Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marc Rosenquist: Getting it in

Once we decided on the sculpture by Marc Rosenquist, we had to figure out how to get it into a garden in full growth. Before knowing exactly where we wanted to position it, or how far it would have to be transported, Marc and Gail brought it over in their Range Rover. Little did they know what awaited--how to move a 300 to 400 pound bronze object several hundred feet along a curving gravel path, through plants, and into position in a fully grown garden. We had to improvise.

But first things first.

The Visit
We had visited Marc's and Gail's home a couple of weeks before to see his collection. We didn't know we were doing more than exploring, just looking and thinking. I particularly liked this bumpy ball.

I knew just where this one would go. It has a natural or a "found object" quality, and it evokes suggestions of mysterious origins--excavation of an archaeological artifact, a giant nugget of minerals, a mysterious object dug out of the ground, a weird boulder of argellite (our local stone), possibly a carefully shaped message from the past. And it has a certain playfulness about it.

Ironically, after talking to Mark and Gail, I discovered that Marc's father, an airline pilot, often took the family on archaeological digs, and this sculpture just happens to be a scaled up replica of a relatively common Pre-Columbian object, though no one knows its purpose, if it had one. So I suppose my intuition, at least in this case, was right.

Marc also has several elongated sculptures I believe he calls "trees." This one was resting against a large tree trunk when I first saw it. Here you see it leaning beside a white doorway, not a great background. But this one would be perfect as a vertical element, either mounted as an upright, or leaning against a tree on the edge of the garden, where it would be a surprise, visible only on close observation.

Here's the top, showing the texture and striations in the bronze.

And here is another of the "trees," just lying on the ground.

This was another favorite (for scale, think large, four or five feet long). Obviously, it needs a position in the open.

A close-up of the surface texture ...

Okay--this one too. Again I can find thematic connections with my garden's "story," and it would look very good over in a dark corner near the woodland edge, or as a feature in the woodland garden (to be) ... a giant, overscale object, five feet in diameter?

But we ultimately decided on this one. A strange object, humorous, evocative, threatening in a way. Attractive here in the open on Marc's and Gail's lawn, but in my garden it would always be partially hidden by plants. William Martin has suggested I need a bunch of these, in different sizes, scattered about the garden. I like that idea. Marc?

And this, perhaps on the terrace, in some kind of axial arrangement ...

Speaking of axial arrangement, look at the two together. That's a powerful combination, really defining the space in a way that pulls the whole landscape toward a focal point.

Marc's and Gail's garden is arranged along the banks of a small stream. Not minimal at all, quite profuse really, but treated as a minimal element in relation to the lawn and the house complex. So very different from Federal Twist, where the garden rushes up to the house in a wave of vegetable force ("vegetable" in the old sense:  "Had we but world enough, and time . . . /My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires and more slow." - Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress.). And the point of this ramble? Just that sculpture can be used in different ways in different environments.

Marc, Gail, and Phil in our ramble around their lawn ...

Marc, pondering a question, just looking, perhaps wondering whether he really wants to lose a work that's been in his life for 20 years?

The terrace, very Italian, and they love Italy ... not really relevant to this post ... or is anything irrelevant?

The terrace is part of the story, after all ... where we talked, settled in, and made the deal ...

Getting it in Place
As I was saying at the start, we had to move this heavy object several hundred feet. Marc, also being a fine wood craftsman, had brought boards cut to the right length to roll it out of the Range Rover to the ground.

I believe it was Gail who thought to bring a rug and quilt. So as Marc rolled the piece along the gravel path, he made frequent stops so Gail could alternately move the rug or the quilt from the back to the front, then Marc would roll it a little further. About half way down to the garden, I joined in the rolling, thinking I would be of help, but not realizing Gail had the really hard job.

Finally we got it to the back side of the garden, eyeballed a path through some semi-sacrificial plants, and slowly, and very carefully, tumbled it end over end into place.

Photos at Federal Twist courtesy Gail Deery

Coda - Some of Marc's Other Work

Gail sent me a few pics of Marc's other work, mostly metal, some in wood ...


1992- Printmaking Fellowship Award, Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
1990- National Endowment of the Arts, Sculpture Award,
1990- New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Visual Arts Grant, NJ
1990- Louise Cramer Award, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
1988- New Jersey State Council of the Arts, Visual Arts Grant, NJ
1982- New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Visual Arts Grant, NJ
1980- Ford Foundation Grant, New York, NY
1979- Ford Foundation Grant, New York, NY

Selected Exhibitions

2005- “Sculpture Selection,” Harrison Street Gallery, Frenchtown, NJ
2003- “New Jersey Prints,” Mason Gross School of the Arts, New Brunswick, NJ
2001- “Off the Wall,” Bristol-Myers Squibb Gallery, Princeton, NJ
1993- “Fellowship Recipients,” Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, NJ
1992- “Sculpture,” Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1991- “Marc Rosenquist,” solo exhibition, Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1991- “New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition,” Bristol-Myers Squibb Gallery, Princeton, NJ
1991- “September Survey,” Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1990- “Gallery Artists,” Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1990- “Art Now, Contemporary Philadelphia Artists,” Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
1989- “Gallery Survey of Artists,” Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1989- “Introducing,” Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1987- “Six Sculptors,” 55 Mercer Gallery, New York, NY
1986- “Solo Exhibition, Marc Rosenquist,” Educational Testing Center, Princeton, NJ
1986- “Outdoor/Indoor,” Ramapo College, NJ
1985- “Recent,” New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
1984- “Iron Cast,” Pratt Institute Gallery, New York, NY
1984- “Public Art Trust,” Washington Square Park, Washington DC
1983- “Sculpture,” 14 Sculpture Gallery, New York, NY
1982- “S/300,” Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA
1981- “Newark Museum Third Biennial,” Newark, NJ
1981- “Sculpture 1981,” Grace Gallery, New York, NY


New Jersey State Council on the Arts
Newark Public Library
Jersey City Museum
Newark Museum
Dietrick Collection
The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum
New Jersey State Museum
Rutgers University
Dieu Donne Paper Inc.
The Montclair State Museum
Philadelphia Savings Fund Collection
Judith and David Brodsky Collection


  1. James,
    Another great post on sculpture and the garden. Thanks for taking us along on your journey to find just the right piece for your garden. I admire your thoughtfulness and eye. I have been contemplating some sort of sculpture in my own garden and you have given me more food for thought.

  2. I want to thank you for letting my family descend upon you, your home and garden. It was great meeing you you and Phil and what a bonus to meet Marc and Gail. The sculpture, like your house is perfectly at home in your garden.

  3. Dear James, I have most enjoyed this introduction to the work of Marc Rosenquist and, in addition, most intrigued to learn of your thoughts about the selection of and placement of the chosen sculpture.

    Scale, as you mention so often here, is, for me, very significant in placing sculpture or indeed any objects within the garden. I agree that the way in which you have placed the sculpture within your own garden plays between allowing the sculptured form to rise organically from the plantings and yet is also an unexpected surprise. This does add a dynamic and a new dimension which certainly enlivens the whole.

  4. I enjoyed reading about Marc Rosenquists works and I love your chosen sculpture and your ideas about the placement of it. It does look fabulous in situ with the grasses. Would I be totally bringing the tone of this down to suggest that in the full picture of it, the sculpture reminded me of Cousin Itt from the Adams family?

  5. Michael -
    I feel fortunate to know Marc and Gail, and to have been able to have this piece for the garden. I think the sculpture helps "organize" the visual wildness and, in a sense, "tames" the visual experience and tells the eye how to look at the garden. Many people who think of gardens only in a more traditional sense don't see my garden; I sometimes think they see only confusion, because they lack some inherent interest in or knowledge of the plants, or of the very concept of a "prairie" garden.

  6. Les, I really enjoyed your visit, and meeting your family. You son is quite an impressive 12-year-old. I've worked hard from the start to integrate the house and garden, and to make a garden the house can comfortably sit in (or overlook), so your remark about the house being "at home" in the garden is especially pleasing to me. Come back next year. Oh. I forgot to ask you one thing. If you will, please tell me one thing you would do to improve my garden. I'm serious about that. I meant to ask you, but forgot.

  7. Thank you, Edith. Your comments are right on spot, and I totally agree. You say it so well. An unexpected surprise that enlivens the whole. And your comments on scale are especially meaningful to me. When I started the garden, which was originally a rough wood, I struggled with space and scale in relation to the house. Then I hit upon a John Brookes technique for using the house to define a unit of measure I could apply to the surrounding landscape. That helped me to decide how large to make the garden, or at least how large I could make it within the constraints of the surrounding woods, and how to shape it and lay out planting and walking areas.

  8. Arabella,
    Thanks for your comment on the appropriateness of the sculpture. No, I don't think you're bringing the tone down with your comparison to Cousin Iit. I agree one can look at this object in many ways; I even suggested it can have a humorous as well an an ominous quality, and I like that dramatic ambiguity.

  9. That first coda sculpture is INCREDIBLE. If I had a million dollars. Thank you for the tour of these wonderful works by a clearly fantastic artist. Seems like he was fun to talk to, as well, which is at least half the joy of finding new art (meeting the artist, getting to know them).

  10. Benjamin,
    It must remind you of a butterfly chrysalis!

  11. James, I am not sure how I would address that question, but I am flattered you asked. Perhaps with all the grasses, fine textures and meadow-like look to your garden you could use something with larger, bolder leaves - something architectural. The trick will be to do this without using plant material too exotic, tropical or out of place for the Delaware Valley. I have seen in English gardens how they coppice trees like Catalpas to keep their size in control and to keep their leaves at eye level where they contrast with other things. Just a thought, but I think your garden is fine as is.

    BTW, after we left your place we stopped in Frenchtown for something and wandered into a shop called Two Buttons. It was full of south Asian treasures about half the price of similar things at ABC in Union Square. They had some remarkable, primative Indonesian stone sculptures or totems that would look great in a garden.

  12. Les, Thanks for the pointer on the store in Frenchtown. I'll get myself up there. Interesting you mention large foliage. That's something I've been working on without a great deal of success. I do have one golden Caltapa on the bank by the house, but your comment tells me it's obviously not in the right place. Actually, I planted it there just to "hold" it until I found the right location. I'll work on that--an easily visible spot where it won't drown. I also tried to plant a Pawlonia tomentosa, with the intent of coppicing it, which does give it giant leaves. Well, it's still less than pencil thin, so perhaps I'll just have to buy a larger specimen. Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions.



Related Posts with Thumbnails