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Citygarden Sculptures Inspire Musicians

Ben Kaplan

A group of local artists are taking the real estate mantra “location, location, location” and making it their own.

“Commonwealth is a way of making art that’s inspired by location, that’s inspired by the city,” said Commonwealth co-founder Ben Kaplan. “It wasn’t so much about the name of the place, it was about the location.”

And that’s how Commonwealth’s new album got its name: “38.627, -90.194” also are the GPS coordinates for Citygarden, which inspired the work.

Commonwealth pulled 20 musicians and assigned them the 23 sculptures throughout Citygarden. The musicians then created a soundtrack for their sculpture.

“All of the artists brought something really new and interesting and personal to each one of those interpretations,” Kaplan said.

Andre Anjos was assigned Keith Haring’s untitled sculpture, often referred to as the Ringed Figure. Haring, whom Kaplan called a “great contemporary artist,” got his start in graffiti. Kaplan said Anjos’ work was inspired by Haring and the environment in which Ringed Figure was created more than the sculpture itself.

“It’s inspired by that feeling of walking down a New York City street in 1982,” Kaplan said.

Magnolia Summer found inspiration in the sculpture itself.

“Bird” by Laura Ford is a “creepy little sculpture,” Kaplan said. The large bird’s body stands on human legs. Kaplan said Magnolia Summer’s song is written “in the key of metal.” 

Commonwealth co-founder Chris Grabau tackled one of Citygardens’ well-known works, “230.5 Degree Arc x5” by Bernar Venet. “It looks like a big set of antenna, like it’s going to bring in some signal from outer space.” Kaplan said. Grabau ran with that idea.

Kaplan’s band, The Vaad, adopted Fernand Leger’s “Femmes au Perroquet.” Kaplan said the work reminded him of chamber music concerts in the courtyard at The Frick Collection in New York, where he once worked.

“I set off to write my first chamber music piece,” Kaplan said. “I’d never written anything with strings.”

Fiddle player Kevin Buckley composed a piece for another well-known Citygarden sculpture, Jim Dine’s “White Gloves, Four Wheels,” known to many as the Pinocchio sculpture.

“It’s very much about Pinocchio,” Kaplan said. “Is Pinocchio celebrating his freedom? I think Kevin kind of nails that inner turmoil.”

Kaplan said that while the music was inspired by and can be paired with the Citygarden sculptures, “it functions as a musical document, as any other.”

Download “38.627, -90.194” from Bandcamp or SoundCloud. For more information, visit commonwealthstl.com.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.