From his woodworking studio in San Bernardino County, Sam Maloof made exquisitely refined rocking chairs that epitomized midcentury California craft. The legacy of Maloof, who died five years ago, includes the biennial Sculpture in the Garden event, which opens May 4 at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, 51/2 acres incorporating Maloof's home and workshop. The sculpture installation, curated by Patricia Ferber and Julie Brooks and on view through July 10 [http://www.malooffoundation.org aims to celebrate California artists with the same spirit that propelled Maloof's work. "It's also, quite simply, about spending a California spring day in a garden that's both delightful and rejuvenative," said Jim Rawitsch, the foundation's executive director. Rawitsch recently talked with The Times about the show:
How does Sculpture in the Garden fit in with the Maloof Foundation and the spirit of Sam Maloof?
Sam and Alfreda Maloof were enthusiastic patrons of California arts and crafts, and their collection reflects their great appreciation for imaginative, creative artists and their works. In that spirit, Sculpture in the Garden 2014 brings together the works of 40 artists for display in the Maloof Discovery Garden — set against the foothills and sky that so inspired the Maloofs throughout their lives together in Alta Loma.
Why is it important that artists chose their own sites in the garden? To what extent are the environs for each piece crucial to how the sculpture is experienced?
Because so much of the impact of sculptural works in three dimensions depends on the interplay of light and shadows that define them, we view the setting in which a sculpture is displayed as an extension of the work itself. We invite artists to select their own sites so that their work can be viewed and appreciated consistent with the artist's vision. Philip Vaughan's bamboo structure rises so naturally from the earth, Dan Romero's "The Raven" sculpture seems almost to float on the garden breeze, and Dee Marcellus Cole's wildly painted winged angel and diva mannequins seem right at home reclining in the garden's natural wooded setting. Larry White's piece is made of timbers and found objects that remained on the site following relocation of the Maloof and which are now transformed into art. [In 1990, the Maloof home and workshop were deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and later were moved to the current site to accommodate the expansion of the 210 Freeway.] For visitors of all ages, there's also great pleasure in rounding a corner to discover something new or fun.
When did the artists select their sites? Did some of them build work with a specific site in mind?
We wanted very much to give artists an opportunity to imagine their sculpture in relation to its chosen location — and many of the artists began visiting the Discovery Garden late last year to get a feel for the surroundings. Some of the artists — like Larry White, who worked with Sam for nearly half a century — come to the exhibition with a deep and abiding appreciation of the Maloof setting, and the spirit that connects the garden to the Maloof historic home and art collection. Dan Romero, Dee Marcellus Cole, Darcy Badiali and others also had their work collected by Sam during his lifetime and so are already deeply connected to the Maloof spirit. Others, like Philip Vaughan, may be new to Maloof but can instantly sense the joy and wonder of Sam's very special legacy.