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Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum expansion opens

October 10, 2010 |  3:56 pm


Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.

So goes the familiar refrain from the Brothers Grimm fairytale about a beautiful maiden locked in a tower by a wicked witch. "Rapunzel" is also the title of a marvelous video animation by Los Angeles artist Jennifer Steinkamp, in which a cascade of flowers tossed by an unseen breeze recalls both the rampion craved by the pregnant young woman and her flowing tresses.

Steinkamp's 2005 video is playfully installed in a stairwell just inside the new entrance to Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum, which opens a 125,000-square-foot new building Sunday. The stair might be Modernist white rather than golden (Gwathmey Siegel was the architect), but it does lead effortlessly to the museum's upstairs art galleries. And "Rapunzel" is a magical evocation of nature as a projection of mind, which is the artist's typically mesmerizing speciality.

Of course, depending on which version of the fairytale you follow (Steinkamp was inspired by the Grimms, but the story has been traced to the Shahnameh, a Persian opus dating to circa 1000 A.D.), "Rapunzel" comes with a specific cautionary angle. The handsome prince got duped by the witch and leapt from the parapet, falling into a bramble, where thorns scratched his eyes and made him blind.

Happily, the tears that came to his eyes when he was eventutally reunited with his true love Rapunzel restored his vision. Not a bad story with which to embark on an art museum visit.

— Christopher Knight

Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento, CA; (916) 808-7000.

Video: Jennifer Steinkamp, "Rapunzel," 2005; Credit: Christopher Knight/Los Angeles Times

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