Monday, April 26, 2010

The Running Fence

When I went to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C this weekend, unfortunately, their Aaron Douglas exhibit was on rotation. However, Nate {a contributor over at this music blog} & I did see a wonderfully executed exhibit on The Running Fence.

This was an enormous art endeavor taken by Christo & Jean-Claude in the mid 1970's. This artist duo is known for their large scale, environmental art projects. Some famous enterprises include wrapping the Reichstag & the Pont Neuf, and most recently a venture called The Gates in NYC. Almost always controversial, due to the enormity of their work, as well as the negotiations required with various governments, their main goal has always been to beautify the world - or in the very least trying to make something look good that was never thought to be able to look any different. They want people to see the same thing or place in a new way - often this transpires in a global realm due to the abundancy of media coverage.

Running Fence

Progress began on this installation in 1972 and, after much deliberation with governmental officials, it was completed in September of 1976 and removed exactly 2 weeks later, leaving absolutely no trace of its existence. The "fence" was 18 feet high and was comprised of Nylon sails. It spanned 24.5 miles of land through Sonoma & Marin counties in northern California. Beginning near Highway 101 it crossed 14 roads and traversed the private lands of 59 ranchers {whose testimonies of cooperation were part of the Portrait Gallery's exhibit} and ended in the Pacific Ocean -the most beautiful part, in my opinion.

It was the first art project that required an environmental impact report {completed in 450 pages!}-which probably wouldn't have been required if it had been even a decade earlier as the environment {NEPA, Clean Air & Water Acts, etc} wasn't really on the agenda until the 1970's.

Besides being impressive merely in its size and the number of people it required to complete, the two messages I took away from this project were: fences don't necessarily have to divide people & people {i.e ranchers} who probably weren't too sure about art -especially conceptual art from foreigners who barely spoke English- can be willing & excited participants in such an undertaking {really anything might be possible!}.

"The work of art is a scream of freedom!" - Christo

1 comment:

  1. We studied him in my theatrical design class!! I remember researching his Gate piece in Central Park. I think a lot of his work is based on spectacle and vision and not message, which can be very refreshing in a modern art world full of pretentious campaigners.


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