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‘Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century,’ newest installation on College Green

Sculpture explores male gaze, gender, human form, sparks thoughtful, humorous reactions

British contemporary artist Rebecca Warren’s 2007 sculpture ‘Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century’ is the newest addition to the University’s public art collection. The 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture was installed May 14 across from Friedman Hall on the Main Green and will be on loan to the University until 2026. 

After a lengthy deliberation process, Brown’s Public Art Working Group and the Subcommittee on Public Art decided on the installation of Warren’s sculpture. The group sees the sculpture as a provocative piece that complements the two other installations on the Main Green: Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining Figure No. 2 — Bridge Prop’ and Giuseppe Penone’s ‘Idee di Pietra.’  

Dietrich Neumann, a professor of the history of art and architecture and the chair of the Public Art Working Group, told The Herald that in selecting new artwork, the committee searches for installations that veer from the cliched and banal, “bronze men sitting on benches” type of art typically found around shopping malls. 

Instead, the Public Art Working Group seeks pieces that come with “enough depth of intention that they provoke discussions and (allow) for different interpretations that can be negotiated,” he said.

In that regard, Warren’s sculpture, a vaguely humanoid figure consisting of bulbous, overwrought features that reference comic strip artist R. Crumb’s exaggerated caricatures of the female form, is a suitable choice. 

Neumann particularly notes the sculpture’s striking irreverence and its reflective challenges toward recognizing, identifying and responding to gender and the human body. Without the usual smooth, gleaming finish, the uneven texture of the artwork’s clay-like surface reveals the process of how bronze sculptures come about, first through buckets of clay sculpted into a shape then used to make a cast for the liquid bronze, he said. The half-formed body, with the distortion of certain features on a female figure, prods the question of the male gaze. 

The ‘Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century’ also continues the University’s vigorous debate of what we put on pedestals in public space, Neumann said. From questioning the historical implications of the Caesar Augustus statue to the urging of more minority representation among local and prominent artists, Brown students have shown a surprisingly extensive interest in the artwork displayed in their day-to-day lives.

“Maybe at first, students can be really indignant about how terrible it looks, and maybe they realize that there’s something more to it than what meets the eye,” Neumann said. Upon the sculpture’s implementation, responses on social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook have ranged from scathing critique to hilarious interpretations of what Warren presented. 

Many students called for the return of the recently removed ‘Untitled (Lamp/Bear),’ more commonly referred to as Blueno, vocalizing their preference for the bright blue bear. 

Others voiced confusion, with one student musing that the sculpture looked more like a fusion of a snail, chicken leg and boots. Several questioned how the sculpture physically portrayed any of the concepts said to be challenged by Warren, while others commented on its unconventionality. 

“When I first saw the sculpture, I definitely didn’t like it,” Jonna Batten ’23 said, “but when I took a closer look I realized it has a lot of interesting shapes and textures that gives it its own life and character. I think it definitely fits with the other installations on campus, which are all pretty unique and eccentric.” 

I personally like Blueno more than the new sculpture only because I prefer concrete figurative art more than abstract art,” Jasmin Lin ’24 wrote in a message to The Herald. “In terms of the messages that (Warren) wants to convey, this sculpture fits with the campus very well in its alignment with Brown’s freedom in creativity and advocacy for gender equity.” 

While student response has been ambivalent at best, Neumann pointed out that Blueno’s installation five years ago was not well-liked. It might likewise require much discussion and contemplation for students to warm up to the newest addition to Brown’s public art collection. “Some students obviously will not like it,” he said, but “others might come around once they see the depth of thought that went into it.” 

For upcoming installations in the fall, the Public Art Working Group has been working with several artists of color and indigenous artists, including art work from Edward Mitchell Bannister and contemporary artist Njaimeh Njie.


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