July 20, 2016, San Francisco — Chinese Culture Center (CCC) is pleased to announce Book of Rocks by Sarah Sze as the winning proposal for the St. Mary’s Square Public Art Project. Sarah Sze was chosen from more than 100 applications from 64 cities and 13 countries, during a process that included a public comment period and input from the greater Chinatown community. Scheduled to be completed by 2017, this project is one of the multi-faceted strategy by the CCC under the theme “Building Our Town” to animate and reimagine open spaces in Chinatown by bringing the highest quality public art installation to this historic neighborhood. Sarah Sze is proposed and represented in this project by Ars Citizen, a new San Francisco-based curatorial organization.
Sze’s winning proposal, Book of Rocks, “explores the idea of landscape in many forms: painted images of contemporary landscapes; rocks as landscapes; and the altered landscape of the park itself. The work will be composed of several large-scale boulders split in half and installed in the park, in a grouping that will create a shift in the surrounding scale of the urban landscape and draw the public into the contemplative potential of an outdoor garden.The flat surface of each split rock will be engraved with a highly pixelated dot-matrix full-color image of a contemporary landscape. On the ground near each rock will be a painted impression of the same image, as if the rock had turned over and functioned as a printmaking stamp, fixing the image in place through force of ink, gravity, and pressure.
The project references ancient forms of mark making, such as a Chinese Chop or Seal, bringing the painstaking process of stone engraving and a sense of physical gravity, weight, and authorship into our contemporary context, where anonymous and fleeting digital images have become a kind of debris that constantly swirls around us. By recording images in pixels and then fixing them in stone and ink, Sze explores the fragility of time passing and our desire for weight and permanence in the face of both overwhelming natural forces and the ubiquitous images that surround us daily.”
“I am very honored to be selected,” Sze stated as this will be her first public art in San Francisco. “Book of Rocks contribution to the community is that it extends to St. Mary’s park into the office building. It immediately puts you in a zen-meditative state to quiet down in the surrounding concrete jungle,” Abby Chen, CCC Curator and Artistic Director noted about the work.
“We are very grateful and proud to contribute bringing such an immense artist to San Francisco for the production of a specifically conceived permanent public project. This art work located in the heart of the city in transformation, will be, for the visitors and the different communities, a link but also a space for essential reflection and distance” said Evelyne Jouanno, Ars Citizen Executive and Artistic Director.
The permanent public art piece will be installed in a new rooftop park, situated on the fifth floor of the office building at 500 Pine Street, with direct and open access to St. Mary’s Square. The building site is the former location of Kong Chow Temple, a historic building of Kong Chow Benevolent Association, which was founded in 1854 by immigrants from China and continues to function today as a social and cultural gathering place. The other finalists were Shin Gray Studio and Acrylicize.
About the Artist
Sarah Sze is an internationally acclaimed artist who lives and works in New York City. Born in Boston in 1969 to a Chinese-American architect father, Sze received a BA (1991) from Yale University and an MFA (1997) from the School of Visual Arts in New York. In 2013, Sarah Sze represented the United States at the 55th Venice Biennale. Sze has exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Serpentine Gallery, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sze’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Malmo Könsthall, Sweden; Asia Society, New York. Her work has also been featured internationally at the 48th Venice Biennale, the 10th Lyon Biennial, the 5th Liverpool Biennial, the 25th São Paulo Biennial, the 1st Berlin Biennial, the 2000 Whitney Biennial, and the 1999 Carnegie International. She has also received critical acclaim for public commissions at New York City’s High Line; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; and the Public Art Fund, New York.
In 2016, Sze will complete a major commission for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York, at the 96th Street Station of the new Second Avenue subway line.
St. Mary’s Public Art Project
CCC is the lead organization for the St. Mary’s Public Art process in collaboration with 500 Pine Street Company, LLC, the developer of the new office building; Heller Manus Architects; Kong Chow Benevolent Association; Chinese Historical Society of America; Chinatown Community Development Center; and the Committee for Better Parks and Recreation in Chinatown; to envision a Chinatown enlivened by open spaces, which is a testament to the importance of and excitement for community-initiated developments.
Chinese Culture Center
CCC elevates underserved communities, and gives voice to equality through process driven contemporary art and education.
CCC has five decades of experience embedded in the community leading complex public art projects and events supported by Grants for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, among others. Recently, the CCC was selected for the prestigious “Our Town” grant funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ars Citizen is a non-for-profit organization dedicated to promote art in civil society.
With The San Francisco Project, Ars Citizen aspires to produce in San Francisco Bay Area site-specific projects by some of the most influential and inspiring artists of our time in associating through one-to-one engagements the local structures and enterprises while developing related programs and events with the cultural and educational institutions (for exhibitions, lectures, debates, workshops, publications). By emphasizing on long-term projects engaging with the urban and social conditions, Ars Citizen wants to contribute, in light of central figures of contemporary art and culture, to the formation of the new ecology of creativity in San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
Book of Rocks by Sarah Sze at St Mary Square garden will represent Ars Citizen’s very first project.
500 Pine Street Company, LLC is the real estate developer of the office building at 500 Pine Street, San Francisco, which is sponsoring the St. Mary’s Public Art Project.
Community Partner Organizations
Chinatown Community Development Center is a place-based community development organization that builds community and enhance the quality of life for San Francisco residents.
Committee for Better Parks and Recreation for Chinatown is a long-standing advocate for preserving the neighborhood’s limited open space.
The Chinese Historical Society of America is the oldest organization in the country dedicated to the interpretation, promotion, and preservation of the social, cultural and political history and contributions of the Chinese in America.
Heller Manus Architects is a San Francisco based architecture firm providing architectural and urban design for public and private sector clients.
The Kong Chow Benevolent Association, founded in 1854, was the first Chinese benevolent society formed in America. The original Kong Chow temple was built in 1857 at 520 Pine Street and replaced with a new building at Clay and Stockton Streets in the 1960s.