Why the Getty is giving Cal State Long Beach’s 1960s sculpture park a fresh look
by Carolina A. Miranda
In 1965, a university professor at Cal State Long Beach teamed up with an Israeli artist to organize a symposium that paired artists with industry (such as the local Bethlehem Steel works) to create a series of monumental pieces that would reside on the university’s campus. Nine artists participated, producing massive abstract pieces made from concrete, earth and steel — works that dot the campus to this day.
But half a century is a long time, and some of the pieces are starting to show their age with peeling paint, structural issues and problems with moisture (from the sea air and lawn watering). To mark the 50th anniversary of the sculpture symposium, the University Art Museum has teamed up with the Getty Conservation Institute to survey and help conserve the collection.
“For us, it provides an opportunity to have practical case studies that exemplify the challenges of working with outdoor sculptures,” said Rachel Rivenc, a scientist at the institute. “These are quite different to objects than you find in a museum: There’s the scale and the fact that they’re outdoors and prone to damage from sun and rain and the ocean, which is very close.”
The partnership also resurrects an interesting slice of Southern California art history — one that sits at the intersection of art, technology and global politics.
The California International Sculpture Symposium was co-organized by Cal State Long Beach sculpture professor Kenneth Glenn and Israeli artist Kosso Eloul (best known for producing the eternal-flame sculpture at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel). It was part of an international series of symposiums launched in Europe in 1959, and was the first held in the U.S.
“It was this response to the war and to the politics of the era,” said Brian Trimble, the University Art Museum’s interim director. “It was artists wanting to show that we as human beings could work together and be civil and not engage in destructive wars.”
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