Mineko Grimmer's art piece, which is both seen and heard, is part of a small park at the northwest corner of the grounds of the four-story California Medical Center office building. Water cascades over the top of a rock, flows through eleven narrow grooves, and spills down the rock's side into a pool. This movement of water creates a soft soothing sound that dampens noise from Grand Avenue. The center stone, combined with five stones symmetrically placed along the edge of the pool and a stone in the bushes, suggest a traditional karasansui (rock and sand) garden. Rather than using naturally formed stone, or stone lightly touched as Isamu Noguchi used in his installations, Grimmer installed angular ones that were shaped by blasting. Integral parts of the installation are a low hedge partially shielding the space from the street, vines and bushes hiding the adjacent wall on the north, and plants covering the fountain's motor, pump and valves.
This public art project was one of the first that was funded through the Community Redevelopment Agency's 1985 percent for art policy. Unlike later projects developed under the Community Redevelopment Agency's public art policy, in which artists were selected by the developer and the developer's art consultant, Mineko Grimmer was selected by an art selection panel convened by the Community Redevelopment Agency. The panel, composed of Jerry Anderson from UC Irvine, Peter Clothier, former dean of the Otis Parsons School of Design, and Merle Schipper, art historian and critic, selected Grimmer based on her experience rather than following a formal proposal process involving a number of artists.(1)
After receiving the $38,000 commission, Grimmer first met with the selection panel and presented schematic plans and a preliminary budget for a fountain.(2) Grimmer initially proposed one or more large naturally weathered rocks in the center of a pool that would highlight the contrast between the "natural" flow of water cascading over the rock's side and the artificially controlled flow through grooves cut in its surface. Grimmer hoped to collaborate with the landscape architect and integrate plants into her work and create a restful sound of wind through leaves. She recommended a wall along the rim of the installation to give the place intimacy and block out traffic noise, as well as plant a vine to hide the building on the north side of the site.(3) Grimmer modified her design before submitting it to the Community Redevelopment Agency for comment and approval. After learning what stones were available from visits to quarries and stone working facilities, Grimmer replaced the sandstone with angular stone obtained from a dynamite site.
The design she submitted to the Community Redevelopment Agency contained two prominent rocks in a pool. After the Community Redevelopment Agency's Arts Advisory Committee,(4) the Project Review Committee and the Agency's Board of Commissioners approved the design,(5) Grimmer further modified it by eliminating one of the two prominent rocks and by enlarging the pool.(6)
Several proposals Grimmer made were not adopted. She wanted a row of Podocarpus henkelii extended to the sidewalk to screen the fountain.(7) Grimmer also wanted the landscaping to block the wind that was blowing water outside the pool.(8)
Grimmer's project was plagued by an unusual number of problems. A temporary walkway bordering the pool clashed with the color, texture and pattern of the stones at the edge of the pool.(9) The problem was resolved when the sidewalk was removed.(10) A few months prior to the completion of the installation, Grimmer's contractor, Bob Bramwell, temporarily abandoned the project.(11) The developer then complained to Grimmer that she "permitted the work to become and remain a public nuisance and a blight on our otherwise completed project."(12) Grimmer finally completed her installation by hiring an electrical contractor to install lights and pumps.(13)
Though the project was officially completed in December 1988,(14) landscaping was delayed until late 1990 because of nearby construction.(15) However, problems continued even after the landscaping was completed. Grimmer reported to the Community Redevelopment Agency's Arts Advisory Committee that the plants were not what she recommended, and the vegetation was dying.(16) She also complained that the bottom of the pool was painted blue instead of black.(17) After pledging that the problems would be rectified,(18) the developer repainted the pool and maintained the plants.
Footnotes:1 Letter from Marc Pally, Community Redevelopment Agency, Carl Leedy, Jr., March 3, 1986; letter from Marc Pally to Jerry Anderson, March 3, 1986.
2 Memorandum from Marc Pally to Jerry Anderson, Peter Clothier, Mineko Grimmer, Carl Leddy, Merle Schipper, re: Notice of Next Meeting Date for California Medical Plaza Art Design, June 3, 1986.
3 "First Proposal for CMC Sculpture"-Mineko Grimmer, no date; Interview of Mineko Grimmer by Michael Several, May 31, 1989.
4 Minutes of the Arts Advisory Committee, December 1, 1986, January 5, 1987.
5 Letter from Marc Pally to Mineko Grimmer, no date; letter from Marc Pally to Carlton Leddy, August 31, 1987.
6 Interview, Op. Cit.
7 Letter from Mineko Grimmer to Carleton C. Leedy, Jr., CMC Medical Plaza, December 18, 1988.
8 Interview, Op. Cit.
9 Letter from Davd Riccitiello, Community Redevelopment Agency, to Carlton Leedy, South Park Development Corp., October 30, 1987.
10 Letter from Carleton C. Leedy, Jr., CMC Medical Plaza Partners, to David Riccitiello, Community Redevelopment Agency, November 5, 1987.
11 Letter from Mineko Grimmer to Bob Bramwell, August 31, 1988.
12 Letter from Carleton C. Leedy, Jr., CMC Medical Plaza Partners, to Mineko Grimmer, October 27, 1988.
13 Letter from Mineko Grimmer to Carleton Leedy, November 10, 1989.
14 Memorandum from Mickey Gustin, Arts Planner, Community Redevelopment Agency, to Carleton Leedy, Jr., December 20, 1988.
15 Memorandum from Mickey Gustin, Arts Planner, Community Redevelopment Agency, to Barbara Kaiser and David Riccitiello, March 22, 1989; letter from Robert J. Oberdick, CMC Medical Plaza, to Ed Winchell, Community Redevelopment Agency, October 18, 1990.
16 Memorandum from Mickey Gustin to David Riccitielo and Ed Winchell, April 1, 1992.
18 Memorandum from Mickey Gustin to file, re: CA Medical Center, September 17, 1992.