In the mid-1960s Claes Oldenburg began to make drawings of monuments based on common objects, such as a clothespin or a pair of scissors, challenging the notion that public monuments must commemorate historical figures or events. The artist's selection of discredited or obsolete objects extends to those remembered from childhood. As a youngster he enjoyed playing in his father's office with a typewriter eraser. In the late 1960s and 1970s he used the eraser as a source for drawings, prints, sculpture, and even a never-realized monument for New York City. This sculpture presents a giant falling eraser that has just alighted, the bristles of the brush turned upward in a graceful, dynamic gesture.
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Joan Miró created most of his sculpture -- more than 150 examples -- after his seventieth birthday. These late works fall into two formal groups: those cast from forms modeled by the artist and those cast from found objects. One of Miró's largest sculptures, Personnage Gothique relates to both types, since the bird was cast from an object the artist created, while the head was cast from a cardboard box and the body from a donkey yoke. Through the juxtaposition of disparate objects, surrealist artists such as Miró sought to evoke surprise and stimulate associations in the mind of the viewer. With its multiplicity of suggestive forms, Personnage Gothique embodies Miró's lifelong concern with richly imaginative imagery that he said was "always born in a state of hallucination."
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Since 1984 Louise Bourgeois has been developing a body of work with the spider as protagonist. For the artist, whose work has explored themes of childhood memory and loss, the spider carries associations of a maternal figure. Indeed, Bourgeois' "Spider" series relates to her own mother who died when the artist was twenty-one. From drawings to large-scale installations, Bourgeois' spiders appear as looming and powerful protectresses, yet are nurturing, delicate, and vulnerable.
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Over the last thirty years, Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has created a compelling and highly emotional body of work, largely drawn from her personal experience of World War II and its aftermath. She is best known for her "crowds" (as she calls them) of headless, rigidly posed figures whose anonymity and repetitious presentation have been regarded as the artist's personal response to totalitarianism.
Trained as a textile artist, Abakanowicz first used burlap in her indoor sculpture to achieve modulated, deeply incised surfaces for powerfully expressive ends. Each of the thirty bronzes in Puellae is a unique cast, made from a burlap mold that the artist individually worked during the casting process. Each puella's diminutive size is unusual, since Abakanowicz has traditionally depicted adults as life-size or larger. The work refers to an account the artist heard as a child in Poland during World War II about a group of children who froze to death as they were transported in cattle cars from Poland to Germany, as part of the "Arianization" process. Depending on the site, these figures can be arranged in any configuration.
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The sculpture that Mark di Suvero began to make in the late 1950s consisted of massive, weathered timbers and found objects such as barrels, chains, or tires. Their dramatically cantilevered forms were seen as sculptural equivalents of the bold, gestural paintings of Franz Kline or Willem de Kooning. In the 1960s di Suvero stopped relying on scavenged industrial materials and began to create works from steel beams that he moved with cranes and bolted together to create large outdoor pieces.
Aurora is a tour de force of design and engineering. Its sophisticated structural system distributes eight tons of steel over three diagonal supports to combine massive scale with elegance of proportion. Several of the linear elements converge within a central circular hub and then explode outward, imparting tension and dynamism to the whole. The title, Aurora, comes from a poem about New York City by Federico García Lorca.
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Scott Burton's work has been described as "sculpture in love with furniture." Indeed, the artist intended much of his work to be both sculptural and functional. He also preferred a public setting, where the objects would be used. Burton openly acknowledged a debt to Constantin Brancusi, who was the first modern sculptor to challenge the conventional distinction between aesthetic and utilitarian form. Here Burton contrasts the massiveness of his forms with a material -- red granite -- that is visually sumptuous and warm. The individual seats can be arranged in a circle, suggesting a ceremonial gathering, or side-by-side to form a long bench.
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Achieving a balance between abstraction and representation, the geometric forms of Untitled can be said to resemble the torso and appendages of a human figure striking a precarious pose. This impression changes as we move around the object, encountering a multiplicity of animated compositions. Originally constructed from plywood sheets, the elements of this work were carefully cast to retain the wood grain pattern.
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After moving from Manhattan to the countryside in New York State in 1970, Ellsworth Kelly began to make large sculptures for the outdoors. The distinctive shape of Stele II had already appeared in the artist's abstract paintings and is loosely based on a French kilometer marker, an object Kelly observed during his years in Paris after World War II. Alluding to the severe presence of the work, especially in a landscape setting, the title refers to a type of ancient stone monument that traditionally served a commemorative function. Like most ancient stelae, this sculpture is also essentially planar and upright. The steel weathers when exposed to the elements, developing an evenly corroded, non-reflective surface.
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Reacting against the formal, constructed metal sculpture that predominated when he was in art school, Barry Flanagan explored painting, dance, and installation pieces. He has produced an inventive and varied body of work filled with humor and poetic associations, often evoked by the particular organic materials he employed. While working with clay in the early 1980s, Flanagan perceived the image of a hare "unveiling" itself before him. The hare has appeared in an endless variety of guises in Flanagan's bronzes. In Thinker on a Rock the artist substitutes his signature hare for Rodin's Thinker (1880), making a witty and irreverent reference to one of the world's best-known sculptures.
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From the early 1960s to the present, Sol LeWitt has been at the forefront of minimal and conceptual art. LeWitt's "structures" (a term he prefers to sculpture) are generally composed with modular, quasi-architectural forms. For many of his works, LeWitt creates a plan and a set of instructions to be executed by others. Four-Sided Pyramid was constructed on this site by a team of engineers and stone masons in collaboration with the artist. The terraced pyramid, first employed by LeWitt in the 1960s, relates to the setback design that had long been characteristic of New York City skyscrapers. Its geometric structure also alludes to the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia.
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Since the 1960s, Lucas Samaras has devoted his art to the evocation of an intensely private, obsessional, sometimes hallucinatory realm. Among the many motifs that occur in his work, the chair is especially prominent. The "Chair Transformation" series has included provocative sculptures executed in a variety of materials including wood, wire mesh, and mirrored glass. Throughout the series, Samaras transforms the ordinary object into a fantastical one, evoking a dreamlike metamorphosis. Here the artist suggests an animated flight of stacked chairs. A deceptively simple form, the sculpture appears from different viewpoints to be upright, leaning back, or springing forward.
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Smith's work is related to the simplified geometric forms in the minimalist art of the 1960s, but was also strongly influenced by the artist's early career as an architect. The structure of Moondog is based on the lattice motif that Smith used as the building block for a spare yet complex formal and expressive language. Indeed, while Moondog is a logical geometric configuration (fifteen extended octahedrons plus ten tetrahedrons), from certain viewpoints it has a startling tilt, conveying an impression of instability. Smith compared this sculpture to a variety of forms, including a Japanese lantern and a human pelvic bone. The title itself derives from two sources: Moondog was the name of a blind poet and folk musician who lived in New York City, and Smith has also likened this sculpture to Dog Barking at the Moon, a painting by Joan Miró. He first created Moondog in 1964 as a 33-inch cardboard model, intending to "cast the piece in bronze as a garden sculpture," which he did in 1970. Smith himself planned the large scale edition of Moondog, although it was not produced in his lifetime.
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In contrast to sculpture cast in bronze or carved in stone, constructed sculpture -- and particularly welded metal sculpture -- constituted a major direction taken by American artists after World War II. The work of sculptor David Smith emerged within the context of the New York School in the 1940s and 1950s. Smith said of his preferred medium, welded steel: "The metal itself possesses little art history. What associations it possesses are those of this century: power, structure, movement, progress, suspension, brutality." Smith most often created works in series, culminating in the 1960s with the "Cubis," which were made up of simple but monumental cubic or cylindrical shapes precisely crafted, assembled, and polished by the artist. "I depend a great deal on the reflective power of light," he said. Cubi XXVI achieves a dynamic equilibrium between the static nature of its looming geometrical components and the dramatic upward and outward thrust of its composition.
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During the last two decades of his life Alexander Calder devoted his greatest efforts to large-scale mobiles and stabiles, many of which have become popular public landmarks in cities around the world. Unlike his earlier works, these huge objects required a collaborative effort. To fabricate Cheval Rouge the artist worked with skilled technicians and metalworkers at the Biémont Foundry in Tours, France.
Calder's outdoor stabiles such as Cheval Rouge exhibit a universally appealing grace and, though steadfastly abstract, evoke a friendly resonance with natural forms. Here the sleek, tapering legs and tensile up-thrust "neck" recall the muscularity and power of a thoroughbred. This stabile reflects Calder's assertion: "I want to make things that are fun to look at, that have no propaganda value whatsoever."
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Roy Lichtenstein is best known for the pop paintings based on advertisements and comic strips that he made in the 1960s. He also produced a significant body of sculpture, including large-scale works designed for the outdoors. House I incorporates the hallmarks of the artist's style: crisp, elemental drawing, heavy black outlines, and a palette based on primary colors. Whereas most of the artist's sculpture approximates freestanding paintings in relief rather than volumetric structures in the round, some of his late sculpture, such as House I, exploits the illusionistic effects of a third dimension. The side of the house at once projects toward the viewer while appearing to recede into space.
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A leading figure of the Art Nouveau movement in France, architect Hector Guimard designed 141 models of the Paris entrance to the Métropolitain between 1900 and 1913. He was given the official responsibility for the design of the Métro system, which featured prominently in 1900 at the time of the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Guimard's fame rests largely on the strength of his designs for the Métro entrances. The Art Nouveau movement in Paris also became known as le style Métro and le style Guimard. The architectural forms draw their inspiration from nature, here most notable in the plant stems that support the sign. This coupling of organic form with the new, cast iron fabrication method became a defining characteristic of Art Nouveau architecture. Eighty-six of his Métropolitain stations are still standing, and in 1978 they were registered in Paris as Monuments Historiques.
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