Volume 13, Number 2, May 1991, p.12

For its new Contemporary Sculpture Garden, LACMA's conservators faced intriguing challenges mounting and protecting outdoor art

by Steve Cristin-Poucher

The Contemporary Sculpture Garden has opened at LACMA. It features major works by Aycock, Calder, Caro, Hunt, Judd, Kelly, Lieberman, Moore and Voulkos. Notable is a 30 ft x 40 ft x 20 ft new addition by Alice Aycock called Hoodo (Laura) from the series entitled 'How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts. Vertical and Horizontal Cross-Section of the Ether Wind.' The challenge, which will be continuing, has been to convert a complex interior environmental piece originally assembled in 1981 to survive in an outdoor environment. The range of materials is nearly as strange as the title: steel, galvanized steel, Lexan, aluminum, lead, automotive windshield, neon, incandescent lights and paint.

Another reinstallation is Hello Girls! by Alexander Calder. This unusual wind- and water-driven mobile was commissioned for the museum in 1964. Since that time, it has had several incarnations, note of which were successful due to then- insurmountable design and engineering problems. A team was formed of Pieter Meyers (Head of Conservation), John Twilley (Senior Cons. Chemist), Steve Cristin-Poucher (Head Objects Conservator), Stephanie Baron (Senior Curator in 20th Century Art), N.J. "Bud" Goldstone (Consulting Engineer) and Dave McCalley (Fabricator Extraordinaire) to identify and correct all past problems (which were legion) with the least compromise to the original aesthetics. This involved questionnaires to art historians and Calder's dealer, study of other problematical Calder mobiles, mechanical failure analysis of the existing iteration of the sculpture, followed by intensive discussions, prototype fabrication and testing. Finally, new methods of refabricating the original joinery of the hanging rods combined with high strength stainless steel tubes and rods, aircraft-quality bearings and paints were combined to recreate the lively, colorful character "Sandy" had originally intended for this piece.

Concern about excessive corrosion at the dew line led to an application of cathodic protection to a Corten steel piece by Elsworth Kelly which rises up out of the lawn. A commercial firm that normally works on pipelines was contracted to perform the work. They were intrigued by this unusual job and expressed interest in helping solve other corrosion problems. Contact the Objects Lab at LACMA if you have need of a similar solution.

Please do drop by to see our "new" garden of sculpture.

Steve Cristin-Poucher
Conservation Center
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036

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