Bridges to the 21st century | Arkansas Blog

Bridges to the 21st century


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Now for some cultural news. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art may be heavy on ponderous 19th century portraits in some of its galleries when it opens (next year? maybe), but its grounds will feature sculpture about as modern as it gets. The museum announced today that “Lowell’s Ocean” (above), a sculpture by Mark di Suvero that received high praise from a New York Times art writer last summer, and a commissioned Skyspace work by environmental artist James Turrell will be placed at the north and south ends, respectively, of the 100-acre museum site in the town of Bentonville. DiSuvero and Turrell are the first living artists whose works have been revealed to be part of the Crystal Bridges collection.

DiSuvero’s large-scale steel beam works earned him a description as “perhaps the greatest Abstract Expressionist sculptor” from the Times. “Lowell’s Ocean” is made up of criss-crossing I-beams and a spiral of steel cut from a single piece. Turrell's work will be a circular structure in native stone with a LED-light enhanced window on the sky. He’s created other Skyspaces in Houston, Texas; Seattle, Wash., and Pomona, Calif.

Museum director Bob Workman also announced that a north-south biking and hiking trail through the property will open this spring.

Press release on the jump.

Two Sculptures Join Crystal Bridges Permanent Collection

Works by pre-eminent living artists Turrell and di Suvero are announced


BENTONVILLE, Ark., Jan. 15, 2009 – Two sculptures with contrasting styles and mediums but a common theme will be the first pieces in the permanent collection to be installed at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Focusing on nature as the subject rather than the background, a Skyspace by James Turrell and Lowell’s Ocean 2005-2008 by Mark di Suvero will grace the grounds of the 100-acre wooded museum site.  These sculptures are the first announced works of art by living artists in the museum’s permanent collection. The pieces were revealed today during a museum update by Crystal Bridges Executive Director Bob Workman. Workman focused on the museum grounds, trails and the importance of the natural setting as a part of the overall visitor experience. 


Viewer as Artist in James Turrell’s Skyspace

Using light as a brush and the sky as a canvas, Turrell, who is one of America’s most celebrated living artists, will create an original Skyspace, a structure that allows the viewer to experience the ever-changing aspects of light and space.  The site-specific work designed for Crystal Bridges will be erected at the southern edge of the museum property near Compton Gardens and partially set into a hillside. 


Turrell uses native materials in the construction of his Skyspaces, and the Crystal Bridges piece will feature a palette of native stone in its construction.  The work is envisioned as a circular structure that measures approximately 16 feet in diameter and features a viewing room with benches and a 10-foot-wide ceiling oculus revealing a partial view of the sky.  The experience is enhanced by a computer-driven LED lighting display. The room can accommodate up to 23 visitors at once. It will be titled upon completion, which is anticipated by the end of 2009.


“This work fits comfortably into the Ozark landscape in a way that reflects the intersection of art and nature, a particularly American tradition and a focus of Crystal Bridges,” said Bob Workman, executive director, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. 


“Audience participation is central to understanding the piece,” he added.  “Turrell will challenge us to experience nature – particularly light – and engage with the ever-evolving aspects of the environment around us.  The work’s focus makes it an ideal part of our overall collection.”


“My work is about space and the light that inhabits it,” said Turrell.  “It is about how you confront that space and plumb it.  It is about your seeing, like the wordless thought that comes from looking in a fire.” 


Mark di Suvero’s Lowell’s Ocean 2005-2008

The second announced sculpture is by di Suvero and is entitled Lowell’s Ocean 2005-2008. Completed in 2008, the base of this work is constructed of welded steel I-beams and features a curled spiral in the middle, cut from a single plate of steel. It stands more than 20 feet tall and weighs in excess of 26,000 pounds.  


“From di Suvero’s soaring essays on line and space with gravity defying I-beams and raw industrial steel to Turrell’s stone and concrete meditations on light and air, these two artists bracket not only the north and south ends of the Crystal Bridges outdoor sculpture park but articulate an ongoing dialogue in late 20th- and early 21st- century sculpture,” said Crystal Bridges Chief Curator Chris Crosman.  “From the rough purity of physics and mathematics to perceptual psychology, they facilitate our own unexpected encounters with everyday experience with gravity and light.  And for the viewer, these complementary experiences become as physically engaging as they are intellectually vivid.”   


Trails Scheduled for Completion

From the beginning, natural surroundings have been as much of a design element of the Crystal Bridges Museum as the building itself. Workman said that the west bike trail is expected to open this spring. The trail is a 10-foot-wide multi-purpose trail for bicyclists and pedestrians and runs north through the property crossing a scenic bridge. A viewing platform will offer visitors a spectacular view of the museum and its natural surroundings.  The entire trail is approximately three-quarters of a mile long and runs parallel to the Crystal Bridges Museum site.


The pedestrian art trail will begin at Compton Gardens and end at the south entrance of the museum, according to Workman.  The trail will offer yet another link from downtown Bentonville to the museum. Lined with sculpture, native plants and foliage, the trail will be constructed to complement the topography of the bluffs that bank the museum site.


“We believe that the connection between Crystal Bridges and the downtown area is vital,” said Workman. The trails will contribute to the overall livability of this region and will have a positive economic impact on the area.”


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Crystal Bridges is envisioned as a premier national art institution dedicated to American art and artists. Under construction in Bentonville, Ark., the museum complex will encompass approximately 100,000 square feet of gallery, library, meeting, and office space, a 250-seat indoor auditorium, areas for outdoor concerts and public events, as well as sculpture gardens and walking trails.


Crystal Bridges will house a permanent collection of signature works from American artists. The growing permanent collection is composed of paintings and sculptures from the Colonial period through the modern era. Some announced works in the permanent collection are:  the Hudson River School masterwork Kindred Spirits by Asher B. Durand, which is currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (The Constable-Hamilton Portrait), which is currently on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand, currently on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the most extensive surviving group of Colonial American portraiture, the Levy-Franks family paintings, currently on loan to The Jewish Museum in New York City.


Crystal Bridges takes its name from a natural spring on the museum’s wooded site as well as the unique glass-and-wood building design created by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The 100-acre site of the museum complex and cultural center is located within walking distance of the Bentonville town square. For more information about Crystal Bridges, visit


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