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Donated sculpture lands in the middle of Yountville

Donated sculpture lands in the middle of Yountville

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YOUNTVILLE — Amid the vineyards, restaurants and narrow streets of Yountville was one small gap in the landscape — a space now filled by a towering sculpture from an ocean away.

It arrived at 10:40 on a cloudless Monday morning, hidden in a huge fiberboard crate aboard a tractor-trailer from the Port of Oakland. After more than eight months in a Spanish foundry and six weeks aboard a ship, the cast-bronze artwork — “Chaos Pamplona” — approached its final destination as several dozen onlookers gathered along Washington Avenue and Yount Street.

“Chaos Pamplona” would join about other 30 other sculptures in Yountville, but at 26 feet tall and more than 5,000 pounds, would tower over its companions.

Chatting with workmen and town officials near the sculpture’s planned pedestal was its creator, Jedd Novatt. A New York City native who has lived in Paris for a decade, Novatt had flown to the Bay Area the previous day to supervise the unpacking, lowering and mounting of the sculpture he and about a dozen assistants began crafting last September.

Cast in Eibar, Spain, “Chaos Pamplona” was sold for $800,000 to Mary Spencer, an out-of-county collector who then offered it to Yountville for public display, according to Town Council records.

“Chaos Pamplona” is one of a planned set of three “Chaos” sculptures. A second one was exhibited last year at London’s Chatsworth Estate.

Spencer’s gift won the council’s acceptance in December, and a team of sponsors then raised more than $58,000 to ship, truck and mount the piece. 

As the workmen pried and sliced away the left side of the crate, its cargo slowly came into view: a black tarpaulin crisscrossed by straps, revealing a stout crossbar of dark metal underneath. 

The form hinted at no literal image. It’s meant to produce an emotional response, the 53-year-old Novatt explained. Viewers are encouraged to read their own meanings. 

“Chaos represents many ideas, not one in particular. Pamplona relates to my emotional connection to the (Spanish) city itself,” he said. “You’re affected a certain way by it; it’s a beautiful city with an interesting history in the Basque region.”

More than two hours passed as the installation crew took apart the container with claw hammers and saws, finally slicing off its top like a giant sardine tin. When the workers cut away the black plastic wrap, the sculpture’s form at last was revealed — box sections of flat-black bronze up to 8 inches thick, forming three near-cubes tilted diagonally like a trio of building blocks, each larger than the one below.

Four straps were slung around and under the bars of “Chaos Pamplona,” then the crane operator gently raised it from the remains of the crate, high against the noon sky, and down toward the concrete platform located between Yountville Community Hall and the Bardesonno hotel.

Onlookers captured the high-wire act on cameras and cellphones. Half a dozen children from the town day camp watched the airborne monument from the Community Hall’s side window.

“If we can bring that end toward me... that much...” Novatt called out to two workers guiding the sculpture with ropes. He gave hand signals and then stepped onto the pedestal’s edge to help spot the sculpture at its base, where four holes would be drilled to mount it.

Finally, at 3:30 p.m., the box-section obelisk stood upright, its peaked top corner starkly set against the sky. A few yards away, Vice Mayor Lewis Chilton, who had walked the half-block from his delicatessen to watch the sculpture’s arrival, sized up the town’s new addition.

“The difference now is this is ours — a lot of art rotates through here, but this will be here a long time,” Chilton said. “You’ll be able to see through it, still see the hills. It doesn’t take away from the view; it complements it.”

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