Just in time for Claremont McKenna College students to return to classes, the campus saw the installation of four extraordinary sculptures that will grace the quad in front of Collins Dining Hall. Carol Bove, the internationally renowned artist who created them, came from New York to personally oversee the installation of the artworks on Jan. 13. (see time-lapse video)
Bove’s sculptures are large-scale, and moving them from her Brooklyn studio to a fabrication studio in Los Angeles and then to Claremont, was an operation that involved massive wood crates, flatbed trucks, industrial cranes, and a small army of specialists.
The four sculptures, commissioned and funded by Trustee Christopher Walker ’69, chair of CMC’s Public Art Committee, represent Bove’s largest public permanent installation—and her first on a college campus.
Walker, an avid art collector who has served on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), said this major commission was something he could uniquely contribute to the college. One significant feature of the sculptures, he said, “is that there will be thousands of students who will see them. They will not be tucked away in someone’s yard.”
Bove, who grew up in Berkeley, said her own introduction to art was through public art she encountered walking through nearby UC Berkeley.
“Unlike going to a museum on a campus, it is not your intention to see art,” she said. “It’s incidental exposure. The repetition of that exposure speaks to your subconscious mind and makes for interesting conversations.”
Having four of her pieces permanently placed in close proximity allows her to preserve their relationships to one another. “It’s so meaningful of a commitment to keep them together,” she said.
Bove, who has had numerous solo exhibitions around the world, has been included in three Venice Biennales, the Whitney Biennial in New York, and currently has an exhibition with sculptor John Chamberlain at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The four pieces include two created for CMC and two previously exhibited to great acclaim. The two newest pieces are “Four Loops,” a tubular glyph of polished steel painted white whose loops appear to float in space, and “The Enigma of Pleasure,” a collage of rusted scrap metal, folded and crushed steel painted orange, and a highly polished black steel disc. “Cretaceous” and “Lingam,” pieces created in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are made from rusted low carbon steel and ancient petrified wood.
“Four Loops” is sited near a spectacular California live oak tree directly across from the dining hall. “Cretaceous” and “Lingam” stand near two Chinese Flame trees.
“The Enigma of Pleasure” stands closest to Appleby Hall, and the 1,300- pound sculpture was delivered the morning of Jan. 13. It was lowered in place after Bove spent several minutes walking around the entire quad, determining the precise orientation she desired.
As Bove oversaw the installation, CMC President Hiram Chodosh thanked Walker for his vision and generous commitment to attract and contribute such a “powerful, inspired major public artist and her sculpture to our campus. The Bove installation reshapes and enriches our appreciation of the physical environment in which we live and learn.”
The installation was attended by Walker, Philipp Kaiser, a well-known curator, and Emily Meinhardt ’10, a member of the Public Art Committee, as well as Kimberly Petropoulos, CMC’s director of board relations and the public art program.
Bove’s four sculptures join three other significant public artworks installed in recent years on campus: a painted and neon tube abstract mural by Mary Weatherford in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, a 40-foot white painted stainless steel totem between Appleby and Phillips halls by the late artist Ellsworth Kelly, and a sculpture of streetlights and benches in front of Roberts Pavilion by the late conceptual artist Chris Burden.
“This public art is a symbol of our growth and maturity as a college,” said Meinhardt, an Alumna Trustee. “We are very firmly out of the strictly utilitarian phase. These sculptures are going to be a landmark experience on the campus.”