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Walking Tour of Olympic Sculpture Park I

Walking Tour of Olympic Sculpture Park I

PACCAR Pavilion


The Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park is a nine-acre former industrial site that has been transformed into an open and vibrant green space for art. The PACCAR Pavilion located at 2901 Western Avenue serves as park headquarters providing a comfortable indoor space, which includes the SAM Taste Cafe and a parking garage.

From the corner of Broad Street and Western Avenue, head west on Broad Street (down the hill, towards the water) and the entrance to the parking garage is immediately on your right, under PACCAR Pavilion. After parking, take the elevator up one level into PACCAR Pavilion.

As you exit the elevator, immediately surrounding you is the first stop on our walking tour of Olympic Sculpture Park, Elliot and Broad, Neighborhood Scenes.


                                                                                                                              PACCAR Pavilion at night, looking northeast across Broad Street
                                                                                                                                  Courtesy of Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Benjamin Benschneider.

1.   Travelers by Glenn Rudolph
Courtesy of Seattle Art Museum. © Glenn Rudolph.

Travelers by Glenn Rudolph

Glenn Rudolph
Elliot and Broad, Neighborhood Scenes, 1986-2006
Gelatin silver prints
Approx. 30" x 40" each

Glenn Rudolph first photographed Olympic Sculpture Park site in 1986. Rudolph was commissioned to record the evolution of the park during its construction in 2005 and 2006. A series of 15 photographs consisting of both modern day images and those from over 20 years ago line the wall across from the PACCAR Pavilion SAM Store.

A graduate of the University of Washington School of Art, Rudolph lives and works in Seattle. His work has been featured nationally as well as in local exhibitions including at the Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue and Portland Art Museums for over 30 years.

After spending some time contemplating the images of Olympic Sculpture Park, it is time to start touring the park. Grab an Olympic Sculpture Park Map & Guide from the display on the wall (suggested $1 donation) and head out the main entrance. Just outside the doors (on your left as you exit) is our next stop, Curve XXIV.



 2.   Curve XXIV by Ellsworth Kelly
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Curve XXIV by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly
Curve XXIV, 1981
Weathering steel
6'4" x 19' x 1"

Curve XXIV is definitely minimalist piece, and appears to be nothing more than rusted metal on a wall of concrete. However, this abstract fan shape resembles a rust-hued autumn gingko leaf or a rolling pastoral hill. Ellsworth Kelly creates his work from observing nature and condensing it to simple lines, planes and forms.

Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York, and pursued technical training in the arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In 1943 he was sent to Europe with the U.S. Army, where encounters with modern artists and architects profoundly affected his work. His first retrospective exhibition was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in 1973.

After viewing Curve XXIV, head back into PACCAR Pavilion and continue past the SAM Shop and TASTE Cafe to our next stop, Capula XVI, Capula XVII, and the Evolving City Wall Mural.






3.   Capula XVI, Capula XVII, and the Evolving City Wall Mural
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc. 

Capula XVI, Capula XVII, and the Evolving City Wall Mural

Pedro Reyes
Capula XVI and Capula XVII, 2006
98" x 98" x 78", each

The Capulas are part of an ongoing series of interactive sculptures (you can climb inside) that Pedro Reyes has installed around the world. The large white structures hanging from the ceiling appear at first to be metal cages. During my visit, two children in the "cages" were acting as if they were monkeys at the zoo.

The Capulas, woven by Mexican craftspeople, translate local basketry techniques into vinyl sculptures on an architectural scale. If you are not brave enough to climb into the Capulas, then at least touch them - the vinyl gives an unexpected feel that differs from what you would expect just by looking at the sculptures.

Pedro Reyes
Evolving City Wall Mural, 2006
Ink on paper
179" x 657"

A mural over 50 feet wide rests on the wall behind the Capulas. The Evolving City Wall Mural combined with the Capulas give this area a child-friendly feel. The mural is filled with people interacting in a geometric city of changing visual systems. According to the Seattle Art Mueseum, "the mural incorporates graphic design, technical drawing and perspective diagrams to imagine a world of varied spaces, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional."

Reyes was born in 1972 in Mexico City, where he currently lives and works. His work has appeared all over the world, including solo exhibitions last year at the Aspen Art Museum, the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, and the Yvon Lambert Gallery in New York.

It is worth mentioning that you can grab a bite to eat at the TASTE Cafe inside the pavilion, which serves sandwiches and other "picnic-worthy fare" as well as beer.

Now that you have had the chance to see all that PACCAR Pavilion has to offer, you can head out into the park to Riviera, the sculpture immediately outside at the top of the Gates Amphitheater.

4.   Riviera by Anthony Caro
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Riviera by Anthony CaroAnthony Caro
Riviera, 1971-1974

Steel rusted and varnished
10' x 27' x 10'

is constructed from several irregular shaped parts, and unfolds laterally. Caro was one of the first artists to explore large-scale abstract sculpture, which makes this piece interesting. The open architectural design allows you to walk through the structure without touching it, and experience it rather than just look at it.

Sir Anthony Caro (knighted in 1987) was born in Surrey, England in 1924. Caro studied sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools in London before serving as an assistant to world-renowned British sculptor Henry Moore from 1951 to 1953. Caro first came to public attention with his 1963 exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, and his work has been featured in major museum and gallery exhibitions since - most recently at the Venice Biennale in 1999.

From Riviera, head north into the Gates Amphitheater to reach our next sculpture, Wake, which sits at the bottom of the amphitheater.









5.   Wake by Richard Serra
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Wake by Richard SerraRichard Serra
Wake, 2004
Weatherproof steel
14'1-1/4" x 125' x 48', overall installation

Wake is the most physically impressive sculpture in Olympic Sculpture Park based on sheer size alone. Each of the five waves is comprised of a set of two large curved steel forms, so the interior is hollow space. Wake was created using computer imaging and machines that manufacture ship hulls, including a demilitarized machine that once made French nuclear submarines. Each wave is approximately 14 feet tall, 48 feet long, and 6 1/2 feet wide.

Wake is impressive when viewed from far away, as from the top of the amphitheater, but it gains its real power up close. Walking between and around the waves is an experience itself. The large forms create interesting perspectives, blocking and revealing the sun, as well as different parts of the city and the park as you move.

Richard Serra was born in San Francisco, and supported himself by working in steel mills after earning his B.A. in English Literature from UC-Santa Barbara. He went on to earn Bachelor and Master's degrees in Fine Arts from Yale University before traveling to Paris and then to Florence, Italy on a Fulbright Fellowship.

From Wake, head west on the path that leads from the end of the amphitheater up the hill towards the water. The path will lead you through an opening in the short concrete wall to Sky Landscape I, the next sculpture on our tour.




6.   Sky Landscape I by Louise Nevelson
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Sky Landscape I by Louise NevelsonLouise Nevelson
Sky Landscape I, 1976-1983
Aluminum, painted black
10' x 10' x 6'2"

The name Sky Landscape evokes the idea of something more similar to another sculpture in the park, Seattle Cloud Cover. However, this sculpture features two aluminum totemic pieces that extend vertically towards the sky. Sky Landscape I is a three-dimensional collage with several abstract curved metal pieces. The sculpture looks distinctly different from various angles. Unfortunately, you cannot walk a full circle around it because of its location and the surrounding landscaping (complete with signs asking visitors to politely stay on the path).

Louise Nevelson was born in Kiev, Russia, but moved to Maine at the age of five. Her father ran a lumber yard, which may explain why Nevelson was first known for working with wood, even though welded steel was the material favored by her contemporaries. Only in her later work, did she incorporate Plexiglas, aluminum and Lucite into her sculptures . Nevelson’s first solo exhibition was at New York's Nierendorf Gallery.

The next stop on our tour is just a short distance south down the path to Perre's Ventaglia III, the first of two sculptures in Olympic Sculpture Park by Beverly Pepper, created over 30 years apart.








7.    Perre's Ventaglia III by Beverly Pepper
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Perre's Ventaglia III by Beverly PepperBeverly Pepper
Perre's Ventaglio III, 1967
Stainless steel and enamel
7'10" x 6'8" x 8'

Perre's Ventaglio III
is one of two stainless steel sculptures in Olympic Sculpture Park (the other is Split by Roxy Paine). The shiny stainless surface reflects its surroundings with an interesting effect. The goal is to give the appearance that the filled space is empty and the empty space is filled. The opaque blue enamel on its interior surfaces helps create this contrast.

The four cubic forms give the appearance of a manufactured object, but the the piece becomes the surrounding natural environment with reflections of the sky, landscaping, and city buildings.

We will now move on to Persephone Unbound, another piece by Beverly Pepper. Surprisingly, Pepper created the modern-looking Perre's Ventaglio III in 1967, and the more classic Persephone Unbound in 1999.










8.    Persephone Unbound by Beverly Pepper
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Persephone Unbound by Beverly PepperBeverly Pepper
Persephone Unbound, 1999
Cast bronze
10'2" x 2'7" x 1'9"

Although created in cast bronze, Persephone Unbound resembles a stone totem pole. According to the Seattle Art Museum, “For ancient civilizations, a well-positioned stone created a connection to the cosmos and left vital evidence of a human presence.” Anyone familiar with Greek mythology knows the story of Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter (Goddess of Earth).

For an abbreviated version of the myth – Persephone was picking flowers when Hades rose from the underworld and abducted her. Persephone then became the Queen of the Underworld. Zeus forced Hades to return Persephone, but Hades tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds, which required her to return to the Underworld for one month each year for every seed she ate. When Persephone is with Hades and away from her mother, the Earth suffers and dies (an explanation of the origin of winter). The number of seeds varies based on what and how many months are considered winter.

Persephone Unbound suggests the idea of her freedom from Hades, but also reminds us of the unchanging eternity of her existence. In Persephone Unbound, ironically, Persephone is bound in stone.

Beverly Pepper was born in Brooklyn. Her work been exhibited internationally, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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