Behind the Eisen curtain

We recently highlighted former NEH Chairman Bruce Cole’s devastating critique of the proposed Eisenhower Memorial. Now the National Civic Art Society invites you to examine shocking photos of mockups of the giant industrial steel “tapestries” planned for the Eisenhower Memorial. The NCAS points out that the main “tapestry” — a veritable “Eisen Curtain” — is so large it will dwarf the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. The photos are posted here. Please check them out.

The source of the photos is the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The photos depict mockups displayed to the CFA in August 2011. These photos have apparently not previously been seen by the public or media. Why might that be? Opponents of the Gehry design for the memorial hold that the photos prove the screens to be a rat’s nest of tangled steel, making them a maintenance nightmare.

In renderings of the design, memorial designer Frank Gehry and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission depict the “tapestries” as mere gauzy photographs. Is it the maintenance nightmare that supporters of the memorial are keeping under wraps, or the ugliness of the “tapestry”?

Compare the mesh screen “tapestry” with which Gehry cloaked the parking garage “for the now-mercifully-demolished Santa Monica Place shopping mall.” Erik Evans, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, observes: “Beside its intrinsic ugliness, over time it acquired a sad patina of rust as the coating of the chain link corroded in the ocean air.”

The intrinsic ugliness of the tapestries depicted in the photos seems to me their leading attribute, evoking the worst nightmares of the twentieth century. But it is also hard to see how the memorial as designed would wear well over time. Rouging never sleeps.

In related news, Reps. Dan Lungren and Aaron Schock have called for rejection of the proposed design of the Eisenhower Memorial. Read their letter here. Now hear this: “As students of this great individual, and as concerned members of Congress trying to be faithful stewards of our hallowed National Mall, we respectfully ask members of the Commission to reopen discussion on the design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial and gain broad support of the public and the Eisenhower family before moving ahead with the project.”

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