Commissioned by the United States General Services Administration Art in Architecture Program, as part of the Deep Green Retrofit of the historic 50 UN Plaza building for their new Pacific Rim headquarters, the installation of Ribbons elegantly shifts the hierarchical orders of Beaux-Art and Second Renaissance Revival architecture into a site-specific contemporary landscape sculpture at the center of the building’s 24,000 square foot courtyard. Designed by Arthur Brown Jr., architect of San Francisco’s City Hall, 50 UN Plaza was built in 1936 and was the final structure in a seven-building complex composing the San Francisco Civic Center, which was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1987.
Ribbons integrates sculpture, landscape, and architecture into a single statement comprised of a sculptural matrix of paving, seating, fountains, and planting. The sculptures twist and fall to form a rhythmic circulation system that loosely reflects the twists of a ribbon. Two carved granite fountains anchor the long axis of the courtyard providing the subtle sound of water flowing over their polished surfaces. The integrated composition of sculpture and landscape uses the vertical movement of a grid planting system to counterbalance the horizontal emphasis of the sculptures.
The catalog features an introduction by architect and GSA regional historic preservation officer Jane Lehman, essay by landscape architect and Professor Gina Crandell as well as an interview with curator Cydney Payton and artist Cliff Garten. Our appreciation goes to The Chinati Foundation, Walker Art Center, The Getty Center Foundation, and The Art Institute of Chicago for the inclusion of artwork reproductions by Carl Andre, Siah Armajani, Richard Fleischner, Robert Irwin, Donald Judd, and Jody Pinto. Ribbons photography is by Jeremy Green and Shiffman & Kohnke designed the publication.
Cliff Garten is an internationally recognized sculptor based in Venice, California. His work has been widely commissioned with over 50 completed installations in the US and Canada. Garten’s multidisciplinary studio specializes in sculptural works that explore the interplay of light, urban space, architecture, landscape, and infrastructure. He is the recipient of two Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation Fellowship for Individual Artists, the Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship, and the Jerome Foundation Traveling Artist Grant. His civic sculptures have consistently been named best in the nation by The Americans for the Arts Public Art Network and have been cited for design excellence by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Garten has served as a visiting critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, UCLA School of Architecture, Otis Art Institute, and SCI-Arc. Garten holds a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture with Distinction from Harvard Graduate School of Design.
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