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Best Public Sculpture

Eric Orr's "Oceans of Time" and "North of Yesterday" at the Saint Louis Galleria

Artificial environments call for a semblance of nature. The little pond that HOK designed in the middle of the Galleria is pretty lame, making an obstacle to walk around rather than an oasis at which to congregate. Artist Eric Orr, who did some wild stuff with blood and glass and the shadows of the pyramids back when artists were doing such wild stuff in the '80s, came up with an elegant solution to the Galleria's denatured space: two pillars, one at the south end of the mall, the other at the north. Their primary element: cascading rivulets of water that shimmer at a distance and invite touch when shoppers are within arm's length. Those in the midst of their malling can't resist them. Watch, sometime, how many people interrupt their consuming instinct to place their hands in the soft flow of water -- reverting, briefly, to a more basic instinct. The pillars contrast the loud cacophony of getting and spending with minimalist simplicity. The southern pillar, "Oceans of Time," is a tall rectangle with a thin seam down its center. Water percolates at the top, which can be observed from the second floor, and flows down. Thin grooves in the surface make for bewitching patterns on the stream. "North of Yesterday," on the north end of the mall, is a pyramid design, with water flowing down the sides and down straight, thin channels at its center. A mall, otherwise, is no place for contemplation -- the last thing retailers want you to do is think -- yet Orr subtly subverts the marketplace. A meditation of time and the river before the Gap and Timberland.

 
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