Book Review: 'Landmarks' provides all-encompasing knowledge

Talking about art is like trying to french kiss over the telephone,”” said artist Terry Allen, contributor to the Stuart Art Collection.

Yet in “”Landmarks,”” talking about art is exactly what the artists and curators of the Stuart Art Collection do. Nearly two decades after “”Sun God”” settled onto its perch, a book has been published documenting the creative process that brought us UCSD’s world-renowned art collection.

First to capture the reader’s attention is the beautiful cover photography of “”Landmarks.”” From there, readers are sucked into the ultra-modern layout of the book and into the history of Stuart Art. As we read the detailed introductory commentary of the collection by Robert Storr, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it becomes apparent just how extensive the artistic interpretations of the collection are.

“”Landmarks”” focuses chronologically on each piece of the Stuart Collection, from “”Sun God”” to the then-most-recent, “”Standing”” (“”Read/Write/Think/Dream”” has since been created). For each piece, Stuart Art Collection Director Mary Livingston Beebe details both the mental and physical processes that took place for each contribution to the collection. Accompanying the short histories are the artists’ preliminary sketches as well as photos taken during the creation and installation of each piece. Each artist also gives personal insight about his or her work through interviews.

While all of us have walked beneath the neon lights of “”Vices and Virtues,”” few of us know that the flashing colors were originally planned to twinkle from the Mandel Weiss Theatre. We also didn’t realize that “”Sun God”” is not, in fact, a “”big chicken”” but an eagle meant to symbolize Native American culture. These and other little-known facts are an exceptional aspect of “”Landmarks.””

Through “”Landmarks,”” we also discover the various pranks that have been incorporated into the Stuart Collection, including leaving a large badminton shuttlecock on the ground by Robert Irwin’s “”Two Running Violet V Forms”” and dressing up “”Sun God”” in a cap and gown for graduation. In addition, we learn that the musings emitted from the “”Talking Tree”” include Navajo chants, Aztec poems and duck calls.

As Beebe chronicles the process of each piece, it is difficult to overlook the tremendous amount of work that has been undertaken to make each piece of art possible. From the initial artistic epiphany of “”neon research”” in Las Vegas for “”Vices and Virtues”” to discussions with the UCSD planning committees, Beebe helps the reader appreciate the endeavors that were undertaken to reach the final products.

While “”Landmarks”” does a good job encapsulating the Stuart Collection, the interviews with the artists leave something to be desired. It is valuable to gain insight through the artists’ own perspective, but the question-and-answer layout of the interviews has the potential to lose a reader’s interest.

The Stuart Collection serves as a cultural cornerstone for UCSD. The mere sight of “”Sun God”” instigates thoughts of freedom, goodwill and euphoria, but until now, the enigmatic bird has been confined to the campus. “”Landmarks”” provides the UCSD community with the opportunity to share all aspects of the Stuart Collection, which artist Elizabeth Murray calls, “”one of the most interesting sculpture collections — or whatever it is.””

Landmarks

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With essays by Mary Livingstone Beebe and Joan Simon

264 pages

Available at the UCSD Bookstore

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