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Wasserberg exhibit leads you down the garden path

THE picturesque Bavarian town of Wasserburg, midway between Munich and Salzburg, is 850 years old this year. Officials have planned a busy calendar of events commemorating the long and colorful history of the town. These include historical exhibitions tracing Wasserburg's development from its founding around a Benedictine monastery in the 12th century, to its flourishing as a salt-trading center of the late Middle Ages, to the present day.

There are also concerts of Renaissance music, festive masses in the high gothic Saint Jacob's church, and parades of traditional costumes past the pastel facades of the old city.

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But an exhibition of contemporary sculpture has been the most talked-about contribution to the anniversary fete.

Works by 36 German artists form a ``sculpture path'' along a bank of the Inn River that bends around the town, enclosing it on three sides. Large stone, metal, wood, plastic, cloth, and mixed-media sculptures stand among trees and rocks on both sides of a gravel footpath.

None of the sculptures are titled, leaving one to wonder cluelessly at the intention of works such as Karl Weibl's heavy chunk of earth and grasses. Without the artist's name card, it might be overlooked completely or be mistaken for the bull-dozed remains of a building site.

Although the footpath leads from one sculpture to the next, the forms do not work together, and some could have just as well been placed in a gallery in the center of town.

The most effective works are those that were obviously created with their particular outdoor placement in mind, especially those that play upon the interaction between rigid forms and the river behind them.

Most have little sense of movement, and their meditative stillness is enhanced by the flowing backdrop of the water - as with the large brass disc by Ute Lechner, which reveals a restless inner life in a glimpse of the river through a round central opening.

Samual Rachl's screenlike construction of wood and plastic teasingly blocks a romantic view by standing directly in front of one of the path's benches looking out to the river, offering a look only through two strident red telescope-like tubes.

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Other works using abstract boat shapes also refer to the river, as does the largest work, a wooden structure by Peter Schwenk resembling a fragment of a toppled bridge.

In their own way, the works honor the water from which Wasserburg got its name. The sculptures will stay in place to titillate and aggravate Wasserburgers for the remainder of the celebration year.

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