June 28, 2010
What happens when the Cleveland Museum of Art stages a public art extravaganza and nobody sees it?
Philosophers of art may want to ponder a display of giant balloons created for the June 19 Summer Solstice party at the art museum by New York artist and designer Mark Reigelman II, a 2006 graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art.
First it was there, then it wasn't, and only a handful saw it.
Reigelman wanted to cover the facade of the Cleveland museum's 1916 building with nearly 100 eight-foot-diameter weather balloons, on which he could project colorful abstract patterns.
Called "White Cloud," the installation was intended to create a dreamlike tableau, which would temporarily transform the neoclassical architecture of the museum's building.
Photographs of the brief installation during the wee hours of Saturday, June 19, shared by Cleveland Public Art, which led the project for the museum, look terrific.
Alas, early in the a.m., the wind started gusting between 15 and 20 mph. With forecasters predicting thunderstorms throughout the day, project organizers, including Greg Peckham, director of Cleveland Public Art, decided to dismantle the installation.
"Aside from the five or six of us present at 3:30 a.m. for the lighting test, no one in Cleveland got to see the incredible installation," Peckham wrote in an e-mail.
The tool of choice to achieve the mission? A box-cutter.
"We were pulling down ropes and pulling down the balloons themselves," Peckham said. Popping the large balloons created "a shocking amount of noise."
"It was an incredible ambitious project and to make that judgment call at the last hour was pretty discouraging. But we knew it was an ambitious thing to do in the first place, but you can't fight Mother Nature," Peckham said.
He said the project cost "well under" the originally budgeted $10,000.
"White Cloud" was an encore to a popular installation designed by Reigelman for the museum's 2009 Summer Solstice party, which involved building a 470-foot-long wall out of 18,720 recyclable pink swimming pool noodles.
Entitled "Wood Pile," the work was intended to evoke the ancient pagan custom of lighting bonfires to celebrate the solstice. Thousands of spectators saw it, unlike "White Cloud."
Reigelman also designed the fanciful concrete planters installed along lower Euclid Avenue by the Downtown Cleveland Association last year. Unlike "White Cloud," however, the planters are sticking around.
Author: Steven Litt
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