The pièce de résistance, however, is a large bronze sculpture patterned after pre-Columbian Mayan effigies at Copán, on the Honduras-Guatemala border. There are so many art historical references — ancient, Spanish colonial and contemporary — included in just this one piece, each reference in and of itself such a complete narrative, that I'll be getting off at this stop on a regular basis.

And be sure to see the artists' Southern Exposure sculptures just inside the Third Street entrance to the new Phoenix Convention Center. They're two bizarre, flamboyantly decorated "Toltec Transformers," as Jamex de la Torre jokingly refers to them, standing guard at glass doors. They've been crafted from lampwork and mold-made glass, as well as colorful resin that almost looks like Mom's edible Jell-O molds.

Also of note are the to-scale bronze re-creations of iconic Phoenix and Tempe structures, including Gammage Hall, Tovrea Castle and Tempe's old Hayden Flour Mill, set on pedestals at the Veterans Way/College Avenue station in Tempe, almost directly across from ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. They're by Ted Savinar, an artist from Portland who was also the lead artist for the entire Valley Metro public-art project. This stop is also where you'll see iron-caged walls of icy glass chunks lit with changing colored lights that, hopefully, will be operating both day and night.

Landmark, a stone-and-iron sculpture by Ilan Averbuch sits at the Metro light-rail stop at Central and Camelback.
Kathleen Vanesian
Landmark, a stone-and-iron sculpture by Ilan Averbuch sits at the Metro light-rail stop at Central and Camelback.
This 30-foot, metal-covered sculpture by Josh Garber is at the corner of 19th Avenue and Camelback's Park 'n' Ride.
Kathleen Vanesian
This 30-foot, metal-covered sculpture by Josh Garber is at the corner of 19th Avenue and Camelback's Park 'n' Ride.

Freestanding sculptures are major players at a number of stations and, for the most part, are integrated seamlessly into each site. At Camelback and Central, New York artist Ilan Avaerbuch's massive Landmark, a monumental, hewn-stone ring through which stylized figures of stone and rusty iron pass, conveys appropriate solidity and strength. It's an impressive, fitting, and aesthetically safe portal to Central Avenue, the very core of Phoenix and home to the city's business and cultural worlds. Chicago's Josh Garber scores a hit with his snaky, sentinel-like sculpture, covered with reflective, coin-shaped metal slices, at the corner of 19th Avenue and Camelback's Park-and-Ride. Lit at night by ever-changing hues of light, the sculpture can't be missed by tired riders in search of cars they've misplaced. And San Francisco's Peter Richards' gigantic, perforated-mushroom sculpture in the triangular plaza at Roosevelt and Central Avenue not only beckons the weary, it offers eternally changing shadows created by a free-moving upper canopy interacting with a stationary lower canopy. Whether Richards' mushroom will afford bearable shade in the dead of summer is another matter entirely.

For me, the least successful Metro public-art projects are those inextricably worked into the station structure itself. Slapping the label of public art on mere decorative architectural detail does not magically make it art. Take, for example Phoenix artist Bob Adams' metal "modernist" panels, a seeming repeat of Peter Richards' mushroom. Adams' perforated metal shade panels, mounted atop the length of the station and intended to create shade as the sun moves, are so minimalist as to be non-existent.

Additionally, I am underwhelmed by Washington artist Reis Neimi's nondescript scrolly metal railings at the Van Buren/Central and First Avenues stops, allegedly based on designs taken from historic buildings in the area; as far as I'm concerned, Metro spent money on construction detail, not public art, at these stops. Same goes for Tapping Time, the project of North Carolina artist Thomas Sayre at the Osborn/Central Avenue platform. Ostensibly bronze footprints of different shoes embedded in the station's concrete platform, as well as wheelchair marks and stroller marks, Sayre's effort says nothing about Phoenix — it's a generic piece that could have been installed anywhere in the world.

Mona Higuchi's Cloud Canopy is another example of money spent on construction versus art. Higuchi's undulating shade structure is too intimately bound with the stop's physical structure to be considered a work of art, even though it casts pretty, swirly shadows at high noon. And there's something downright sacrilegious about treading on Sandra Day O'Connor's beaming face, rendered in terrazzo by Stephen Farley at the downtown, justice-themed stops at Washington/Central Avenue and Jefferson/First Avenue.

If we really want to spend public art money on obvious construction detail, why not put misters in the shape of rattlesnakes at each light-rail stop? I'll vote for that.

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2 comments
Bob Adams
Bob Adams

Hey Kathleen,

While you have every right to dislike my art, you do need to do your fact checking. The Bob Adams who trashed Janet Echelman's work wasn't me. There's another Bob Adams who lives in Central Phoenix, and he has just as much right to write about art as you or I do. So next time you malign me, which you seem to enjoy doing, please make sure you get things right.

Thanks,

Bob Adams

Layal
Layal

Landmark by Ilan Averbuch, it should be called "Stargate"

 
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