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Blanton Museum of Art

Atrium blues

By Robert Faires, Fri., Feb. 13, 2009

Blanton Museum of Art

The atrium of the Blanton Museum of Art's Michener Gallery Building was designed to make a statement, and until recently that statement seemed to be: white! Here was this vast open space, with natural light streaming in on walls two stories high, and they had nothing on them but paint the color of a snowman's back. Since the staircase leading to the second-floor collections cuts through the atrium, walking up or down gave one plenty of time to notice those bare walls and the conspicuous absence of art.

Well, that's changed as of Jan. 31. The atrium is now host to an artwork almost as epic as the space itself: 3,100 square feet of custom-cast acrylic in various shades of blue, laid out in horizontal bands from the ground floor almost to the top of the staircase. Titled Stacked Waters, the installation is the work of 2005 MacArthur Fellow Teresita Fernández, who was commissioned to create it for the Blanton through the generosity of museum patrons Jeanne and Michael Klein. It plays on the artist's longstanding interests in our relationships with the natural world and architecture, how materials in a built environment can be manipulated to suggest nature, and immersing viewers in a piece. Stacked Waters – art fans who have made the pilgrimage to Marfa may pick up on the title's tip of the hat to Donald Judd – pretty much turns the Blanton's atrium into a huge pool of water, with natural light playing on the reflective striations of blue and white in much the way it does with standing water in a pool. Fernández has also indicated that she intends the bands to function as a mirror, capturing Blanton visitors as we move in and out of "the pool" and creating "a changing portrait of Texas light." A traveling exhibition of other recent work by the artist will land at the Blanton Nov. 1 for a two-month run. For more information, visit www.blantonmuseum.org.

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