The University of Texas hosts one of the greatest campuses in the United States. A walk around campus, and you would see hard working students, revolutionary architecture, and...
...two giant balls?
Even as a gimmick, every monument on campus has history and meaning behind it. In light of the recent controversy revolving around the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue, let us cherish and value the wonderful art still scattered around campus. First-year students to fifth-year super seniors may look upon the monuments across campus with confusion, but never find the time to research their meanings. Upon first impressions, the art around the University of Texas is out of place and outlandish, but beyond the aesthetics, these landmarks are abstract applications of ideas from the artists’ lives. Without further ado, here are five of campus's most recognizable monuments:
The West (aka The Balls):
by Donald Lipski
Located in East Mall at the base of the tower, it is easily understood why this is such a well known set of spheres. The first misconception would be that the placement of the tower and two balls was meant as a phallic archetype; however, “The West” is actually a set of buoys, which would typically mark locations to anchor ships. This monument, made from deliberately corroded pennies, represents the anchoring of American traditions beyond its borders through its suggestive masculine structure. Typically situated in water, these buoys are out of place on land, just as American culture is abroad. However, Lipski intended to limit the meaning of “The West” to be solely conceptual so that viewers may speculate upon the limitless possibilities.
by Mark di Suvero
Located between the Chemical & Petroleum Engineering Building and the Engineering Teaching Center, the Clock Knot is a structure that could be viewed as many things: a clock, a compass, or a knot. This, in fact, is the precise reasoning behind its architectural design. Placed in a previous vacant field, the Clock Knot was created to change the landscape, depending on the perspective. From one side of the structure, the beams act as hands to a clock, but from another angle, the beams become extending strands from a knot. The Clock Knot accentuates the power of contrasting viewpoints and the diverse experiences that perspective can bring to a open-minded community.
Monochrome for Austin (aka the Canoes):
by Nancy Rubins
Located in front of the Norman Hackerman Building on Speedway and 24th, this collection of canoes is one of the newest monuments on campus. From afar, this monument looks like a blob of metal randomly crammed together, but with closer observation, the Monochrome is a structure of 70 carefully balanced aluminum boats. The engineering aspect of this piece is exceptionally remarkable because of how the center of mass holds steady amid wildly positioned extremities. The Monochrome opitimizes the connection between art and science, giving a visual interpretation of mathematical theories. Because the canoes are made of aluminum, the material has a long history, having existed as anything from recycled materials to compounds of the earth’s core to asteroids from outer space. The compilation of canoes portrays boats stuck in time, out of water, and out of place. Rubins, the artist, says that "it is nothing that we can put in words”, but “it’s a reflection of who we are as a culture."
Circle with Towers:
by Sol LeWitt
Located in front of the Gates-Dell Complex on Speedway, the Circle with Towers is a basic and simple structure that reflects the architecture of Stonehenge with rising pillars of rudimentary materials. The artist, Sol LeWitt, valued the concepts behind art more than the material sculpture. Made from concrete blocks, the structure is not flamboyant or complex. There was an idea that a blueprint of art, like architecture, could be created so that the final piece could mold humble materials into the artist’s masterpiece. “The artist is the thinker… and the idea is the machine that makes the work of art”.
And That’s The Way It Is
by Ben Rubin
Located on the Walter Cronkite Plaza at Dean-Keaton Street and Whitis Avenue, the building is in honor of one of the most respected news reporters in American history, Walter Cronkite. Visually, the building and its projections are attention-catching, but at times, it is difficult to follow the verbiage on its walls. The words streaming across the building are a combination of five current live streaming networks and the historical scripts of Cronkite’s legendary broadcasts on CBS news. It may be hard to differentiate between the two, but Cronkite’s words are projected in Courier font, while live scripts are Verdana font. The layered text gives viewers a rapid interpretations of the immediacy of news, while placing the present in the context of the past.
At the end of the day, most students will still take low-angle shots of “The West” and never understand a word on the projection of “And That’s The Way It Is." That's okay, however, because everyone sees art in their own way and there is no wrong or right way to appreciate it.
Keep Austin Weird!