UCSB On-Campus Public Art: Part Two

With spring underway and California on the verge of returning to some normalcy, please enjoy the second part of the Art, Design & Architecture Museum’s guide to UC Santa Barbara’s outdoor art. We previously focused on figural and kinetic sculptures, and now highlight works ranging from abstract steel creations to three-dimensional murals. Please take this virtual opportunity to explore the outdoor artistic treasures of our University.

The UCSB campus map detail presents locations of the public art discussed in this guide. We begin at a spot closest to Henley Gate, the main visitor entrance to our lovely campus, and finish at the AD&A Museum. Follow the path of the corresponding numbered points in the key below.

KEY:

  1. Ruins VI by Ernest Shaw, 1978.
  2. Shongon XXIII by Ernest Shaw, 1978.
  3. Ruins VII by Ernest Shaw, 1978.
  4. Up Ended by Clement Meadmore, 1969
  5. Folded Circle T and Arc by FletcherBenton, 2012.
  6. Untitled by Mowry Baden1981.
  7. Sandstone Rocks by Isabelle Greene,2005.
  8. Untitled by Tony Rosenthal, 1965.
  9. Against Forgetting by Penelope Gottlieb, 2019.
  10. Argus by Stephen Westfall2015.

Ernest Shaw (b. United States, 1942), Ruins VIRuins VII and Shongon XXIII (left to right)1978. Red and black painted steel. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Don L. Gevirtz.
Photos by Olivia Thompson

Ernest Shaw’s three industrial-style sculptures, Ruins VIRuins VII and Shongon XXIII, call our campus home. Shaw, a self-taught artist from New York City, draws inspiration from Buddhism and meditation for his art. He uses large steel beams to explore the themes of balance, weight and interconnectedness. The striking red Ruins VI sits in front of the Physical Sciences North building, contrasting with the classical architecture of the symmetrical façade and its light-colored columns. The tallest of Shaw’s three sculptures on campus, Shongon XXIII at the corner of the Girvetz Hall lawn facing the Library, projects its red painted beams skyward. Ruins VII, painted black, can be easily spotted near the bike circle in front of Storke Tower, especially by students riding to class. Sculptures from Shaw’s Ruins series—including Ruins X on the grounds of the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University—have been displayed across the country.

Clement Meadmore (b. United States, 1929–2005), Up Ended, 1969. Cor-ten steel, black paint. Gift of Ruth S. Schaffner. Photo by Olivia Thompson.

As you walk or bike past the Arts Complex, a massive shape lying in the gravel would likely capture your attention. Artist Clement Meadmore specializes in large steel sculptures with a focus on the dichotomy between heavy material and fluid form. Merging the simplicity of forms with monumental dimensions, Meadmore’s work demonstrates the influence of the Minimalism movement of the twentieth century. Many people see his twenty-four foot long 1969 sculpture Up Ended as a lopsided question mark. This interpretation seems fitting for the University, a setting of continual questioning and learning, as the painted metal reminds students of the primary reason for being on campus in the first place.

Fletcher Benton, (b. United States, 1931), Folded Circle T and Arc, 2012. Cor-ten weathering steel. Gift of Eva Haller and Dr. Yoel Haller. Photo by Olivia Thompson.

On the north side of the AD&A Museum, this 2012 steel sculpture by Fletcher Benton makes its presence known through its monumental size that appears to defy gravity. Part of the Beatnik movement of the twentieth century, Benton received recognition for sculpting large-scale, geometric structures. He went on to teach at several California universities, such as the San Francisco Art Institute and California State University, San Jose. Folded Circle T and Arc was made with Cor-ten weathering steel, a material that allows for rusting in order to form a protective corrosion resistant layer. The intentional decision by the artist to use the weathering steel offers various ways to consider the forces of nature, changes to the environment, and its effects on an outdoor sculpture.

Mowry Baden (b. United States, 1936), Untitled, 1981. Wood, stone, aluminum and concrete. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Art, Design & Architecture Museum, the UC Santa Barbara Art Department, the University of Victoria, and the Canada Council. Photo by Olivia Thompson.

By far the hardest to find sculpture among the public artworks presented here is by Mowry Baden. Concealed among the bushes behind the Arts Complex, the site-specific sculpture serves as a path to nowhere, with its platformed walkway coming to a sudden end, prompting visitors to contemplate their individual journey. Baden, a Los Angeles native, provokes wonder and even discomfort through his work. Concerned with the concept of awareness and subconscious expectations regarding the physical world, the artist encourages viewers to question their own movements through experiences of interrupted pathways, catwalks, and barriers. Students often enjoy sitting on the sunlit platform, located far from the busier areas of our bustling campus.

Isabelle Greene, (b. United States, 1934), Sandstone Rocks, 2005. Sandstone. Courtesy of Isabelle Greene. Photo by Olivia Thompson.

Walking back up the pathway, the guide brings us to the front of the AD&A Museum. Landscape architect and artist Isabelle Greene donated her sandstone sculpture to the Museum in 2005. Spending her childhood in Pasadena, Greene grew to know and love the mountains, deserts and coasts of California. As part of a family of architects—her grandfather and great-uncle founded Greene and Greene who popularized Arts and Crafts-style homes in Southern California—Isabelle merged her own interests in the environment, biology and art to be known as one of the originators of modern landscape design. Greene’s study of nature and the Californian topography resonates in her work, as seen in the sculpture Sandstone Rocks. Each element, carved from sandstone, weighs over three tons, and combines her landscape architectural practice with her aesthetic sensibility. Located just outside of the Museum’s entrance, Sandstone Rocks offers an inviting seat to passersby and museum visitors alike.

Tony Rosenthal (b. United States, 1914–2009), Untitled, 1965. Bronze. Bequest of Robert and Mercedes Eichholz. Photo by Olivia Thompson.

Next in our guide is Tony Rosenthal’s bronze sculpture affixed to the wall of the Arts Complex stairwell behind the Museum. Born Bernard Rosenthal in 1934, Tony was often called a “Public Art Legend” by his contemporaries. Known for pioneering the monumental public sculpture movement with pieces like 5 in 1 (1973) which towers over onlookers in New York City at a height of 35 feet, Rosenthal also produced smaller works. At a width of five feet, the bronze sculpture on campus presents a similar grandeur and solidity generally associated with his larger works. Interested in the visualization of geometric shapes, Rosenthal often plays with optical illusions. The bronze sculpture likens itself to a three-dimensional painting, as the individual bronze elements appear to jump off of the wall.

Penelope Gottlieb, (b. United States, 1952), Against Forgetting, 2019. Digital print, vinyl, aluminum over panel, acrylic, and ink. Incoming loan, courtesy of the artist. Photos courtesy of the AD&A Museum.

Penelope Gottlieb, UC Santa Barbara alumna (MFA, 2004), returned in 2019 to create a bold and vibrant mural. Located along the exterior walls of the Arts Complex corridor, Against Forgetting is difficult to miss. The larger-than-human size botanicals of the mural seem to be exploding out of the flat surfaces of the buildings and walkway. Turning to her favorite subject of extinct native plants, Gottlieb illustrates the vivacity of flora reclaiming architecture. At first glance, her lively painting seems quite cheerful. Yet, upon closer inspection, extinct plant species appear at war with invasive and non-native plants, such as the yellow potentilla flower. Using the regional history of Santa Barbara’s botanicals, Gottlieb accentuates these endangered species, while simultaneously concealing their plight in vibrant shapes and colors.

From the Museum’s Exhibition Design department, we learn about the intricacies of preparing for the installation of Gottlieb’s sizable work. “We did a lot of looking into the ceiling for attachment points and possible interference (i.e., we didn’t want to drill into anything like a sprinkler line or electrical supply, etc.),” says head designer Mehmet Doğu. “Todd [Anderson, assistant exhibition designer] also completed a lot of research into a variety of hardware options for connecting the panels to the ceiling. [We] set up the wall to install the large background image and Todd trimmed out the perimeter of the mural and the connection to the ceiling piece with wood that was then painted.”

Penelope and her team provided the painted panels, which were then installed by the Exhibition Design team, and the screws affixing the panels to the walls and ceiling were then touched up with paint. The mural’s overwhelming botanical environment was further heightened by the trompe l’oeil cracks on the ceiling—suggesting the strength of the flowers bursting through the cement overhang, showing a bit of sky—painted by MFA (2020) student Marshall Sharpe.

Stephen Westfall, (b. United States, 1953), Argus, 2015. Wall painting. Museum purchase. Photo courtesy of the artist and Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

At the Museum, one only needs to take a peek around the corner to come face to face with Argus, the colorful and geometric mural by artist alumnus Stephen Westfall (MFA, 1978). Completed in 2015, Argus encapsulates the mesmerizing and organized abstraction that Westfall frequently explores. The mural’s bold pattern, lines, and colors have provided countless students with a picture-perfect background for their Instagram posts and #futuregaucho college announcements.

Fatima Verduzco (student artist), San Miguel Stage Mural Project, 2020. Detail (left). Photographed in November 2020 by Olivia Thompson.

UC Santa Barbara’s public murals also include independent, student-made art in what is known as the San Miguel Stage Mural Project. Located on the stage outside of the San Miguel residence hall, the student mural wall hosts several murals, each an independent work of art. Though the murals are not included on the public art map, they can easily be found in the freshman housing section of campus, south of the University Center. Beginning in 2013, when the project was initiated, a mural is replaced each year with a new creation, providing a wonderful opportunity for campus visitors and the community to appreciate the talents of our student artists through the years. Fatima Verduzco painted the most recent mural in November 2020 that references the diversity of the student body with an abstract representation of the many faces of the University. Learn more about the project and previous renditions on the UCSB Housing blog.

San Miguel Stage Mural Project. Murals from previous years. Photographed in November 2020 by Olivia Thompson.

With an eventual reunion on campus in sight, remember to keep an eye out for each of these incredible artworks, as well as new additions to the student mural wall. From the monumental size of the Up Ended sculpture to the floral explosion of the Against Forgetting mural, each work of art speaks to a diverse range of mediums and artistic traditions. As access to certain campus facilities become available during Spring quarter, remember to take a moment to enjoy UC Santa Barbara’s eye-catching public art on campus.

Acknowledgements

I greatly appreciate the help of Museum staff members, Susan Lucke, Collections Manager & Registrar, Julia Larson, Archivist of the Architecture and Design Collection, Mehmet Doğu, Exhibition Designer, and Sophia McCabe, Academic Coordinator.

Olivia Thompson, Museum Intern

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