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An exhibition of drawings, maps, and photographs of two proposed projects–Over the River: Project for the Arkansas River, Colorado and The Gates: Project for Central Park, New York City–by controversial and internationally renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, opens the spring season at Lafayette College’s Williams Center art gallery.

The show will run from February 14 to March 26. The artists will hold a lecture at 4 p.m., Wednesday, March 24, to discuss their most recent project, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98, and the Lafayette exhibit. The lecture is free of charge. A reception for the artists will follow.

For almost three decades, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have invited controversy and admiration for their work, a provocative intersection of artistic experimentation and occupation of public space through the use of fabric on familiar natural objects and architecture. Past ambitious projects include wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin (1995), Valley Curtain (1972), and Running Fence (1976), an 18-foot-high fence of white fabric which extended 24 and a half miles emerging from or disappearing into the Pacific Ocean.

A major part of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s planning process is obtaining permits to execute their projects. Often this is a many-year process involving environmental and engineering studies and public hearings before they can proceed to the final installations, which are of very short duration, usually 14 days. The artists believe that an essential task is to convince both skeptical residents and government agencies that they will enjoy the final result.

For Over the River, the artists are currently in the process of obtaining the necessary permits to deploy a succession of panels over the Arkansas River in Colorado. They hope to suspend about five miles of fabric in sections over 40 miles of the river. The work of art will clear the river by at least eight feet to allow access by animals and humans. Wide clearance between the banks and edges of the fabric panels will create a play of contrast allowing sunlight to illuminate the river on both sides. Chosen from among six prospective sites, the project started in 1992 and is undergoing public hearings.

The Gates was conceived in 1979 and has not yet been completed. The artists are working to obtain permission to set up 15-foot high gates along Central Park walkways. Free-hanging saffron colored fabric panels suspended from the top horizontal part of the steel gates will come down to approximately six feet above ground. By up-lifting and framing the unnoticed space above the walkways, the luminous fabric of The Gates will underline the organic design in contrast to the geometric grid pattern of Manhattan and will harmonize with the beauty of Central Park.

The Lafayette College exhibition series is presented under provisions of the Detwiller Endowment and funded, in part, by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. The exhibition was organized by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m., and a half-hour before Williams Center performances. The gallery will be closed during the College’s spring break, March 12-19. For more information, call 610-330-5361.

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