Bill Fontana: Sprialing Echoes
February 13 - December 11, 2009
SFAC Gallery, Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall
A site-specific sound sculture for the Rotunda of SF City Hall by internationally renowned, Bay Area artist Bill Fontana.
Image courtesy of Bob Lewis
The Opening of Spiraling Echoes, a sound sculpture by San
Francisco-based, sound art pioneer Bill Fontana, will take place on
Thursday, February 12, 2009 in the City Hall Rotunda. Bill Fontana’s
original soundtrack includes past and present audio moments recorded
throughout San Francisco, from Enrico Caruso’s voice to cable car bells.
Commissioned as part of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery’s Art
at City Hall program, the site-specific installation is designed to
interact with the architecture of San Francisco’s historic City Hall. Spiraling Echoes will be installed through May 8, 2009 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the City Hall renovation.
Four specialized speakers called transducers, which narrowly focus
sound, will be mounted around the circular colonnade inside the dome.
The richly-layered soundtrack pairing urban noises with historical
recordings will be most clearly audible along the two fourth floor
corridors overlooking the Rotunda. The directional ultrasonic beams of
sound will reflect off the surfaces of the architectural elements,
creating spiraling echoes that become gradually softer as they move from
the upper walkways to the floor of the Rotunda.
As visitors walk through the Rotunda, they may be startled at first
by the natural sounds of birds singing, echoing fog horns on the Bay, or
the crack of a bat and the noise of the crowd at AT&T Park. Each
beam of sound will be randomly audible only for an instant, transmitted
by the moving transducers. Bill Fontana stated, “Spiraling Echoes activates
the architecture of City Hall with the movement of sound. Encountering
the installation will evoke a rethinking of the history and context of
“I am delighted to announce that the SFAC Gallery has commissioned for our iconic City Hall Rotunda, Spiraling Echoes by Bill Fontana, one of the most interesting and celebrated artists living in San Francisco today,” said Mayor Newsom.
“I have made it a priority to install public art throughout the City,
and this compelling work is a prime example of what our forward thinking
Arts Commission can achieve. This important temporary project by Mr.
Fontana will take a place of prominence alongside his previous
installations at Big Ben in London, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the
Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.”
Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs added, “Spiraling Echoes
is a milestone in the Art at City Hall program. It is the premiere
exhibition in our triennial project to commission internationally
renowned artists to create site-specific installations for San
Francisco’s treasured City Hall. We are delighted that it will also
bring attention to San Francisco resident Bill Fontana who has created
his first substantial work for the Bay Area in 20 years.”
Speaker of the House and San Francisco resident Nancy Pelosi
is also a supporter of Fontana’s. She states, “San Francisco is a city
known for its creativity and innovation, and Fontana’s project in City
Hall would embody this spirit in one of most visible and widely-used
public spaces in San Francisco.”
is an American composer and artist who
developed an international reputation for his pioneering experiments in
sound. Since the early 1970’s he has used sound as a sculptural medium
to interact with and transform our perceptions of visual and
architectural spaces. He has realized sound sculpture and radio projects
for museums and broadcast organizations around the world. His work has
been exhibited widely including the Whitney Museum of American Art, both
Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, the 48th Venice
Biennale, the Art History and Natural History Museums in Vienna, and the
new Kolumba Museum in Cologne. Major radio sound art projects include
works for the BBC, the European Broadcast Union, the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio, West German Radio,
Swedish Radio, Radio France and the Austrian State Radio.
Fontana’s previous Bay Area works include Sound Sculpture with a Sequence of Level Crossings
, Oakland, l982, an eight channel sound map of fast-moving train whistles; Landscape Sculpture with Fog Horns
, San Francisco, 1981, a map of the acoustics of San Francisco Bay; and Sound Sculptures through the Golden Gate
San Francisco, 1987, a live duet between the Farallon Islands and the
Golden Gate Bridge transmitted to the façade of the San Francisco Museum
of Modern Art. For further information visit his website: www.resoundings.org
Art at City Hall is a program of the San Francisco Arts Commission
Gallery. Since 1970, the SFAC Gallery has been celebrating and sharing
the work of Bay Area, national and international artists at its three
Civic Center locations and sites around the city.
This exhibition has been approved by the San Francisco Arts Commissionand
is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the
Zellerbach Family Foundation, and Nancy and Steven Oliver.