Beasley ‘Stone Arpeggio’ (2007) w Beasley ‘Arpeggio V’ (2011)

BLUF: was this truly a commission or merely a placement of an existing work? The dialogue with Paula K did start in 2006 or 2007 — I met Bruce at Cali Ave site a year or so before my house in Barron Park was broken into, which was February 1, 2008. [Note: Beasley’s 45-year retrospective at Oakland was August, 2005, I saw with my mother Barbara H. Weiss (1931-2018), who Anna Eshoo, in the record of congress, called a patriot, a real mother for ya and a matron of the arts.]


Arpeggio is music term, “succession”. Duly noted.

Something I wrote in 2011 for Patch:

I am rather excited, and percolating, about the arrival of the 200-ton Richard Serra sculpture coming to Stanford. In my day, before the new math, 200 tons was about four hundred thousand pounds. Some people think Richard Serra stinks, but I think he rocks. (As long as he doesn’t rock so hard he topples over and kills somebody; this has happened).

In St. Louis they are mixed on Serra. At first they wanted a labyrinth but then changed their minds and settled for a wall. Worse, someone tagged the wall with terse, negative reviews: YOUR MINIMALISM IS REDUCTIVIST or something even more harsh. To compensate the city installed nearby about twenty works by comparative lightweights like Fernand Leger, Tom Claasen, Martin Puryear and Mark DiSuvero. Then they got Jonathan Safran Foer and Hiroshi Sugimoto to make a book about a Richard Serra commission piece at the Pulitzer Foundation called “Joe.”

I’m not sure if it merits it here, since it’s only a five year loan, but I think maybe Stanford could get Sylvia Brownrigg (Gunn graduate novelist, went to Yale and Johns Hopkins, married talk show host Sedge Thomson) or maybe Al Young (Stegner Fellow, California Poet Laureate) and a good photographer (who succeeded Leo Holub? Maybe James Franco?) to make a similar ode to “Sequence” (that’s the name of the Serra piece). Or do it as book art and add it quickly to the current show there at Cantor.

I couldnt’ help but think of Serra while eating a bran muffin this morning at Coupa Cafe. The waxed brown wrapper I folded into a figure 8 then shot with my cell phone camera. With the knife and fork in frame, it looks (to me at least) like a cross between Serra and Claes Oldenburg. Oldenburg’s pieces weigh around five tons each although he sometimes makes drawings (and lithographs) of things that if actually built would dwarf the Serra. Cantor has such drawings in a room next to a model of Joe Louis’s fist, the one seen in the Eminem Chrysler commercial, in Detroit. I guess this photo is my way of enacting Serra’s famous watchwords “to roll, to crease, to fold, to store.”

If you think I am nuts (or have bran for brains), go check out the cafe at the terrace of the SFMOMA where they sell a $7 dessert that is just a candy bar shaped like a Richard Serra (or was that an Ellsworth Kelly?).


Stanford by the way also has a Chihuly in the new cancer research center that took about six weeks to install. It’s about 40 feet high and came in about 2,000 pieces, I recall reading. You can find a video on the web that shows them installing it (speeded up from six weeks to about six minutes). That project, to highlight the relationship between art and science, is called The Blue Dots and was spearheaded by Sue McCallum, and endorsed by Dr. Irving Weissman (who also vowed to install a Nathan Oliveira bronze nearby; he, as well as Nobel laureate chemist Paul Berg, spoke at Oliveira’s obsequies).

To accommodate the new Serra, which will arrive from LA on about a dozen trucks, the Cantor people (who also, by the way, in case you never noticed, have quite a few Rodins) moved a Beverley Pepper from the north side to the south side of Cantor, behind the Cool Cafe (named, not because of its proximity to great art but for its founder Jessie Ziff Cool, a one-time Palo Altan–everybody knows that!), near a bronze Bruce Beasley bench.  I unfortunately embarrassed my friend the artist and art store clerk Mia Ollikainen by pointing out, correcting her a wee bit too emphatically, that the Pepper was not a Serra. Stanford also has of course, two DiSiuvero’s: a big red one, named for a math concept in honor of the great art law expert and professor Perryman, on the north-east side of Cantor — it will be the Serra’s closest buddy — and just north of the hospital, a quick two minute bike ride away.

At my Dartmouth reunion, where I saw PAUSD school board chair Melissa Baten Caswell, as well as Paly grads Martha Cornell, Jim Kallman and Geoff Parker, and Gunn classmate Greg Nerland, I was sort of disappointed to note that their Richard Serra was a puny 48 inches (Stanford’s will be 13 feet high, and 67 feet long).

I should probably keep this under my hat but to me the spectacle of them unloading and installing two hundred tons of art in giant potentially lethal shards is something to schedule my day around; they could sell tickets!


1) I actually recommend the cafe on the terrace of the SFMOMA and their $7 to $8 desserts; they are designed quite quaintly by an artist named Leah Rosenberg. Maybe we could get her to make a “Sequence”-derivative candy or confection, to sell locally, or for charity.

2) I just fact-checked my own story to learn that the St. Louis piece I refer to is actually 8 slabs, about 160 tons, was built in 1981 and is called “Twain.”

3) In a related piece of news, I tagged along with a delegation of City of Palo Alto dignitaries (mayor Sid Espinosa, council member Greg Scharff, arts commission chair Terry Acebo Davis) to see “Stone Arpeggio”, the granite arch that will grace the east side of Mitchell Park community center and library on Middlefield. I think its about 14 feet high; we are calling it the largest piece of solid carved granite on the hemisphere, or some such superlative. I plan to watch them install that, when the time comes.

And1: This is spurred by the insipid yet addictive contest in the ComPost that shows the same or one of these two works today. I responded, from memory: Bruce Beasley, Arpeggio, Mitchell Park.
In my head I wrote about 500 words in 10 or so bullets. I had “beatnik bandit” as auspice and alliterative allusion to the name of the artist which I was to conceal til very end. Also, the spanish pyrhite or whatever I bought TMW when she was merely TMT from Carol of the Nature Gallery at T&C in 2009 December.
Tempted to ring The Big B.
and and: I also have this riff about whether now its Mitchell Center Park or Mitchell Library Park or Mitchell Park Library. Also: Alison Miller Boom Tic Boom: she should have improvised some arpeggio, i guess from the bassist, Gilbert. May be gilbert michael can return to Palo Alto on commission and play under the arch.
Jim Migdal in Pulse (Victorian thing) has it as “Arpeggio 5”.
What says Elise?

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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