Last Monday, the University installed Reclining Figure, a 4200 pound outdoor sculpture between Remsen Hall and Dunning Hall on the Homewood Campus.
The piece was created from a small clay figure crafted by Willem de Kooning in 1969, but was enlarged in a 7.6 feet high by 10.8 feet long by eight feet wide bronze casting. The piece is number five in a series of seven which were cast in 1982 in New York.
The sculpture was installed at the University as a five year loan from the Willem de Kooning Foundation. A similar casting of the same sculpture, but of slightly smaller size, was sold at an art auction in 2012 for $2,344,500.
The cost of the installation was covered by five private donors, including J. Woodford Howard, Professor Emeritus for the Political Science Department, Constance Caplan, a trustee emeritus for the University and Stanley Mazaroff, an author, lawyer and art historian.
The sculpture has been met with mixed reviews.
"I think it is terrific that an ambitious sculpture by a major artist is now on view on the Homewood Campus," Micheal Fried, J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and the History of Art, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
"It really beautifies the campus,” freshman Maggie Weese said, "It's different from what we currently have on campus, and it is nice to have abstract art represented."
Other students were not sure how to feel about the works.
"It makes the campus look interesting and brings up debate," junior Julien Morival said. "It seems abstract."
The decision to bring the Reclining Figure piece to campus was made by the Art Review Panel, which is headed by Dean Winston Tabb. The Art Review Panel is part of a larger public arts initiative on campus, headed by University trustees, faculty and arts workshop members who focus primarily on bringing art to the Homewood Campus.
"The University hopes to develop a rich and diverse collection of public art, with works by both major and emerging artists, and in the process making public art a vital part of life at Homewood and on the other university campuses," Brian Shields, director of communications and marketing for the Sheridan Libraries and University Museums, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The Homewood Campus is already home to several significant works, including Segal's painted cast bronze sculpture Woman with Sunglasses on a Bench in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Buster's nine-piece Vessel Field in the Gilman Atrium, Dion’s An Archaeology of Knowledge in the Brody Learning Commons reading room and Kline's cast bronze sculpture Willow outside Levering Hall.
In the future, two additional works will be joining the Hopkins community: John Henry's 35-foot tall Red Sails and Richard Serra’s cubic forged steel Pink Flamingos. The former was previously on display outside of the Gallery Sonja Roesch in Houston, Texas last November. The latter is currently in Reclining Figure funder Caplan's home in Towson and will come to the University in a future bequest.
While much attention is being paid to creating a more artistically cultured space on the Homewood Campus, some students are not as appreciative of the new piece as others.
"I don't get it," junior Rasmi Jasti said.
These students are not alone, as support for modern public art is not always strong. Richard Serra's large rectangular steel piece Twain, has been the subject of many public acts of protest at its home address in St. Louis. Such acts have ranged from adding Styrofoam circles to the piece to make it look like a stack of dominoes to putting flamingoes around it in a radio station campaign to "Give Serra the Bird."
Regardless, administrators at the University believe that providing space for art on campus is essential for a well-rounded student experience at Hopkins.
“Art is an important part of life, and should therefore be part of the student experience at Hopkins,” Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums Winston Tabb wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “A major purpose of the public art program is not just to enliven Homewood as a place where people live, study and work, but to make living with and among art an integral part of our life as a learning community.”