Thursday, June 23, 2011

Herbert Bayer’s “Chromatic Gate” in Santa Barbara is in need of maintenance

Photographs: (clockwise starting upper left) Chromatic Gate (a smaller version showing original color quality), Payton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe; Chromatic Gate, on the oceanfront — City of Santa Barbara, 1991, height: 21 feet (photo taken 6.20.11). The inscription on the circular concrete base commemorates Herbert Bayer, the 20th century modernist graphic designer, architect and artist. All photographs by versluis.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum Inventory of American Sculpture lists Bayer’s Santa Barbara sculpture. In 1975 Bayer moved from Aspen to live in the Santa Barbara area. Bayer died there in 1985.

An interesting article about the sculpture’s future was written by Jessica Hilo, and published by the “Daily Sound” last February. In the piece, Hilo provides some insightful quotes by Rita Ferri, Visual Arts Coordinator and Curator of Collections for the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission:

Ferri had the honor of meeting Bayer in the early 1980s. ‘I always remember this story: he and his wife Joella lived in Montecito, but they also lived in Morocco in the 1950s. He was always impressed by the bright colors and strong contrasts of the sun and the shadows [there]. And that started him using those progressive pigments he uses.

But he also loved the fact that when he would travel in Morocco, sometimes he would come to a place where there would be gates out in the desert … there would be no people living there. There would be an archway and nothing else.

He saw that as a beautiful symbol. A lonely symbol. That man leaves everything behind. A life once lived there. But an archway was a dimension. A romantic gesture.’

‘If I had my druthers, the Gate would be in the sand,’ Ferri continued, ‘where it’s supposed to be.’

Bayer always felt that a modern city needed a symbol of human thought.

And indeed, in the great cities of the nation, from St. Louis to New York, you do find iconic arches.

‘It has become a little bit more of our culture,’ Ferri said wistfully on the Chromatic Gate. ‘I think it would be rather sad to lose something like that simply because nobody cared. He left a piece of art in Santa Barbara and hoped that we would take care of it.’

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