This article in the LA Times made me more curious about Robert Irwin’s work on the garden at the Getty Center than I’d ever been and more interested in seeing it. Of course, I’ve always wanted to see the museum, having only seen the old Getty many years ago. You may remember Susan’s post on this.
In the article, Irwin says,
It’s my observation that gardeners and gardening for a very long time have had to take a back seat. … When I talk to these people [landscape designers], I’m inclined to point out that this could be their day in court, you know.
When I first started making proposals for the garden . . . they said, “You can’t do this.” They all said, “It’s not really a garden.” And I was very taken back by that, because I couldn’t understand approaching something with everything already defined. And it seemed to me that that’s an odd way to approach the world, especially a world as rich as the world of plants. There’s no palette as rich as a garden. And the intensity of it — I make this statement all the time: You can’t plan nature; you court her.
I have always admired Irwin’s work very much. He’s a minimalist, a color and light man, so conceivably a good choice to plan a garden, especially a museum garden. If you’re going to pick a visual artist, that is. At a museum, or really any large institution, it seems the type of busy colorful-border-type garden, the type I would probably plant, wouldn’t be the right choice. You need something a bit more organized, and probably with fewer plants and more of them. At the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in the sculpture “garden,” there are a couple lovely specimen trees and a wide border of pachysandra around a paved area and a large sculpture. Pachysandra is probably one of my least favorite plants, but it works very well in this context, where the complex Jim Hodges sculpture (can’t find a good pic!) needs a quiet backdrop.
Of course, what Irwin has done is no quiet backdrop, but as an exterior artwork designed for the Getty, judging from the photography submitted by LA Times readers (shown here), it holds up pretty well. The article notes that the oversight of the garden and its necessary changes over time are now the responsibility of its curator, Jim Duggan, not Irwin.