Bold, imaginative sculptures by preeminent artists Chris Burden and Ellsworth Kelly will be installed on campus as a result of art and creativity efforts now underway at CMC.
The College has received the sculptures by Burden and Kelly from Trustee George Roberts ’66 P’93 as part of a major initiative by the college’s Public Art Committee and Student Arts Council to enhance the campus physical landscape with public art.
“CMC is a special place in the world that continues to grow and excel, and it is a privilege to contribute to the College’s new public art initiative,” Roberts said in an announcement released in early October.
“We have a great community and these artworks will add a new dimension to CMC’s already excellent educational environment. Public art plays a special role in our lives, and CMC students will now have art in the spaces they where they study, learn, and socialize.”
Burden’s works include the L.A. iconic Urban Light, an installation of streetlights standing at the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His work Meet in the Middle—which also incorporates streetlights with benches—will be installed in May 2016 in front of the Roberts Pavilion.
When Burden died earlier this year, at the age of 69, he was hailed by L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Knight as a “protean Conceptual artist” who produced “outsized, imagination-charged works.”
Painter, sculptor, and printmaker Kelly is currently designing an untitled piece, a unique totem sculpture that will stand at the site of the original Story House. The sculpture will be installed on campus in 2017.
The Wall Street Journal recently called Kelly “one of America’s most celebrated living artists.”
Led by the efforts of the Public Art Committee under Committee Chair and Trustee Christopher Walker ’69, the addition of the Burden and Kelly sculptures to CMC’s campus builds on the installation last year of Mary Weatherford’s monumental mural From the Mountain to the Sea in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.
Also involved in the public art effort at CMC are the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, which brought together artists, curators, and art historians to discuss public art on the eve of the Roberts gift announcement; the Mellon Roundtables on Creativity, Empathy, and Courage; and the new 5-college Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity.
What’s public art for?
While the Shaler Memorial Angel at the University of Chicago (see picture) harks back to the classical figures and style of Renaissance sculpture, the meaning of the sculpture outside the physics department at the University of Washington (see picture) is far more elusive—just like the hunt by UW’s physicists for the building blocks of the universe.
For art critics, public works of art achieve at least two goals: reinforcing a college’s identity and branding in a striking visual way; and creating landmarks that will be as unforgettable and distinctive as the architecture of certain buildings.
The Burden and Kelly sculptures are still in the process of being prepared and fully realized for the campus. As connections to CMC’s identity, the communal quality of Burden’s work and the soaring lines of Kelly’s structure embrace CMC’s close-knit atmosphere and the ambitions and aspirations of its students.