Rocket art landing on SF waterfront

It won’t fly anybody to the moon, but a retro-themed rocket ship planned for The Embarcadero will recall a time when Americans romanticized the unlikely pursuit of space colonization.

“Raygun Gothic Rocketship” — a striking 40-foot, 8-ton sculpture — is scheduled to be installed along San Francisco’s waterfront in August.

The re-creation of early 20th-century science-fiction fantasies was installed in San Mateo this year for the Maker Faire.

The public art installation is planned to remain in place for 14 months near Mission Street at Pier 14, the former site of the similarly striking sculpture “Crouching Spider.”

The site has been devoid of a major public art piece since artist Louise Bourgeois’ 10-foot bronze arachnid was removed in April 2009. It had crouched creepily in place at the location for 17 months.

The new installation is the work of dozens of Bay Area artists collaborating as Five Ton Crane.

“The Raygun Gothic Rocketship is a rococo retro-futurist future-rustic vernacular between yesterday’s tomorrow and the future that never was,” the group wrote on the project’s website. “A critical kitsch somewhere between The Moons of Mongo & Manga Nouveau.”

Sean Orlando, one of three lead artists who worked on the sculpture, said the piece was inspired by 1930s and ’40s science fiction.

“We modeled the spaceship as if it was built in 1944,” Orlando said. “Back then, the human race was optimistic about traveling in space and living in space. We wanted to try to capture that.”

The artists plan to weatherproof the sculpture before it’s put into place to withstand more than a year of bombardment by sun and salty air, according to Orlando.

“We have to modify it, weatherproof it and make sure everything is water-tight,” he said.

The San Francisco-based Black Rock Arts Foundation plans to spend nearly $50,000 to install, maintain and remove the sculpture, Port of San Francisco documents show.

The Port plans to contribute $15,000 and pay $185 a month in electricity bills needed to illuminate the unusual object.

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