November 9, 2011

The artist Christo gets approval for his project wrapping the Arkansas River.

The L.A. Times reports:
“Over The River” comprises eight huge, silvery fabric panels spanning 5.9 miles directly above the Arkansas River where it flows through Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area....

The project’s hefty environmental impact study showed that threats to native wildlife were many and complex. The huge steel cables required to hang the fabric would stretch from bank to bank, for instance, requiring heavy construction to install. Several mitigation measures were required to protect bighorn sheep, which live and breed in the canyon (hence the name), including construction restrictions from April 15 to June 30 every year. Also, OTR agreed to build habitat improvements and water developments to allow the sheep access to water and new habitat, and to create a fund that would continue to look after the sheep for years after the project is dismantled.
Years ago, I hated Christo. I thought of him as arrogant and elitist, but I don't think that anymore. As I said back when Christo put up "The Gates" in Central Park:
I must admit that's what I thought of Christo for decades, as I read about his projects in various news reports. But I completely changed my mind about him when I watched the Maysles Brothers documentaries ("5 Films About Christo and Jeanne-Claude" ...). I was won over and came to believe that Christo is an art saint.
I think part of the art is the interaction with the local people and the authorities. I think of it as including a performance art component that is about law.

44 comments:

David said...

There was a great film made (by Christo himself, I think) about his California "running fence." It focused largely on the people who gave permission for the fence to cross their property and the people who built the fence.

Can't remember the name of the film though.

edutcher said...

Art saint?

lyssalovelyredhead said...

"I don't get art." - George Costanza

Ann Althouse said...

@David I think you are remembering the Maysles film that I linked to.

Ann Althouse said...

The one about "Running Fence" is especially good.

It can make me cry to remember the humility and humanity that emanated from Christo (and Jean-Caluse) toward the real people in the area and the officiousness of the authorities. When it all came to fruition in the end... beautiful!

But I love the Maysles brothers, who made one of my all-time favorite movies, "Grey Gardens."

Larry J said...

I live in Colorado and consider this "art" an abomination against nature. The Arkansas River is already beautiful. What kind of city-dweller asshole thinks draping miles of fabric on the basin is going to be an improvement over nature? Let him put his artificial art in an artificial city where maybe it belongs.

Shanna said...

So, you show up in Colorado to enjoy nature. Instead you've got some idiotic crap hanging over the river. I would be pissed.

Sigivald said...

None of that makes it good art, though.

Maybe it's art about the process of doing this particular form of crappy art...

Or maybe he can make art (films) that are not crappy, about his crappy art.

Because the art itself?

Ghastly feces.

Art that's "interaction with ..." is always crap. Not by definition, strictly, but in practice.

(Arrogant and elitist? That doesn't bother me, at least in artists that earn it by not being shit.)

Sigivald said...

(Relatedly, "performance art" is, equally, uniformly horrible.

Or, in shorter words, "performance art isn't".)

ricpic said...

I'm not sure Christo is after "an improvement over nature." He does something to a particular landscape, adds something, that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times. Would running fence have worked in flat country as it worked on the California coast? I doubt it. But that fence, bounding across those gold-brown hills? In certain lights it was jawdroppingly beautiful. Anyway, all his projects are temporary, no permanent damage done and I doubt any temporary damage either...unless you're an ecofreak.

Palladian said...

Oh goody, we get to hear the rustic Ruskins tell us, again, how much they hate art, that they don't get it, that it's "artificial", etc.

Sometimes it's good for humanity to do things just because it can. But the utilitarians, yahoos, environmental and cultural puritans and general bores that seem to infest this place at the moment will make sure to piss all over that notion.

It's not affecting you, or your life. If you don't like it, ignore it. It's not even permanent! It will go away (and hopefully you will, too).

Ann Althouse said...

""performance art" is, equally, uniformly horrible. Or, in shorter words, "performance art isn't"."

Maybe, shit that is pointing at itself saying "I am performance art" meets that statement, but that's not what I'm talking about with Christo. He doesn't say that the years of labor procuring approval constitute art. That is simply my observation, with the help of the Maysles Brothers' filmmaking. I would have been resistant exactly the way you are if I had not seen these films. I wish you would watch them and give yourself a chance to see the matter from this other perspective that crept up on me. I wish you could see how the authorities treated him and how humbly he moved forward and how ordinary people came to love what he was doing.

Palladian said...

"Art that's "interaction with ..." is always crap. Not by definition, strictly, but in practice."

All art is interaction with something; architecture, the viewer, nature, philosophy.

Your attitude leads me to believe that you understand this, and think that all art is crap.

What's crap is worthless comments. Why are you writing stupid comments?! Why are you so exercised about something you deem beneath contempt?! Why are you putting ugliness into the world?!

madAsHell said...

Here in the Pacific NW we have Dale Chihuly...an obsessive self-promoter. All his crap looks the same to me, and I am not alone.

His only redeeming value is his glass blowing school, although I'm sure my tax dollars fund the school.

Joseph said...

It is my understanding, please correct me if I'm wrong, that he funds his work by selling illustrations of his planned future projects. So, he isn't some goober living off the hard work of others - he actually obtains his money through voluntary exchange.

Plus this from wikipedia: "In 1978, Charles M. Schulz drew an episode of his comic strip Peanuts in which Snoopy's doghouse is wrapped in fabric by Christo. In response, Christo constructed a wrapped doghouse and presented it to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in 2003"

That seems like a rather nice thing to have done.

Psychedelic George said...

"Art is what you can get away with."

--Warhol

Paddy O said...

Christo epitomizes modernity.

He's a relic.

Whether you think that's good or bad depends on if you also are a relic from modernity, I suppose.

Paddy O said...

Althouse, what happened to the comments on that old 2005 thread?

Wally Kalbacken said...

Who sponsors his stuff?

les hardie said...

Years ago Christo put up his golden umbrellas north of LA, but we havent forgotten: whenever we drive that route we always talk about how gorgeous and awe-inspiring it was. He And Jean Claude create magnificent beauty.

Carol_Herman said...

Forced to study his work in college, my opinion of him never improved.

He's like the guy, Glass, who "wrote" a five minute musical piece composed of total silence. You just sit at the piano and don't strike a note.

I can imagine the mom saying out loud "what are you doing? I don't hear the piano!" And, the kid saying, "I'm playing a piece by Glass."

Art's become a tough field in which you can show "major innovation."

Now, if you can put some sofas under the fabric ... that will extend for so many miles ... maybe, architects will pick up on this?

Maybe, they can move this "project" to Manhattan? Wouldn't it solve the "tent crisis" in housing so many freeloaders in Zucotti Park?

I just want to be of help, here.

ndspinelli said...

We got married @ Loose Park in KC. They have a famous rose garden so you don't have to buy flowers. Shortly after we got married Christo did an exhibit draping the miles of walkpaths w/ silk. It was kind of cool. We saw him speak about the exhibit but couldn't understand much. He was arrogant back then in the 70's..I was 30 lbs. thinner and had hair.

Carol_Herman said...

What I remember of Christo's umbrellas ... is that one flew up in the air. Then, hit and killed a woman. She came for the "art" experience. She left in a box.

John Lynch said...

You have to have a huge ego to blanket an entire river.

Palladian said...

"Here in the Pacific NW we have Dale Chihuly...an obsessive self-promoter. All his crap looks the same to me, and I am not alone."

I agree with that one. His stuff is crud. The funny thing is that he doesn't even know how to blow glass. He has people do it for him. I have no problem with artists using assistants (something that artists since ancient times have done). But it's different when they not only can't do the craft, but don't even design it.

Patrick said...

If art is meant to be beautiful, I think the art must result in a net addition of beauty. It is hard to see how wrapping up a beautiful river is going to increase the beauty of the area. Central Park, I could see. A wild river? I don't know. Art can be weird. I even like some of the weird stuff, if it is at least interesting, or beautiful. Maye I should look into the documentary.

Jim said...

ndspinnelli wrote about the wrapped walkways in Loose Park.

As a young engineering student at UMKC, I remember walking the paths in Loose Park in October of 1978 (thank you google). The beauty of the gold cloth on the walkways made my spirit soar. It was so beautiful. I can almost feel the same sensations in the base of my neck and upper spine that I felt that day, 33 years ago. Words really don't cut it.

Jimbo in KC

Bruce Hayden said...

The interesting thing here to me is that Sec. Salazar grew up in the next watershed over (the Rio Grande), likely knows exactly where this "art" is supposed to be located, and still approved it. It is maybe an hour from the top of the San Louis Valley, where he grew up and his family has lived for generations.

I am maybe a bit more cynical about this than Larry (above) is. In my 60+ years, I have seen a lot of stuff done to Colorado, much of it not overly scenic. And, at least there will be an attempt to mitigate and remediate the damage. Not like taking the top off of a mountain to mine molybdenum (at Fremont Pass, at one of the real headwaters of the Arkansas), or even the sides of mountains to mine gravel by I-70. Or, indeed, all those thousands of sets of tailings scattered throughout the Colorado mountains.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

For a long time I thought Christo was a poser, more intent on transgression than esthetics. Then, coming home from a road trip I encountered The Umbrellas in Fort Tejon, California. The sight of acres of chapparal sprinkled with giant umbrellas was surreal and oddly moving. Later that fall a woman was killed when one of the umbrellas blew over on her.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse, what happened to the comments on that old 2005 thread?"

I didn't have comments at the time. I added them on April 8, 2005, as explained here.

Palladian said...

"If art is meant to be beautiful, I think the art must result in a net addition of beauty."

Who said art was meant to be beautiful? That's a Romantic-era assumption and has never been a universal or objective standard of art (or other cultural production) in any culture.

Alan said...

Have Christo wrap up Zuccotti Park.

Speaking of which...can we stop calling it a park? It's a concrete slab with a bunch of trees poking through.

Oligonicella said...

What you saw of Christo on film was put there by Christo. Of course he looked good.

When he did that horrid golden pathway thing in Kansas City, the general consensus was it was a huge pain in the ass and filthy within a week. It was especially nice after the geese shit on it.

Christo's stuff is basically a five year old's thought actuated ("Let's tie pink bows around the Florida Keys!").

Popville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popville said...

Carol posted:

He's like the guy, Glass, who "wrote" a five minute musical piece composed of total silence. You just sit at the piano and don't strike a note.

I was thinking John Cage, but his was 4'33". Philip Glass adds 27 seconds, whoopee. Myself, I was taught to keep it under 3 minutes for any hope of radio airplay.

Fernandinande said...

"Art saint" = littering on a major scale. Because it's just trash and vandalism.

Robert Cook said...

His "The Gates" in Central Park was beautiful!

And he's a GREAT draughtsman! He does prospective drawings for all his projects, (which he sells to raise funds to pay for the actual projects), and his drawings of draped buildings and the gates in Central Park are dramatic and compelling.

Robert Cook said...

The point of John Cage's 4'33" is not that there is absolute silence for the duration, but that in listening closely during the piece, one becomes aware of all the ambient sounds that surround us in that particular place...creaking wood floors, coughs or sneezes of those around us, doors opening or closing in the background, etc. The ambient sounds become the music for that span of time, and each time the piece is "performed," it is unique.

I am no particular fan of Cage, but I can at least grok what (I think) he was going for with this piece. Perhaps he might say it is really a piece about listening.

Patrick said...

Palladian,

Some art is meant to be beautiful. some is meant to shock, some to make a point. Christo himself says his works have no deeper meaning, and are for joy and beauty.

By my statement "if art is meant to be beautiful," I meant a specific work, not art in general. I probably should have said "If the work of art is meant to be beautiful."

Crunchy Frog said...

Years ago Christo put up his golden umbrellas north of LA, but we havent forgotten: whenever we drive that route we always talk about how gorgeous and awe-inspiring it was. He And Jean Claude create magnificent beauty.

In the Grapevine. Where wind gusts regularly top 80 mph. Where they uprooted and flew all over the countryside, killing at least one person and requiring a ridiculous amount of money to clean up and remove.

Moron.

Crunchy Frog said...

"I was thinking John Cage, but his was 4'33". Philip Glass adds 27 seconds, whoopee. Myself, I was taught to keep it under 3 minutes for any hope of radio airplay."

I am the entertainer
And I've come to do my show
You heard my latest record
It's been on the radio
It took me years to write it
They were the best years of my life
It was a beautiful song
But it ran too long
If you're gonna have a hit
You gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05

Fustigator said...

Colorado Native. Been around for 49 years. This 'art' will suffer the same fate as the Rifle Gap Christo art project. Which I thought was stupid at the time.

Thunderstorms with hail and strong winds will make short work of this project.

I'm appalled the local bureaucrats (not surprised the Feds did) approved this art project. I would guess by 2/3rds to 1/3 most Coloradoans including the locals are against this thing.

Indigo Red said...

Like Ann, I was not a fan of Christo's work when I first heard of him despite being an art major in college who put a white sheet over a chair in the classroom, called it art because I simply had not done the assigned project but needed something for a grade - got an A - and bolstering Psychedelic George's Warhol quote, "Art is what you can get away with."

When I saw the Running Fence across California's golden hills and down into the sea I couldn't help but be in awe of that shimmering strip of changing colors and hues splitting the landscape while simultaneously being part of that landscape. I was a fan ever after, though I wasn't as impressed with The Umbrellas that didn't seem to fit much of the terrain beyond the Tejon Pass which was hard to contemplate at 65mph with clots of cars and 18-wheelers careening hither and thither on the two to three lanes of the I-5 freeway coursing across the mountain pass. I liked the natural flowers covering the slopes in spring and summer more.

Chas Clifton said...

Don't worry, he's still an arrogant elitist. Residents of southern Colorado are just bit players in his ego drama.