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  • Renée C. Byer /

    Sacramento artist Gerald Walburg, left, watches as Jeff Farley swings a hammer during installation of "Sakti No. 15" Monday near the main entrance to the Crocker Art Museum. The metal sculpture was pivoted and tapped into place, then bolted down. The work of Walburg, a former CSUS instructor, is familiar to many – his "Indo Arch" is a few blocks away.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Walburg and Farley use a little elbow grease and heavy equipment on the shiny and heavy metal work. Meanwhile, inside the Crocker, officials were readying an exhibit that opens Sunday, "Rebirth of a Nation: Travis Somerville's 1963."

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Travis Somerville, a San Francisco artist, prepares to hang "The Only Begotten Son" at the Crocker Art Museum as part of a mixed-media presentation on Somerville growing up in the 1960s in the South. Somerville said the work was in a Martin Luther King Jr. show at the Smithsonian Institution that was seen by King's widow, Coretta Scott King. The artist said he was summoned to a meeting with her and she said the painting was her favorite work in the show.

Crocker welcomes the noise of a new sculpture

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 - 11:24 am

Museums – much like libraries – are places where voices are hushed and noise minimal.

That was not the case Monday as a new sculpture by Sacramento artist Gerald Walburg was carefully positioned outside the Crocker Art Museum by a steel sledgehammer.

"Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang," rang out over the hum of a boom truck's engine and the roar of chain saws from a nearby tree-trimming crew as Walburg and his assistant Jeff Farley attempted to slide the immense sculpture over four bolts before turning it to lock it in place.

"That piece will exist when this building is torn down," Walburg said after finishing the installation of his 1,000-pound, 10-foot-high nickel-bronze statue that he named "Sakti No. 15."

Walburg, a former professor at California State University, Sacramento, said it's the 15th in a series of sculptures he has done inspired by Indian temples. His more famous Sacramento work is "Indo Arch," which extends over the walkway between the Downtown Plaza and Old Sacramento.

Walburg said he leaves it to viewers to form their own interpretations of his works.

"I'm not trying to tell a story," he said.

He said he starts with a series of shapes suspended by cranes in his work space. He manipulates them, rotates them and spins them until he finds the relationship he likes, and then he welds them together. Walburg took no compensation for the artwork.

The museum also welcomed a new indoor exhibit, "Rebirth of a Nation: Travis Somerville's 1963"

The mixed media installation by the San Francisco artist was born out of his Southern upbringing and pushes viewers to reassess race relations in America.

Somerville said much of his art tries to make sense of growing up in Georgia in a white family active in the Civil Rights movement.

"We were very much outcasts," Somerville said.

One of his work pairs a familiar image of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Nike swoosh; it is Somerville's statement about the "commodification" of King's image.

Another piece takes the viewer inside a small cabin, seemingly plucked from the woods. Inside, the walls are papered with newspapers of the era. Images of blackface and the sound of a burning cross confront those inside, said Somerville.

He said his work aims to spark discussion on race and racism. He dismissed the idea that the election of President Barack Obama means the United States is in a post- racial era.

The exhibit of Somerville's work opens Sunday.

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