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    Plaza and Garden


A plaza surrounds the Hirshhorn, and the space is used for some eye-catching work.

Tony Cragg Subcommittee (1991) – It's a collection of giant rubber stamps whose handles resemble human heads. Combine that with the piece's title, and it's kind of funny.

Lucio Fontana Spatial Concept: Nature series (1960) – Fontana, a sculptor, was one of the first to consider the artist's techniques as performance rather than the process of making art, sort of a precursor to performance art itself. Fontana's early works in this line started by slashing paintings, often done in shades of white to emphasize the tear in the canvas. These 5 bronze sculptures follow that pattern. The slashes are done in a single stroke, on a terracotta mold that's cast with bronze. The slash is supposed to relate to "the 'atrocious unnerving silence' awaiting man in space." We were thinking "It's walnut season."

Roy Lichtenstein Brushstroke (1996) – Better known for his pop art paintings, this is Lichtenstein's attempt to capture in three-dimensional sculpture the essence of the artist's brushstroke motion.

Claes Oldenburg Geometric Mouse: Variation I, Scale A (1971) – If you've ever seen a giant typewriter eraser done in sculpture – they're in Las Vegas, Seattle, and across the street here in D.C. – that's also Oldenburg. With Geometric Mouse, Oldenburg is emphasizing the geometric qualities in the shape of each part of the mouse's body, rather than trying simply to sculpt a giant rodent. Several other Oldenburg pieces are inside the Hirshhorn, on the third floor.

Yoko Ono WishTree for Washington DC (2007) – It's safe to say that Ono would be more highly regarded now as an artist if she had never been married to John Lennon. In the years before she met the Beatles, Ono was active in the New York art scene, with her own shows and critical success. This piece, Wish Tree for Washington DC, invites viewers to write down their hopes and dreams on small pieces of paper then tie them to the tree.

Mark Rothko Blue, Orange, Red (1961) – One of the most famous American artists of the last half of the 20th , Rothko was a pioneer in the Abstract Expressionist movement. Like those on display at the National Gallery, this work comes from late in Rothko's "multiform" series – by 1961, he's famous enough in the U.S. to be invited to meet the Kennedy family in Washington.

James Sanborn Antipodes (1997) – Antipodes is a two-part sculpture and coded message, written in Cyrillic and English. It's similar to Sanborn's more famous work, Kryptos, installed at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia. All of the Cyrillic side of this sculpture has been decoded (as have 3 sides of Kryptos) –it's a couple of Soviet-era documents on how to recruit sources, and some text on dissident Andrei Sakharov. The remaining unsolved sides are the sources of obsession for a remarkably large number of people.

Tony Smith Throwback (1979) – One of the leading sculptors in the Minimalist movement, this piece was done late in Smith's career. The title of this piece, though, indicates that Smith was going back almost two decades, to when he was experimenting with pyramid and hexagonal forms.

Kenneth Snelson Needle Tower (1968)– Snelson's work is interesting because it uses tension in steel cables to assemble large towers of steel and aluminum pipes. Without tension on the steel cables, the pieces would fall apart. The use of cables allows Snelson to great very tall, delicate works, and to play with perspective near the top of the pieces. This is a good example of his work.


Arman Eros Inside Eros (1986)– Arman is known for sculptures that are a collection of things – one of his better-known works is a stack of axes welded together. He's also known for "slicing" or decomposing his more traditional representations, and this is an example.

Jean (Hans) Arp Evocation of a Form: Human, Lunar, Spectral (1950) – Arp was already well respected within the art world by the time he made this, and would in a few years start winning awards for his works. The curves in this torso are a good example of Arp's style, and this particular piece is a good representation of Arp's sculptures.

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle The Great Warrior of Montauban (1900) – Bourdelle was an influential sculptor whose pupils included Giacometti and Matisse. This bronze work, commemorating the townsmen's effort in the Franco-Prussian War, was controversial when it was unveiled. The town thought it was getting a conventional "marching soldiers and parade horses" statue, not a nude in a literal battle of life and death. Many considered the work inappropriate. It took the support of Augustus Rodin to bring around the town. They eventually considered it a faithful representation of war's reality.

Anthony Caro Monsoon Drift (1975) - Caro was an assistant to sculptor Henry Moore, then switched to modernism in the 1950's. Monsoon Drift is typical of Caro's work, with an emphasis on geometric planes and textures. Also notice that you're allowed to walk right up to this piece. That's by design – Caro's intent was that it be observed up close, not from a distance.

Willem de Koonig Clamdigger (1972)– de Koonig became famous as a painter, and took up sculpture later in life. This possible self-portrait was done when he was 68, and is his first large-scale work in bronze. The rough texture and exaggerated features remind us more of Giacometti than, say, Rodin.

Mark di Suvero Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore) (1967) di Suvero is widely recognized as one of the first to use a construction crane as an artist's tool. This is considered one of his best works. We have no idea what it means, but it's colorful, proportioned well, and looks good.

Barry Flanagan The Drummer (1990) – It's an 8-foot tall bronze rabbit with a drum. That you'll be seeing in your dreams for weeks.

Alberto Giacometti Monumental Head (1960) – Giacometti studied sculpture under Antoine Bourdelle in Paris, and was one of the leading sculptors of the 20th century. He's best known for his tall, almost impossibly thin human figures, with rough surfaces and exaggerated features: Imagine this head on a statue about 30 feet tall.

Dan Graham For Gordon Bunshaft (2006) – Graham is known for these outdoor, architecture installations that feature unusual mirrors, glass, steel, wood, and stone. In this piece, you can simultaneously see through the glass, and see yourself in the mirror – have one of your group go around to the other side to get the full effect.

Marino Marini Horse and Rider (1953) - Marino is known for his equestrian statues that are modernist takes on Etruscan art, and this is a good example.

Henry Moore (Many works) (1952-1970) – One of the best-known sculptors of the 20th century, Moore specialized in the kinds of large bronzes you see here. The sculptures all come from Moore's post-World War II style, which featured reclining figures, sometimes of families, but whose bodies are often pushed to the limits of abstraction.

Susan Philipsz Sunset Song (2003)– No modern art garden would be complete without a sound installation! In this case, it's Philipsz's Sunset Song, which plays at a low, slow way as background music while you're in the garden.

Auguste Rodin The Burghers of Calais (1889), Crouching Woman (1882), Walking Man (1900), Monument to Balzac (1898) – Along with The Age of Bronze, these sculptures are some of Rodin's most important works. Like The Age of Bronze, The Burghers of Calais was controversial when it was unveiled. It tells the story of how six city leaders offered to sacrifice themselves to save Calais from the English army, the sculpture doesn't portrait any of them as heroic, noble, or larger than life. Instead, each of the half-dozen appears resigned to their fate. Adding to the unexpected design, the sculpture is installed near ground level, not on a pedestal like traditional public works. The Hirshhorn owns one of only 12 copies of this sculpture.

Rodin's Monument to Balzac has an interesting history. It was commissioned as a tribute by Balzac's friends at the Société des Gens de Lettres in Paris after Balzacǯs death. It did not go well for Rodin. The Société was expecting a two-year turnaround for the finished sculpture, but Rodin took seven years to complete just the plaster prototype. And even then, Rodin decided to sculpt Balzac's personality, not his physical appearance, so that the identity of the subject was hard to identify. (That may be a better idea than Rodin's earlier approach, which had Balzac nude.) The plaster model went unused for more than 20 years after Rodin's death. It was finally cast into bronze in 1939.

Other Lands at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (a Smithsonian Museum)