art pimp

The PSG brands Des Moines


Des Moines’ Pappajohn Sculpture Garden (PSG) opens next Sunday like a methamphetamine injection of civic pride. Asked if anything like it exists elsewhere, Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) Director Jeff Fleming cited Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Those are not hyperbolic comparisons. By one measure or another — value of sculptures, acreage of park, renown of the works — the Des Moines park can stand with each of those. In fact, “The PSG” kicks Minneapolis’ butt by all measures.

“These are all blue chip artists, and each of these pieces are amongst the most important works of each sculptor,” Fleming explained.

With sculptures bearing $31.5 million of appraised value, 24-hour security and the most conspicuous venue of any such park in America, the PSG also fulfills a Princeton professor’s 17-year-old vision with a remarkable touch of irony. Mario Gandelsonas, who controversially was asked to create a vision plan for Des Moines back in 1992, has become known in theoretical architecture as the disciple of “unplanned urban dynamism.” Yet his original suggestions for Des Moines’ future have been dogmatically followed — riverfront development, airport improvements, Fleur Drive beautification and the creation of Gateway West. Gandelsonas’ firm was even made the principle architect for the installation of the sculpture garden in Gateway West Park. The actual sculptures are a rare unplanned dynamic, given to the city and DMAC by John and Mary Pappajohn.

Wild enthusiasm is as hard to hold down as a fiberglass frame. Fleming thinks the PSG will become a civic brand like the Gateway Arch or the Golden Gate Bridge. At a time when anyone with a cell phone becomes a photojournalist, this garden park has instant branding potential, multiplied by the power of tweet. Fleming says Catalan artist Jaume Plensa’s “Nomade” could become iconic. Underground artists entertain similar expectations for Martin Puryear’s “Decoy.” Barry Flanagan’s “Thinker on a Rock” is already the most popular piece in the park. That pensive rabbit, precariously perched on a sharp edge, suggests defiance of the wind-blown laws of dynamics. That is still Gandelsonas’ point.

Breaking laws like gravity
If sculptors were not compelled to obey laws that govern gravity and thermodynamics, Michael Brangoccio would likely be one. His paintings are all about grand scale and magnificent effort. His subjects, things like floating elephants, defy laws like gravity. On his Web site, “Default” even looks like an epic sculpture. Brangoccio’s magical realism instills a sense of wonder and grandeur rarely seen outside the special effects labs these days. His new work is being shown at Olson-Larsen Gallery, along with new works by Dan Mason and Richard Black, through October 10.

Frank Hansen openings always flirt with lawlessness. This year his show will feature a painting that needs to be driven like a car.

“I am a moment-to-moment artist. ‘Charlie Button’s Hobo Dude Ranch’ happened because (The Mansion owner) Ted Irvine gave me a whole buffalo hide. So I learned how to paint with a branding iron, and here we are. My brother was junking a car, and he gave me a steering wheel. I thought it would be cool to build a painting that could be driven and unveiled itself to the driver like a highway,” Hansen explained.

“Frank Hansen New Works” premieres Sept. 25 and plays through Nov. 14 at Moberg Gallery.

Art Skin
John Sayles is closing the design firm that bears his name and will pursue a fine arts career, debuting a line of paper mache sculptures soon… Chris Vance signed for a one-man show in Denver and for a two-person show with John Phillip Davis at Sioux Falls’ Washington Pavilion… The Very Reverend Cathleen Bascom of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul recently delivered a sermon based on her impressions of the Tara Donovan exhibit at DMAC. Dean Bascom sees deep spirituality in Donovan’s manipulations of disposable commodities. CV


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