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Arts

A Peek Into Process

Christo gives a talk about innovation and invention

By Mark Lopez [ Tue Aug 26 2014 3:04 PM ]

“Mein Kölner Dom, Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
[click to enlarge]
courtesy of the Tom Golden Collection, Sonoma County Museum
“Mein Kölner Dom, Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Most artists have a specific medium, a way of rendering the world around them to be something more than what's already there. Whether it's painting, drawing, collage or something else, most artists are lucky to master one aesthetic. Bulgarian artist Christo, on the other hand, is a master of invention.

An artist in every sense of the word, Christo (and his late wife Jeanne-Claude) started with ideas, put them on sketches, collages and diagrams, then made these flat images into three dimensional installations that took over large plots of land. One need only see photos of Little Bay on the Australian coast with its cliffside entirely covered in fabric to grasp the magnitude of their work.

Christo answering questions
Mark Lopez
Christo answering questions
But the process is the interesting part, which is what Christo highlighted in a lecture at the Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain NW) on Friday, Aug. 22. Addressing a packed house, Christo detailed the many ideas that prompted his most famous works. He also discussed projects still in the making, including “The Mastaba,” a vast trapezoidal structure made up of oil barrels. If completed, it will stand near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Why are such projects still not completed? As Christo explained, “The difficult part is getting permission. Everywhere in the world belongs to somebody.”

What's impressive about these artworks is the time and planning that go into bringing them to fruition. Years are spent diagramming, speaking with engineers, getting permission from the people in power, and each detail is documented so as to make the outcome not only a structure for visible consumption, but a collaborative piece that invites viewers to become a part of it.

Then there’s the money side. Christo pointed out that for “The Gates” in Central Park, New York, they had to pay the city $3 million for three months of planning and building gates hung with saffron fabric in one of New York City's landmarks. That’s why his projects are funded by the ideas themselves, with Christo selling sketches of the structure's plans and earlier artworks to finance the new piece. If that's not ingenuity, I don't know what is.

The lecture provided fans and viewers with a deeper insight into these works. While it may seem arbitrary to see entire islands in Miami's Biscayne Bay surrounded by pink fabric or a mass of blue and yellow umbrellas inhabiting sections of Japan and Southern California, the ideas that prompt these works are not only visionary, but stand as testaments to the power of man to conceive, design and build something great. And hearing Christo talk so humbly about the process was a pleasure and a treat. Not to mention a privilege.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Tom Golden Collection

Showing until Sept. 14
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History
2000 Mountain NW
Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays, 9am-5pm
Cost: $2-$4, FREE Sundays from 9am-1pm