When I first toured Kenyon, as a sophomore in high school tagging along behind my sister, I was told by the tour guide that the giant statue in the Squad was supposed to evoke some kind of cell (neuron? particle?) structure, but students often compared it to a profile of Elvis with a spike stuck through it. Three and a half years later, I’m a sophomore at Kenyon and I’ve never heard it compared to Elvis and I have learned it has nothing to do with any kind of scientific structure.
I know the statue is on loan from Graham Gund, but other than that I knew very little about the statue, as aside from the name (Large Spindle Piece) until I discovered this Collegian article from October 24, 2002, which was written at the time the loan was announced. Read on for more info on Large Spindle Piece than you may care to know (unless you really like sculptures, then maybe its not enough).
Gund loans famous sculpture
by Amy Bergen
The Philip Mather science quad will soon look vastly different. Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Large Spindle Piece, a loan from architect and alumnus Graham Gund to the College, is scheduled to arrive on campus today and will be installed shortly thereafter. “This really seems to be a historic event at Kenyon,” said Acting President Sharp in a speech on Parents’ Weekend. “For my money, [Moore] is the greatest sculptor of the twentieth century, and we are very fortunate.”
“It’s a loan to Kenyon,” said Gund in a telephone interview. “I thought it would fit in the courtyard. Smooth, kind of organic forms would contrast with the architectural forms.” Gund designed the science quad as well as the Eaton Center, Storer Hall and the new Fischman wing, an addition to the biology building. “Graham Gund is probably one of the best persons [to select a sculpture],” said Acting Director of Public Affairs Shawn Presley.
According to Acting Provost Gregory Spaid, the loan was probably inspired by conversations between Gund and then President Robert Oden last year about the possibility of adding much more sculpture to Kenyon’s landscape. “[Oden] had this idea that the campus was a sculpture garden waiting to happen,” said Spaid. “Gund is a world-class collector of art and he took this idea seriously. This is just one more piece in a series.” The piece is intended to “follow through on an idea that we have really wonderful places to put sculpture on campus.” However, “this, in fact, was a surprise [donation].”
The work itself is one of six castings made by the English sculptor Henry Moore. In the art world, Moore is “certainly among a tiny handful of artists whose last name is enough,” said Sarah J. Miller, curator of the Gund Collection, in the October 7 issue of Fortnightly. “Just as you can talk about ‘Picasso’ when discussing painting, you need only say ‘Moore’ when discussing sculpture.” Large Spindle Piece, inspired by Michelangelo’s depiction in the Sistine Chapel of God creating man, is an abstract variation on the theme of the outstretched fingers of man and God. “Sculpturally, it’s two points just about to meet,” Moore said. “The work is on the same theme, only the two fingers are going out, not in.”
Moore’s fascination with Renaissance art, nature and the human figure are all brought to bear in his work. “If a work of sculpture has its own life and form, it will [seem] larger than the stone and wood from which it is carved,” Moore said in 1958. “It should always give the impression…of having grown organically, created the pressure from within.” Gund told Fortnightly that “the organic form, curvilinear nature and scale of the sculpture” encouraged him to choose it for the quad.
As a combination of the abstract and the organic, Large Spindle Piece will be a rather unorthodox addition to its Kenyon surroundings. “It’ll be a nice abstract form to contrast with the geometry that is in the science quad,” said Spaid, adding that “there needs to be something there” in the oval-shaped space in the quad. Sharp said, “I think the fact that it’s being placed in the science complex speaks volumes about the ideals of a liberal arts college, which brings all these things together.”
It remains to be seen how the sculpture will affect the appearance of the quad. The concrete base has been built. Spaid comments that “It’s intentionally off-center on the oval to make it more dynamic.”
Student opinions on the sculpture vary widely. Dave Donadio ’03 said he would “have to see what it would look like like on the quad before, before forming an opinion.”
“It seems like an honor that it’s coming to Kenyon,” says Casey McConnell ’05. “It’s artistically interesting,” says Rob Haile ’03. Andrea Dodson ’03 disagreed, saying, “I think it’s big and ugly, and I’m mad that it’s going to be up in my quad.”
Bobby Arkell ’04 concurred with Dodson, saying, “I think that if something is placed on the science quad lawn, it should try to at least resemble the older architecture found at Kenyon. A statue of a professor or a famous alum, or even a simple fountain would be great. Instead of having a piece of modern sculpture that no one understands, or to be honest, really cares about understanding, we should have a monument that will add to the tradition and beauty of the campus.”
For better or for worse, this revolutionary departure from the general trend of Kenyon sculptures is being shipped from Denver. Spaid mentions that no one really knows how long the piece will be here, but he imagines that it will be here a while. As “the latest in [Gund’s] continued stream of generosity,” it may be followed by other artistic and architectural innovations on campus.