University News

‘Circle Dance’ sculpture set to arrive on the Walk

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A sculpture created by artist Tom Friedman will be installed on campus within the next month. The “Circle Dance” sculpture was donated to the University by an anonymous donor and approved as a gift by the Corporation last month.
The sculpture will likely be placed on the Walk between Angell and Waterman streets, according to Dick Spies, interim senior vice president for University advancement.
“It was felt to be a great opportunity for public art to be on our campus,” Spies said.
The Corporation’s Sub-Committee on Public Art enthusiastically accepted the gift, Spies said. Over the subsequent few weeks and months, “Circle Dance” went through a standard approval process required for all substantial gifts to the University. The Corporation will generally not turn away a gift unless it is deemed inappropriate or not up to the University’s standards – for example, Spies said, “if it’s going to blow away the first time we have a hurricane.”
Spies said the donor’s reason for providing the gift matched the intentions expressed by the David Finn family in 1974 when they donated “Bridge-Prop,” the sculpture by Henry Moore that currently adorns the Main Green.
“They expressed hope that there would be many more” additions of public art, Spies said.
“Circle Dance” is currently on display at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London. Last year, the circle of 11 life-sized stainless steel figures – an increase in size from the original model, which the artist shaped out of foil oven roasting trays – also performed its never-ending dance at Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park in London.
“The disposable and everyday is exaggerated yet simultaneously transformed by Friedman’s alchemic touch,” reads the Stephen Friedman Gallery’s website. “The figures are at once light-footed and unerringly enduring; frozen in time yet brought to life on their reflective surfaces.”
Among Friedman’s admirers is Kelly Goff, continuing education instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design, who recently gave a text by Friedman entitled “Ingredients 1990” to his students.
“Ingredients 1990” contains “a list of questions that get at the heart of what an object is” and can be used in “associating that object with the process you would use to manipulate that object,” Goff said. “Students are tasked to begin with an object and ask themselves a zillion questions about it,” he added, helping them discover new information they can use to make the everyday object into a work of art.
Goff gave the example of Friedman’s 1990 sculpture “Untitled,” a ball five inches in diameter made of chewing gum. If you start with chewing gum, he said, “the logical process would be to chew it,” and from there, “naturally, to form a giant ball. This is the kind of process that permeates his work. … It opens up any object as fodder for sculpture.”
Goff described “Circle Dance” as “playful,” noting that it continues the artist’s relationship with childhood and childlike processes. Friedman’s materials, which have included Play-Doh and rubber balls in addition to chewing gum, reflect this theme, and he “works with them the way a child would.”
“His works that I really love aren’t really serious,” Goff said. “They’re serious in the work involved, but the objects themselves aren’t taken seriously.”
His only criticism of “Circle Dance” is that some of the prototype’s ephemeral, childlike quality had to be sacrificed in order to make it into a piece of lasting public art.
“The model with the roaster pans is more complete in my mind,” he said. “Stainless steel is more of an adult material.”
Nevertheless, Goff described Friedman as “an important living artist” who is “consistently contributing and shaping what contemporary sculpture is. He’s important to think about.”
Friedman will speak at Brown Dec. 5.