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Two new installations and works by local artists welcome travelers at San Francisco International Airport
James Torlakson (American, b. 1951), Behind Ted McCann's Garage © 1976 oil on canvas.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has long been home to one of the most important and valuable public art collections in the country. Today, the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) announced that with the opening of SFO’s newly remodeled Boarding Area E, Terminal 3 this January, the City and County of San Francisco will add two new major site-specific installations by artists Eric Staller and the artist team Merge Conceptual Design to its acclaimed airport collection.

“SFO’s new Boarding Area E, Terminal 3 reflects San Francisco’s reputation as a hub for innovation and creativity,” said Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “With each new renovation project, the San Francisco Arts Commission has an opportunity to engage artists in reimagining the airport experience. The latest projects by Eric Staller and Merge are both captivating and will transport viewers on a journey before they embark on their real trip.”

With this latest renovation project, the SFAC’s Public Art Program received approximately $717,440 in art enrichment funds for the new commissions. San Francisco-based artist Eric Staller designed, Spirogyrate an interactive kinetic light sculpture comprised of six-foot circular rotating spirals inset into the floor and the wall children’s play area. The spirals move as if they were being propelled by one another like gears. They will be covered with glass so that they can be walked on as they spin; as people walk over the glass, motion sensors will activate changes in the lighting casting different colors on to the discs.

Located in the waiting area at the end of Terminal 3 is Sky by Merge Conceptual Design comprised of the artist team Franka Diehnelt and Claudia Reisenberger. Sky is a suspended light sculpture comprised of 27 mirror-polished stainless steel spheres in varying sizes. The globes are hollow with circular openings oriented at various angles. The interior of the globes is painted an even matte blue, and illuminated by LED edge lighting that creates a soft interior glow. A computerized program will cause the lights within the globes to brighten and dime at various intervals creating an ever changing pattern of light.

According to Merge, the installation explores the human perception of space. The exterior of the mirrored spheres use reflections to camouflage themselves in their surroundings; they reflect their environment, and distort and reproduce it in miniature. The optical effect caused by the blue interior and the edge lighting will cause the viewer to lose a sense of the spheres’ proportions as objects. Through subtle shifts in color and light intensity the space will become unreadable - both expanding and flattening at the same time.

In addition to the new commissions, the SFAC will reinstall five paintings, currently in the airport collection, by renowned artists Jay DeFeo, Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Bechtle, James Torlakson and Carlos Loarca. According to the SFAC Director of Public Art and the Civic Art Collection Susan Pontious, “These are museum-quality paintings and they are located in a space that is accessible to a very broad audience, which speaks volumes about San Francisco as a city where high-caliber art is a part of the fabric of everyday life.”

Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) was a central figure among San Francisco’s Beat generation artists in the 1950s and 1960s. Her painting Masquerade in Black, 1974-75 is part of a series of paintings she created in the 70s that used images of mechanical objects. This painting was included in a major retrospective of her work exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York City in 2012.

Considered to be one of California’s most important and influential artists, Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) was one of the defining practitioners of Pop Art. Beginning in the late 1970s, Thiebaud concentrated on a series of San Francisco cityscapes that became a signature theme. 18th Street Downgrade, 1978 features one of San Francisco’s famously steep streets. Painting from a combination of direct observation and memory, this painting presents a dizzying perspective of the city’s extraordinary topography.

Robert Bechtle (b. 1932) and his student James Torlakson (b. 1951) received national acclaim for their photorealist style of painting. Bechtle’s painting, San Francisco Nova, 1979 depicts a lone man watering his lawn on Benton Street, which features a row of identical mission-style tract homes. Ordinary suburban landscapes were often the primary subject of Bechtle’s paintings, and this particular San Francisco neighborhood was one of his favorites. Similarly, Torlakson celebrated the ordinary in his paintings. Behind Ted McCann’s Garage, 1976 is a portrait of a road-weary egg camper. Torlakson’s paintings from the mid-70s often depicted urban images such as trucks, moving vans and filling stations.

Born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Carlos Loarca (b. 1937) is a longtime San Francisco resident. His expressionistic paintings are inspired by the symbolic imagery and mythologies of Central America. The artist frequently uses simple geometric forms repeated in different configurations to tell the same story from various perspectives. His palette is inspired by the colors of the market place and daily life of his native country. Angulos en Todas Las Directions (Angles in All Directions), 1978 is an exuberant diptych that recalls a bed of Birds of Paradise.

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