by Patrick Maguire, Mondo Fine Art
The Salt Lake Art Center’s Contemporary Masters mini-golf course is an unusual and imaginative way of presenting art to the public, allowing visitors to play with artworks, instead of just looking at them. Everyone can try their hand at the course – young children with their parents, older couples with cameras slung about their necks, and curious art appreciators can all be seen wandering through the exhibition with their colorful putters and scorecards, playing the holes in no particular order. It certainly does not feel like an art gallery anymore, and instead takes on the informal characteristics of a relaxed summertime activity.The Salt Lake Art Center hosted a VIP opening event for Contemporary Masters on the 17th of June, a day before the course opened to the public. Laura Chukanov, a member of our Mondo Fine Art staff and former Miss Utah 2009, was part of the celebrity foursome among the first to try their hand at the 18 holes.
Every hole is designed and built by separate artists, so themes, materials, and playability widely vary. This is a welcome change from the standard putt-putt golf. Some holes are whimsical, like Davina Pallone’s par six Putting to the Center of the Earth, a multicolored wool and cotton representation of the earth’s geologic strata. Golfers must descend into the illuminated, cork-floored structure of Stephanie Leitch’s Untitled to retrieve their ball. The course concludes with Craig Cleveland’s mechanical Siphon & Reservoir, which shoots your ball into a series of netted funnels before depositing it near the hole. These are but examples of the fantastic diversity of this course.The challenges of contemporary art are evident enough on the surface of a painting or sculpture, but they surface as well in the absurd difficulty of some holes - namely the two par infinities. Peter Everett’s Donkey Kong pays homage to the trickiness of the 1981 arcade classic, and John Bell, a Mondo Fine Art artist, explicitly deals with the issue in his near-impossible, minimalist sculpture Pissing in the Wind. Bell says he "was more interested in making a work of art that you could play miniature golf on, than a miniature golf hole that you called art. The title is a metaphor for so many of the futile pursuits we inflict upon ourselves in daily life. My hope is that instead of trying to dominate or win on this piece / hole, participants will let go of that notion and just enjoy it as a work of art and a point of conversation."
Contemporary Masters is at once a group art show and recreational activity, which says something about the mission of the Salt Lake Art Center. Art can involve everyone. Experiencing art in the context of mini-golf is a unique way to bring the viewer closer to the artist whose work they are putting upon.
Contemporary Masters runs through September 16th, 2010. For more information, please visit SALT LAKE ART CENTER's WEBSITE