If you were going to build a public space to recall an important work of American art – if you could actually do so – the Burning Man sculptor Maya Lin and her husband, Raymond Cross, probably wouldn’t have chosen one of the most obvious places to locate the Dismantled Temple: the garbage dump in the Mississippi delta where the iconic structures were made. Instead of slaving over a scrap yard, they’ve built something that is a wild, almost rural, approximation of the original.
2 Memorial Church
This is a memorial church: somewhere to go, in some sense, for the churchgoers who form the bulk of the population of the Plains states. The building’s exterior has been whitewashed away, its half-timbered outbuildings a flinty, throwback to an earlier, more primitive era. Inside, however, it boasts an almost industrial feel: no-frills fluorescent lighting and unpainted concrete.
In a grimy country town, Trinity United Methodist would be old churchland, not a modern edifice, but even in the current Broadway of stately churches it is a remarkable success. Design details are amazing – the stained glass windows are painted rather than carved, and original text is made visible on the walls – and not a building has been built to such high standards since Detroit’s Cathedral of the Music. This is a church that was on its way to failure – water dripping from its shelled walls, tired chairs waiting on the pews – but thanks to the architect Blake Turley was rescued in the nick of time.
American art is full of strange, atmospheric clouds – painting within an expanding, grey fabric, hovering by the windows, hovering, hovering – but few are quite so much as with Mona Lisa’s husband, the poet and mathematician Leonardo da Vinci. Painter and botanist, he made a raft of them with his Renaissance artist friends, including Cassavetes, Bacon and Childe Hassam. It’s a dream of a series of abstract – some say cryptogenic – clouds in a desert landscape – made in the early 13th century, says curator Miguel Cowperthwaite, “to try to distance the mind from what was on the surface”.
Ten A’Clock Yards
In Francis Bacon’s oil on canvas Ten A’Clock Yards, the whole company of artists look on anxiously, faces too blank and statues too thin to respond to our presence. Why? Because we’re late. They feel it. The painting has echoes of Richard Diebenkorn, in which two typical US landscapes – Weeb Ewbank and Isabel Adrion – are adjacent. But there are other parallels too, as this painting shows how the paintings of the American countryside, like the windmills in Piet Mondrian’s Air Over Germany, were ultimately themselves made by abstract modernists.
Reallife projects: artists respond to environmental issues Read more
How could you not respond to the promise of electricity? That is the theme of de Cavalier’s large installation in Kings Cross station, or “Lakeside Shingle” as it has been called by its makers. In it he has created images of space as well as a lineup of gas and electricity boxes. Some are beautiful, others have horribly dated details, but each is a concrete tapestry, a comment on a now-neglected era.
“A Day Without Electricity”
One of Cross’s projects here involves an installation at the lake at the African American Civil War Museum. A day without electricity is a warning we may have to get used to: one that Windmills who preach on one level has nothing much to say about.
The importance of local culture in remembering other artists is a theme from Cross’s own works – a wooden model of Willie C’s Shorty Wonder Bar from Florida, a good example of many discarded joints from a city that has no plan for its future. Here the themes of wind and rot on the outskirts of a city may seem anachronistic, a reminder of what once was, but they also attest to what can be undone by over-centralisation.
Two plays about the pain and beauty of landscape at TS Eliot’s memorial tribute. Carden plays Norman and July plays the French architect Roland Leaill.