Know Your Street Art: SQUARED

Artist Charles Gadeken built his 50-foot, 786-cube sculpture for Coachella and later Burning Man, and now it's at Patricia's Green.

While sitting on a 21-Hayes bus the other night, a middle-aged woman looked out the window and noticed Charles Gadeken’s giant LED sculpture of 786 cubes. The 50-foot-tall art piece swirled in patterns of colors only to fixate on pink — and the woman told her daughter that the tree-like sculpture resembled “cotton candy.”

“We should have gone there!” the daughter said as the bus moved past Gadeken’s artwork.

But scores of people are stopping by Gadeken’s sculpture, which was officially dedicated on May 5. And even those who live in apartments across from SQUARED — people who experience its light show during its regular hours (dusk until dawn) — are apparently happy with a piece that occupies the middle of Patricia’s Green. The San Francisco Arts Commission and the Recreation and Park Department have arranged for SQUARED to anchor that small Hayes Valley park through next year. The piece, which includes every shade of a psychedelic rainbow, is at its brightest until 10 p.m., when Gadeken has programmed the work to dim its lights a bit.

“The reception in the community has been amazingly positive — which I was concerned about,” Gadeken tells SF Weekly. “I had a lot of fears it might be too much — but there hasn’t been a single complaint. I’ve talked to four or five people who live [in buildings] on the park, and they all love it.”

A San Francisco industrial artist, Gadeken first created SQUARED for the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and it then went to Burning Man — events where people would dance, frolic, and hang around SQUARED day and night. In Hayes Valley, people huddle near it in more casual ways — as they eat ice cream, talk to friends, or sit on benches that are right underneath the piece. Gadeken programs the patterns of light, and he says he’ll change its sets about six times over the next year. The work, he says, embodies a “post-nature” world.

“I grew up in the mountains of Colorado, and when I was younger my heroes in art were Charlie Russell and Georgia O’Keeffe — and I sometimes put myself in the relationship as one of the last great Western American artists in my fantasy world,” Gadeken says, laughing. “So I feel like this piece is like a contemporary piece of Western America. Here we are in Silicon Valley, but we’re here with the redwood trees. SQUARED is a giant tree. It represents part of this technology-obsessed world that I live in now.” 

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