Jessica Stockholder: Cross Hatch, 2013
Jessica Stockholder works with bright, bold colors to draw attention, to connect, to intersect. As she considered downtown Los Altos, she noticed that the area was something like a triangle. The common, ordinary sidewalks and roads directed traffic – both cars and pedestrians – in predictable grid patterns through the streets, and people didn’t even stop to look where they were walking. Cross Hatch, at the intersection of Fourth Street and State Street, breaks up this monotonous grid pattern and calls attention to the textures of the road. As unexpected blues and pinks and yellow splash across the intersection, mingling and melding with each other, the eye is drawn to consider the rough asphalt and the worn reddish bricks of the crosswalk. The color doesn’t limit itself to the road, but dances over the grass, into a bank parking lot, and up onto the sidewalk to touch the corner of a restaurant building. It is whimsical and fun, making visitors stop and take notice of the intersection. A set of metal bleachers is set up on one edge of Cross Hatch so that viewers can stop and watch the cars and pedestrians pass through the composition.
The paint on the intersection wears away quickly in some areas. I don’t know how often someone from SFMOMA comes up to do touch-up work – maybe once a week, maybe not since the installation was finished. As the paint fades away, the visual effect is changed. Green grass pokes through the blue paint that coats it; tire marks and shoe scuffs rub off the top layer of the paint, giving it an ephemeral transparency over the walkways. The rain pounds down and washes more paint away.
The intersection reminds me of those bold geometric prints that were so trendy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed, the colors were so vibrant that when I first saw Cross Hatch I said, “Oh, someone has gone and run over the eighties!” I heard that soon after the paint had dried, and traffic was allowed back onto the street, SFMOMA or the city had to go back and add some guidelines to the piece because drivers were hitting the curb because they couldn’t see it or they were distracted by the brightness. But by the time I’d started working with the project, Los Altoans had gotten used to the painted intersection, and they’d returned to ignoring it with the same inattention that inspired Stockholder in the first place. With the show almost over, I wonder what will happen to the intersection. Will it be painted over immediately, or left to erode on its own?