A comparison of the installation/sculpture of Donald Lipski and the monumental-scale steel sculpture of Mark di Suvero reveals that both artists utilized the visual elements of color and a variance of space. Lipski used colorful, everyday objects and materials that are found at a construction site or furniture in an office and installed them, in a grouping of varying circles as a sculpture on a 60’ atrium wall of the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building. Artist di Suvero chose the vibrancy of the color red for his 30’ steel sculpture that sits between the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Public Library.
Both large-scale works are placed in a public environment where viewers will be drawn in by the colorful use of materials, objects or paint. Although both monumental in scale and presence, the materials utilized by Lipski of everyday objects and materials differ greatly in contrast with those used by di Suvero, that is, not everyday-painted steel industrial i-beams. Viewing and appreciation of the Lipski work can be made from the front of the piece from the ground floor looking up, and after ascending several floors and levels to gain different views.
Mark di Suvero’s sculpture is assembled outdoors, in a manner where it can be viewed in the round without obstruction. Compare and contrast the two artists. Content + Context + Form = Meaning Referencing the tools used to build the city of Denver, Donald Lipski created the sculpture/installation which spans the 60’ atrium wall of the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building. The consideration for materials used in this piece are symbolic of the importance of the role each object played in building the city.
From coolers to keyboards, Lipski’s colorful sculpture provides the viewer with the perception of inclusion, which befits the very purpose of the municipal building to which the work is housed. Mark di Suvero’s sculpture “Lao Tzu” was made in Long Island and purchased by the Denver Art Museum in 1995. It was brought to Denver in pieces and assembled on site by di Suvero. The red painted steel i-beam sculpture stands 30’ tall and weighs over 16 tons. While di Suvero does not apply any special meaning to his sculptures, the title Lao Tzu is likely attributed to di Suvero’s reverence to the Chinese monk credited with founding Taoism.
Taoism is the belief that bases the human experience on nature, vitality and peace. Both artists work has perceived meaning that take into consideration the surrounding environment. The contrast in their work may be found in application of Lipski’s towards symbolism of what is involved in building a city. While di Suvero’s meaning could be perceived as the variables involved in building humanity, that is, the freedom of space and interpretation but also, the marriage of art and literature. How does the medium (form) used, inform the content of the pieces?
The use of everyday recognizable objects, e. g. , coolers, hammers, saws, scissors, that are considered common industry materials associated with the construction of buildings and structures in Denver, for the Lipski piece installed at the Wellington E. Webb Muncipal Building may be perceived as a reminder or suggestion of thought to the viewer of the very origins involved in the building of a city, as colorfully mundane as it may seem. Oftentimes, when buildings are erected, the average individual simply does not consider all the variables involved in construction and design of a building.
Further, the fact that this particular piece is installed in a building where the City and the people must interact and, become accountable to the other, provides the inherent content and contextual relationship of its very being. Artist Mark di Suvero’s use of steel in the large scaled sculpture entitled “Lao Tzu” and its placement directly between the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Public Library could symbolize the interaction of art in visual form and the art of thought or comprehension that is literary.
The sheer size of di Suvero’s steel sculpture, the shape and lines utilized in its design allow for the flow of space in and throughout the piece. The contrast of the bright color used is significant in marrying the relationship between perception of visual art and literature. When hearing interviews by the artist or researching the artist what did you learn? How did learning more about the artist inspire you or change your mind about the work? In an interview conducted by Leslie Kaufman (galerielelong. com), she described Donald Lipski as the embodiment of American ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1947, Donald Lipski began receiving recognition as an artist as a teenager for a sculpture he welded in high school. Since 1992 he became more interested and involved in creating public art. He also created The Yearling, which sits outside the Denver Public Library. Once when asked about what his hope was for his work, he responded “…that each a reflection of the site and the people who pass through it…” After watching the interview, it would seem that his work is never random, but always thoughtful in allowing the viewer to develop a sense of meaning for his art.
Much of his work has received great acclaim and his work has become a part of the permanent collection of prestigious institution like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although born in China to parents of Italian ancestry, Mark di Suvero is considered one the foremost American abstract sculptors and is well known for having produced monumental outdoor abstract sculptures. He started out as a house painter, then a boat builder. Between 1953 to 1957 he studied Fine Arts at UC Berkley and then later moved to New York.
While in New York, he founded the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens where local artists could install their outdoor work. In an interview given to Artworld, Mark di Suvero was quoted “…the crane is my paintbrush…” Also, revealed during this interview was that in 1960, he was nearly fatally crushed in an elevator accident. Although doctors said he would not walk again, his determination proved them wrong. His determinism and strength of character is truly inspiring and like the gigantic scale of his work, speaks volumes for all those that learn of his journey as an artist.
Without knowing the title of the piece, or learning about Mark di Suvero, for some the sculpture may appear to just be a large scale piece steel, painted red. Thinking about the elements and principles of design, does the work fit well into its space? Look around; view the environment around the work. What would you change or keep the same? I believe both works fit the space where installed well. The proportion of the art in consideration of its placement is appropriate. However, with regard to the Lipski piece, it was slightly difficult to photograph and thus, view the sculpture in its entirely from one position.
Notwithstanding this small difficulty, it could be perceived that the progression in height, and the positioning of the catwalk immediately in front of the atrium may be symbolic of the progression of construction and building of a city—that with such construction or building, also comes hinderance and difficulty. As a local, how has viewing public art as an assignment changed your opinion about how to view art that surrounds our lives in Denver? This assignment has definitely given me a different perspective on public art.
Not to mention, shamed me in my ignorance of its existence. While, I have always had an appreciation for art, I am guilty of simply driving by or walking past public art without truly stopping or reflecting on why the same was placed there. Since arriving in Denver, I have had occasion to be at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building, several times in fact. Because I was so pre-occupied with why I was there, I did not notice that there were several installations of public art in and around the building.
Most of these pieces have symbolism and meaning closely related to the development, sustainment and diversity of Denver. From the entry, to the top floor, there is public art that has been erected or installed. Each piece worthy of reflection and appreciation. Because this occasion I went to view the Lipski piece on the atrium wall as part of this assignment, I also took time to appreciate the 22’ plumb-bob designed by Lance Kirkland which is suspended from the ceiling of the building and the beautiful 14’ granite sculpture just outside the building.
After leaving Denver, I asked myself, “how did I miss a 22’ or 14’ piece of art? ” I am of the realization that there is no clear answer to that question. However, I will endeavor to be more aware and appreciative of my surroundings. That such pieces are not randomly placed there and that perhaps what I perceived at first as a beautiful light fixture—although gargantuan in size, may actually by symbolic and possess greater meaning than just to provide light.