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Oldenburg 'Knife' To Go On View In Moca Plaza

October 04, 1987|ZAN DUBIN

"The Knife Ship II, " Claes Oldenburg's 41-foot-long Swiss Army knife with two motorized blades, corkscrew and eight oars, is a sculpture currently dropping anchor in the outdoor plaza of the Museum of Contemporary Art after about seven months in storage.

A 10-member crew, who began installing the giant Pop art sculpture two weeks ago, are expected to finish their work by mid-October, said a museum spokeswoman. Then the artwork, animated by three motors and a computer, will be set in perpetual motion for viewing during museum hours through February.

"The corkscrew moves up and down, the blades go up and down and the oars move, too," said MOCA director Richard Koshalek recently, as happy about the installation as a child with a new toy.

The shiny red artwork is a replica of one Oldenburg and his wife, Coosje van Bruggen, designed for a 1985 multimedia event, "Il Corso del Coltello" ("The Course of the Knife"), where it sailed down Venice canals, its corkscrew and blades simulating a mast and sails.

"Knife Ship II" was loaned to MOCA from GFT USA Corp., a division of Gruppo GFT, an Italian fashion conglomerate that intends to make the work a gift to the museum's permanent collection.

"We felt the plaza was a perfect place for the piece because it's not only to be seen by those sitting in the plaza and in the museum's restaurant, but it'll be seen in office buildings surrounding the site," Koshalek said.

Previously displayed at New York's Guggenheim Museum, "Knife Ship II" will be exhibited after February for about a year at MOCA's Temporary Contemporary, joining "The Store," a life-size Oldenburg creation from the early '60s. This "metaphor for the city" of Manhattan, that looks just like its name implies, contains sculpted food, clothing and other everyday, salable wares, Koshalek said.

PERISCOPE UP: It's one thing to read that the number of submarines in the United States launched to date totals about 625, according to artist Chris Burden. It's another thing to see all of the sausage-shaped boats in a single room.

Burden, who assembled 50,000 nickels to symbolize the Soviet Union's arsenal of tanks, has now turned his vision seaward. His latest creation consists of 625 eight-inch-long cardboard submarines which represent "All the Submarines of the United States of America," a hanging installation on view through Oct. 31 at the HoffmanBorman Gallery in Santa Monica.

Burden, known for his artistic commentary on warfare and power, produced the myriad boats in collaboration with New City Editions art publishers, "two or three" of whose employees spent about a year constructing them by hand, the artist said.

Like a huge school of fish, the submarines hang from silk strings attached to the ceiling. "But if you stand in front of it," said gallery director Stuart Regen, "it looks like you're at the tail end of a shotgun blast because you see all these fragments coming toward you. They don't even look like submarines anymore."

Why the fleet of underwater vessels?

"To see physically, in a model form, rather than a literary one--a piece of type--what the 625 subs constitute," said Burden, still remembered for having himself shot early in his career.

The submarine "is the reason given why the U.S. has nuclear superiority over the U.S.S.R.," he said. "We have a three-legged defense system (air-, land- and water-based) and the nuclear subs supposedly give us the last-strike capability."

The miniaturization of the boats, he added, might allude to a era of advanced technology that could produce "Third World cruise missiles."

"You could fantasize a time when superconductors are here and (computer) chips are reduced by 100 or 1,000 and you could see people making weapons as small as those subs . . . when everybody in Ethiopia in a small hut could be making these things."

QUEUE UP: The interminable wait one suffers through in order to (legally) drive a car in California won't seem so long for those who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles at 3615 S. Hope St. downtown: Three artworks, officially dedicated last week, now adorn the state building.

Commissioned by the California Arts Council, the large-scale, abstract installations include a sculpture and two paintings. Claire Falkenstein's "Traffic," a three-dimensional copper relief, appears on the structure's facade; Ed Moses' "Act," with brightly painted wood panels, and Terry Schoonhoven's "Fossil Ridge," depicting a kind of graveyard for dead cars, are seen inside.

"Schoonhoven's work takes up one whole triangular section on the west side of the lobby," said arts council member Joan Quinn, who chairs that agency's Art in Public Buildings Program, "and Moses' is installed on the east side. So when you're waiting in those long lines, you can look up and see both of those pieces. And when you're parking your car, you can see Falkenstein's piece."

SEAL OF APPROVAL: UCLA's Wight Art Gallery has received accreditation from the American Assn. of Museums. The accreditation, given to La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art earlier this year, certifies that an institution operates according to standards set forth by the museum profession, manages its collections responsibly and provides quality service to the public.

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