Sunday, September 22, 2013

Construction in Space in the Third and Fourth Dimensions


Construction in Space in the Third and Fourth Dimensions, 1959 (installed          
1964)
Antoine Pevsner
University of Chicago Law School
Laird Bell Quadrangle
1111 East 60th Street

            Antoine Pevsner (1884-1962) was one of the leaders, along with younger brother Naum Gabo, of the Russian Constructivists. Both experimented with new materials and industrial processes while in France, stating that “to realize our creative life in terms of space and time is the unique objective of our art.” Although Pevsner was known for works consisting of welded strips of metal held on delicate frameworks, this construction was cast in bronze and features striated surfaces and curvilinear forms. Rejecting traditional notions of sculptural volume in favor of forms that interact with the space and imply movement, Pevsner’s piece allows the network of lines and forms to interplay differently with light and shade as the viewer shifts position, thus allowing a shared existence within the “space-time continuum.”
            Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect known for the St. Louis Arch and Dulles airport, designed the law school buildings at the site and advocated for a work by Pevsner to be placed within the 90 x 120 foot shallow reflecting pool. Saarinen died in 1961, before the project was implemented. After art collector Alex Hillman donated this work by Pevsner, there was disagreement regarding the precise placement of the work in the pool. Eminent architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was consulted. He pointed to a spot with his cane, declaring that his choice would be obvious to any architect. The piece was placed where lines drawn from the western edge of the library and the northern edge of the classroom building would intersect. Subsequently, a letter written by Saarinen was discovered and it indicated the exact same spot.

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