Valuable Insights in a Free Tour
After sporting a sticker that read “I’m Stoked,” the tour began with a large lump of clay that resembled the kiln that furnaced it. Featuring works from Goya to Warhol, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) recently updated their downstairs gallery with new pieces. Despite lacking breadth with only covering four pieces the tour made up in depth.
A placard asked “masterpiece or lump of clay?” next to the earthy structure by Peter Voulkos. This artist decided to leave the piece unnamed, but the previous art gallery decided to call it “Yellow Stone Saga.” Echoing abstract expressionism, guide Mike Keenan reminded art can be as much of the process as the product.
The product can also be two blue colored men, looking stiff from rigor mortis, lying down on a heap of gravel. Richard Wilt, a former professor University of Michigan, painted “Sleeping Man & Excavation” in 1950. The characters looked like they were digging their own grave. The work felt three dimensional despite its restrictive medium as Wilt played upon perspective. The left side of the brick floor looked like a wall, and the men didn’t appear to be sleeping. The tour did not explain the piece, only speculated. "It's weird as hell," Keenan heaved.
A black and white photo with marks and numbers of a canvas fence resembled a blue print more than an art piece. Above the pictured hung a topical map outlining where a 24.5 mile long, 18-feet high fence stretched just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The KIA’s relic of Christo’s “Running Fence” did not do justice to portray the size and scope of this project; however, the guide did take the time to amplify the costs and organization of this feat.
The fabric fence held together by steel posts and cables lead from the Pacific ocean across the private property of valley cattle ranchers. This great wall stayed up for 14 days until they took it down without visible trace, assembled and disassembled by volunteers.
While only covering four works, the tour was flexible, informative, and entertaining. A wooden horse constructed out of drift juniper branches shyly looked at the ground as if about to gnaw on grass. No, "that isn’t wood," guide said, and the placard read bronze. Cold metal would be felt if one could touch Deborah Butterfield’s “Hoku.”
When asked if the kiln-shaped sculptor was a masterpiece, Keenan concluded “it’s weird as hell.”