God is in the Details, Ellworth Kelly is in the Courtyard: Sculpture Garden Opens at the SFMOMA

Over at the SF Appeal, I’ve written a brief review of the new sculpture garden at SFMOMA. Here, an excerpt from that post.

Afters three years of competition, construction, and even a little controversy, the new sculpture garden at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art made its public debut on May 10th, Mother’s Day. Designed by Jensen Architects with CMG Landscape Architecture, the new rooftop addition is almost Miesian in its elegant simplicity: glass and steel boxes surrounding an artfully composed open-air courtyard. In fact, the design specifically recalls Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. There too, a glass facade opens out onto a walled sculpture garden; a respite from the sparseness and propriety of the formal Modern Art Gallery. But here, instead of natural growth poking out above the surrounding walls as it does in Berlin, it’s the urban landscape of San Francisco high-rise towers. As has been noted by many a critic and visitor, the emotional effect of the garden is that of an urban oasis.

Indeed, from the new sculpture garden, the sounds of traffic merge with the whirrs and hums of nearby HVAC units into an almost ocean-like white noise. The occasional police siren rings through the air like a proxy gull call. Grab a latte from the Bay Area’s own Blue Bottle Coffee, provided by the kiosk prominently installed at the head of the museum’s addition (the high-design, local equivalent of a Starbucks inside Barnes & Noble?), and sit at one of the well-designed benches or cafe tables and forget your concerns and obligations to the surrounding city. What better way to spend an afternoon or a lunch hour than admiring work by noted sculptors like Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Barnett Newman, and Ellsworth Kelly?

Read the entire review at the SF Appeal.