Metal sculptor John Jagger is credited with the “Loggia Pendant,” the artwork that hung until recently from the ceiling of the entry loggia of the former San Jose Mercury News headquarters at 750 Ridder Park Drive.
The piece was commissioned by Joseph Ridder and his family after a contest was held to design a statement piece for the front façade of the newspaper’s new headquarters.
Jagger reflected on the Mercury News job in his autobiography Sculptor: A Focus on Art You Won’t Learn in School (2011, Outskirts Press) and his collaboration with Bud Delisle. Delisle ran a model shop in San Jose, and suggested Jagger enter the competition; Delisle actually built a whole facade of the building complete with floodlights to highlight Jagger’s bronze model.
On the day they presented their entry, Jagger recalls:
“The conference room was jammed with the newspaper’s executives, a photographer, and owner Joe Ridder and his immediate family, as the crowd of artist, rolls of drawings under their arms, paraded into the huge conference room. I recognized many of them from the many State University Art Departments, and others from newspaper write-ups of international competitors…These were sculptors to be reckoned with.
“I waited until all the drawings had been checked in and their creators had left the building. Then I carried the model — carefully covered — into the room, and placed it strategically in front of the most powerful attendees at the table. Bud was stationed at the wall switch as I had one hand on the model’s white coverlet and the other on the switch for the model’s floodlights. I quietly thanked the Lord that this room had no windows — one less light source to worry about.
“As soon as the melee quieted down, I glanced at Bud, who hit the master light switch…I gently slid the cotton cover off the model, counted three seconds, and switched on the model’s miniature floodlights. The highly polished bronze exploded inside the overall whiteness of the loggia, and what had been an almost inaudible gasp before blossomed into a loud shout of surprise. It was all there. The building, the Sculpture, the lighting, the reflection pools, the columns, the stone steps, everything.
“I looked over at Bud, who was trying hard to control his smirk, when Joe Ridder, who was on his knees looking up at the model, pulled himself to his feet and took control of the room once more.
“‘This, gentlemen, is what we want.’ He spoke in a low, even voice as he turned to me. ‘Get the pricing and information to my office by tomorrow, and we’ll tie down the contract.’
Jagger had to overcome many engineering problems before his Chandelier (as he referred to it) was complete, starting with the thousands of welds that would put stress in all directions. The tiniest error in connector dimensions could multiply to an enormous error at the final connector on the far end of the structure.
Delisle and Jagger built a huge elliptical wooden framework to support the steel elements as they were constructed, and Jagger designed a system of 25 bolts and custom-made turnbuckles to mount the sculpture to the ceiling of the loggia. They transported the framework in three pieces from Delisle’s San Jose shop to Jagger’s Los Gatos shop on the top of Jagger’s El Camino, and Delisle’s van, at 2:30 AM to avoid traffic on the freeway. Going at 50 mph, with an eye on the pieces in his rear-view mirror, Jagger watched with horror as one piece detached itself from his El Camino and landed on the freeway right in front of an oncoming car. Luckily for all involved, neither the framework nor the car were damaged.
While casting his components, Jagger struggled with the idea of using steel instead of bronze for the sculpture — according to Jagger, he had begged the Ridders to let him use bronze, but they had refused due to cost, and concern over what the Bay Area environment would do to the metal. To make it look like bronze, he hired an auto finisher to blast the sculpture with four coats of “Cadillac gold” and a clear coating.
The installation process was another story in itself. After fork-lifting the 3.5 ton structure into the loggia, Jagger discovered that his initial fear had come true – his connector dimensions were off and only his first connector matched the ceiling counterpart. At the same time, the forklift died, as well as the hydraulic lift, setting off a slow descent of the sculpture — which was hanging by only one connector — to the ground. Workers rushed to bolster it with wooden rails, and luckily the forklift itself acted as a pillar under the sculpture.
However, it was now quitting time, and the hired union workers left right on time. Jagger and Delisle were alone, with a vulnerable piece of art, left to figure out how to complete the installation by themselves. Using a system of hydraulic jacks and lumber, they slowly managed to lift up the sculpture while also stretching out the distance between connectors to make them match the ceiling. At 2:30 AM, they began removing the wooden support system, and by 3:50 AM they had completed the installation.
The Loggia Pendant hung in place until 2013, when it was removed to preserve it for a future home.
Born in Chicago, John Jagger was a full time professional sculptor for over 45 years. He received a Bachelor’s degree in interior design from San Jose State University, as well as a Master’s in creative design. Before taking up sculpting full-time in 1965, Jagger worked for IBM as a Senior Industrial Designer in the 1950s.
Jagger passed away on June 6, 2013. During his 45 year career, he created over one thousand pieces of art, including:
- Children’s Fairyland, Oakland, CA (18-foot metal dandelions)
- 251 Post Street, San Francisco, CA (bronze doors and lights)
- Santa Clara University Chapel, Santa Clara CA
- Federal Reserve Bank, Washington, D.C.
- Sculpterra Winery, Atascadero, California (sculpture garden)
Find out more about John Jagger in this video created by Gary Jackson: