Bryan Valenzuela is one of two Sacramento artists to be chosen for public artwork at Golden 1 Center. Ryan Lillis The Sacramento Bee
Bryan Valenzuela is one of two Sacramento artists to be chosen for public artwork at Golden 1 Center. Ryan Lillis The Sacramento Bee

City Beat

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City Beat

Sacramento arena artwork is a ‘convergence’

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

April 17, 2016 07:35 AM

As you read this, Bryan Valenzuela may be in a factory in the woods outside Prague overseeing the construction of his local masterpiece.

Valenzuela is one of two Sacramento artists awarded an art installation at Golden 1 Center, sharing a piece of the largest public investment in local art in the city’s history.

His work – “Multitudes Converge” – will suspend over an escalator well inside the arena, near the southwest corner of the building. He hopes to start installing it in August and has to have it finished by October, before Golden 1 Center opens.

Over the next several weeks workers in Europe will craft more than 400 molded glass spheres – some 20 inches in diameter – to be connected by a series of cables and stainless steel “spines.” It’s such a huge project that when the crew of fabricators is finished the spheres will be shipped overseas inside large wooden crates on a boat.

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“I thought this was a huge opportunity to get out of my wheelhouse,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela, 38, went to Oak Ridge High School and has an art degree from Sacramento State. He’s been in midtown since 2003 and has focused mostly on paintings, including his work “Bittersweet Sanctuary,” which won a Best in Show award at the 2015 California State Fair Fine Art Exhibition.

For his arena art, Valenzuela is partnering with glass blowers based in Munich and structural engineers and architects based here. It’s by far the largest piece of his career.

“It’s been a long road to get here,” he said, sitting at a table in the dining room of his midtown apartment/studio Wednesday, the day before leaving for his European trip.

The artwork is inspired by what Valenzuela considers an iconic natural point in the city – the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers – and is an abstract version of that convergence.

“I also look at the arena as a gathering place, a convergence point,” he said. “It’s created some divisions, but it’s bringing a lot of people together, too.”

Valenzuela recently flew to Boston. Before taking off, he walked by “Leap,” the enormous red rabbit sculpture in Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B. He said half the travelers who walked by seemed to love the rabbit; the other half hated it. But everyone had an opinion.

He thinks about standing in Golden 1 Center one day soon and listening to what people have to say about his work. He hopes they are soothed by it, that it’s “an object of meditation inside a chaotic arena.”

“I definitely designed it specifically for that space,” he said.

He said it’s “mindblowing” to have his art placed in the same space as renowned artist Jeff Koons, whose $8 million sculpture will anchor the public plaza outside the arena. He’s thrilled to be working so close to Gale Hart, Sacramento’s “godmother of contemporary art,” whose sculpture of a deconstructed dartboard will line the walkways near Fifth and L streets outside the arena.

And after grinding in the Sacramento scene for 13 years, Valenzuela finally feels optimistic the local art world has staying power. A new generation of art patrons has emerged, a vital development if Sacramento wants to keep feeding its new wave of artists, he said.

“There were always artists here,” he said. “Lately, it just seems that more people are paying attention to us.”