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Walnut Creek ‘monumental’ sculpture wins OK

WALNUT CREEK — The city’s pursuit of public art in major construction projects has led to what likely will become its most viewed sculpture, seven shiny red steel cylinders rising like a beacon 50 feet above Ygnacio Valley Road at the I-680 offramp where tens of thousands of motorists and BART riders will see it every day.

“Intersect in Red” approved Monday by the city’s Arts Commission will stand at the corner of the offramp intersection in front of and rising slightly higher than The Landing, a four-story, 178-unit apartment complex facing the BART station that has won city construction approval.

Canadian sculptor Shayne Dark describes his inspiration in a city staff report to the commission.

When he visited the Walnut Creek site, Dark said, “my mind kept going back to the significance of this space as a junction or gateway to the city … ‘Intersect in Red’ is a monumental sculpture designed to act as a beacon to the general public and residents of ‘The Landing.’ ”

The beacon will light up, too. LED lighting at the sculpture’s base “will create a dramatic atmosphere at night,” he added.

Arts commissioners had questions about its precise placement, landscaping, upkeep and the lighting but were enthusiastic in their unanimous approval.

“I like everything about it,” said Commissioner Joe Bologna. Two other commissioners seconded the remark.

“I’m excited by the scale, it’s a true monument,” said Commissioner Polly Bradbury.

A city staff report says Dark’s works are “meant to stimulate a spiritual or visceral reaction.” It describes them as “a site of tension (that) often evoke the contrasts between the cultural and the natural worlds.”

The work is reminiscent of Concord’s 1989 gateway art project, the “Spirit Poles.” They were 91 aluminum poles ranged along Concord Avenue ascending to 50 feet in height that were meant to symbolize that city’s growth.

Instead they became a focus of prolonged and often visceral cultural and political debate.

“The poles impaled political careers, led to the death of visual arts in Concord and inspired worldwide media derision nearly a decade ago,” then Contra Costa Times reporter Joe Garofoli wrote in 1997.

Those poles swayed in the wind and vibrated with the passing traffic, causing their bases to crack. One fell and the city ultimately removed the rest.

Dark’s Walnut Creek work would be built with quarter-inch thick steel cylinders that provide support for each other. The Landing developers will pay the $316,000 cost of fabricating and installing the work.

His large outdoor works stand in Buffalo, New York, Montreal and other Canadian cities. Smaller pieces are in museums and galleries.

The city report says that Dark’s “Double Vision” in Toronto is comparable to his “Intersect in Red.”

Contact Andrew McGall at 925-945-4703. Follow him at twitter.com/AndrewMcGall.