Monday, January 3, 2011

But is it Art?

Transparent Horizons was gifted to East Campus sometime in 1976.  It was not the first controversial sculpture to have been placed on the MIT campus; the Great Sail had been acting as a wind foil for the Green Building since 1968.  But the residents of East Campus hated it with a passion.  It was as garish as its creator, Louise Nevelson, and it had a protrusion at one corner that was about belt-high on the average pedestrian.  And it was completely black - a condition that many an East Campus resident tried to correct with balloons filled with colored paint.  Campus Physical Plant personnel would then dutifully repaint the sculpture its proper black, and when the bricks at the base would get too paint-logged from the drippings, they'd simply turn the bricks over.  This kind of internecine warfare went on for several years, until those who remembered East Campus without Transparent Horizons graduated.  Then students took to removing and replacing the plaque that identified Transparent Horizons.  But the sculpture outlasted its detractors, and was soon joined by brothers and sisters - among them Henry Moore's Reclining Figure.

Transparent Horizons was made possible - or perhaps simply permitted - by the Committee on Visual Arts.  A student was usually picked by an undergraduate nominations committee to sit on the CVA, but the choice of art was no more influenced by student input than anything else at MIT.  Still, the CVA's antics allowed for some great Stickles humor...
(The Cains sign used to hulk over the athletic fields of West Campus, until it was torn down in a fit of urban renewal)

Now, I have nothing against modern art.  As much bloviating as there was about the elegance of MIT's acquisitions and how well they graced the campus was matched with equal amounts of incensed bloviating from the campus worshippers of Ayn Rand, whose objections to the art were that it was not in keeping with their Romantic image of hero worship, which called for massive granite odes to Capitalism.  But I like the clean lines and geometric form of something like this sculpture...
It's just, well, it has competition...
I had my share of misadventures with art and architecture, some of which will be documented in future blog posts.

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