Tag Archives: Dallas

nasher sculpture center

I need to be careful about the things I write. I’d passed along a statement that someone had made calling the area around Dallas as “tornado country,” and look what happened.

Yikes! But unless I’m Zeuss I’m thinking this wasn’t my doing. At least this was one of this situations where you can say that you’re glad it wasn’t worse.

This will be my last tourist post from the land of dangerous tornadoes: a quick visit to the sculpture garden at the Nasher Sculpture Center, a city block of calm in the heart of Dallas.

Let me start off with my award for Best Use of Bamboo in a Museum Setting. Access into the outdoor sculpture garden is blocked by the sort of fence that you see most often in in museums, the kind where there are uprights spaced a few inches apart and set in concrete below the level of the ground. It’s an attractive fence option, and one that’s less confrontational than many. Here at the Nasher it’s softened further, with the uprights camouflaged in a grove of green-culmed bamboo.

Peter Walker gets the credit for designing the outdoors spaces here. He’s probably now best known for joining Michael Arad during the final stages of the winning design for the National 9/11 Memorial, probably one of the highest profile public art and landscape architecture projects out there. I know him best for Library Walk, a design he executed at UCSD, a work that I step on several days a week.

In the phrase “sculpture garden” sculpture comes first. Like the project at UCSD that I walk on, the spaces at the Nasher are deferential to the art. But the spaces never just lurk the background.

Where the art isn’t so prominent are the spaces where you can really notice Walker’s work. Steps leading down from the garden level break up the geometric regularity with two trees, and species of tree change as the spaces go from open to enclosed, small to large in scale.

The plantings and hardscape are flattering participants for many of the works. This is Barbara Hepworth’s Squares and Two Circles (Monolith) a work from 1963.

Walker’s garden glows with an aura of rational structure, a sense that works really well with a lot of these sculptures.

People want to see your Serra if you have a sculpture garden. Here’s theirs, lit with nice dappling light.

Hedges take over the role of walls in interesting ways. Not a revelation, but nicely done. Here you have a short “wall” providing crowd control for George Segal’s Rush Hour.

The members of this crowd haven’t fared as well. (Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Bronze Crowd, bronze, 1990-1.)

In this garden space you’re free to walk around and make connections and receive your own private epiphanies. Like, Joan Miro and Mark di Suvero both used circles and similar diagonal lines! Oh wow.

There’s lots of indoor space here too, with works by lots of modern notables in light-filled pavilions by the ubiquitous museum architect Renzo Piano. I’ll leave that report to Lost in the Museum.

After these Dallas posts it’s feeling like I’ve been away from home too long. It’ll be back to my garden next time.

not a grassy knoll

A trip to Dallas gives you the opportunity to visit the Sixth Floor Museum, an institution that “chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historical Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history.”

Whenever anyone hears about the place, the initial reaction is something like “ooh, creepy.” But the thing is done so simply and respectfully that it’s worth fighting the ick factor.

The museum–no interior photography allowed, sorry–builds a narrative that leads up to and recedes from a re-creation of the sniper’s nest on the sixth floor of what was back then the Texas Book Depository building. From the outside, immediately below the cornice, there on the right, you can see the infamous partially-open window.

Down below there’s an embankment planted with grass, the “grassy knoll” that figures in some scenarios as the location of a possible second gunman.

It’s also the location of a big banner screaming “Grassy Knoll” in case you didn’t figure what it is.

Planting a big banner on an embankment doesn’t make it any more of knoll, however. From my imperfect understanding of landscape terms a knoll is a gentle bump on a flattish landscape. (There might be sheep nearby.) This instead is a grassy embankment beside a road that feeds into a highway. This is not a knoll.

grassy knoll

This, however, is a knoll, and quite a grassy one at that. (Image by Rosser1954 at the Wikimedia Commons.)

On the pavement right in front of the G.K., you can see one of the two white X’s that mark the locations of the limousine when it was struck by gunfire. It’s probably the most tacky or mawkish thing you’ll see on your visit.

Down on the plaza you can look up to the open window, across to the “knoll,” or down into a big water feature filled with winter leaves moving slowly in the breeze-driven water currents. You can trance out to the little epicycles that the leaves take through the water, or you can try to ignore traffic and reflect quietly on the events that took place here fifty years ago.

I’d guess that most Dallas residents aren’t so thrilled for being known for living in the city that killed JFK. But this is history, and I’m glad I came to pay my respects.

lostlandscape does dallas

An annual work conference takes me to various cities around the country. Some cities have been amazingly cool centers of human civilization, but most others are places that had never been high on my bucket list. Really, I’m going for the conference, and the city is just set dressing. But the trips is a good excuse to get vaguely acquainted with–and sometimes be pleasantly surprised–by the background city.


The landscape between the airport and the conference hotel is a pretty bland ooze of industrial housing, strip malls and the occasional mega-church, all interspersed with flat-to-rolling terrain that looked scraped clean of anything resembling like nature. One of my fellow conferees looked at the surroundings, appraised it. “Tornado country,” as if that might actually be the best fate for it.

If you’re able to switch on the selective amnesia and forget about the ride into town, however, the immediate setting of the conference, in a hotel adjacent to the Arts District, was actually a pretty pleasant and interesting place.

This being downtown, most plant-life comes served to you on a tray or in a dish.

Other things also come on plates. This is a hazy, out-of-focus remembrance of dessert, a kulfi “ice cream sandwich,” at the most interesting restaurant I had a chance to sample, Samar.

Back outdoors, back to nature-on-a-plate, planters outside the Dallas Art Museum, in front of Muguel Covarrubias’ glass mosaic from 1954, The Gift of Life. The perfect artwork for a gray day in a gray downtown.

A new museum going up, almost ready to open, the Perot Musuem of Nature and Science. Its architect is Thom Mayne, whose “Death Star” building erected for CalTrans in downtown LA (below) bears more than a passing resemblance to this building…

Thom Mayne CalTrans building in LA(Photo by Magnus Manske, from the Wikimedia Commons.)

A few places had grass around them–and even trees.

This being downtown it wasn’t enough for trees to have branches and bear cooling leaves for the summertime. They also had to light up. This is one of a a bunch of trees I ran across that were thoroughly wired.

And another one…

(Add pigeons…)

The quality of light in a downtown area is always a tad strange. You’d never guess that the sun was straight ahead on the other side of the building when I took this. The light and shadow comes courtesy of the reflection off the glass-walled office building behind me reflecting the sun back towards itself.

Pointy shadows, gumdrop prune-jobs…

(Subtract the pointy shadows…)

The twin gods that preside over Dallas…

Window washers, presiding over Dallas.

The old, with the new rising far behind it.

Thank the shopping gods for these: Jonathan Cross vessels for sale at the gift shop of the Dallas Art Museum. There was no space in my carry-on for anything, even these compact little vessels. Wah. They’re almost too cool to consider adding a plant to them.