March 30, 2011


American Airlines section, Terminal 2, SF International Airport

Airports are, potentially, an ideal venue for art. There are captive, often repeat audiences with plenty of time on their hands (especially when planes are socked in by fog). But of course, there’s also the fact that public spaces, particularly airports, have certain conditions attached that may not always foster the most adventurous creative endeavors. I was happy, yet not overly hopeful to attend a San Francisco Arts Commission press preview of SFO’s remodeled, soon to open Terminal 2 — which has been shuttered for a decade. While wonderful to get to roam free in a soon to be regulated environment, T2, which will be home to the art-friendly Virgin America, as well as American Airlines, is perhaps more interesting as a sleek, comfortable space (Gensler are the architects), with its wood slat ceilings and leather covered Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair lounge areas and foodie options, than for its five public art commissions.

Walter Kitundu, Bay Area Bird Encounters, 2011; plywood; photo: Bruce Damonte

I was happy to see that Walter Kitundu was in the mix, and his interactive music-making Bay Area Bird Encounters is a perfect fit for the Children’s Play Area (as is a kinetic Butterfly Wall by Charles Sowers), though it may not be as much of a hit with sound-sensitive adults.

Janet Echelman, Every Beating Second, 2011; powder-coated steel, colored fiber, colored light, mechanized air flow, and computer programming; photo: Bruce Damonte

I was, however, more enchanted by Massachusetts artist Janet Echelman’s woven fiber works in the “post-security” area, the shoe-replacing area just beyond the X-ray machines and pat down stations. (Airports have the best names for their functional zones!) These bulbous, hanging nets titled Every Beating Second, are a great mix of high and low materials, sunny and foreboding — they’re glamorous, oversized chandeliers that could double-duty as industrial fishing nets or animal traps. They seem to pour from the oculus skylights, adding a Franco American shot of red and blue to the otherwise clean, white surroundings. And this isn’t even the international!

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