"Fargo Podium", one of the works in Robert Rauschenberg's "Spreads and Sides" series, is a mix of computer generated images, newspapers, prints, maps, paintings, fabric and books depicting workers, sports and transportation. This collage is contained within a T-shaped stepped laminated tempered glass enclosure. In the title, "Fargo" refers to the Wells Fargo Bank, which was the major tenant of the building when it was completed in 1982, while "Podium" alludes to its purpose as a place to sit, rest and enjoy the passing parade.
Perhaps nowhere in Los Angeles is there a better demonstration that a powerful artistic statement in the controlled environment of a museum or gallery may be a weak response to a public open space. "Fargo Podium" was purchased for about $300,000 and installed opposite a waterfall on the third galleria level of the office complex, where it is physically and visually isolated. Without any surrounding context to encourage people to stop and sit, the work is largely ignored by the passing parade. Even the building's architect, David Martin said "Rauschenberg's piece doesn't fit its surroundings real well,"(1) while Los Angeles Times art critic William Wilson called it "wan and silly."(2)
Footnotes:1 "Rauschenberg Unveiled at Wells Fargo", by Mike Teverbaugh, Downtown News, July 5, 1983.
2 "State of the Arts: Sculpture Gardens to Soothe the Frazzled", by William Wilson, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1983, Calendar, p. 5, 7.
The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, July, 1998.
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