, interspersed with architecture, art and sky.

I’m not saying it will replace the Thermo Kraken or Orbicular Affect in my affections any time soon, but it did repay closer attention. Not everything does.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.