Admittedly, my principal interest was the architecture. I knew there was an astonishing collection of sculpture there. I also knew there were pieces that I wasn't seeing. I only really photographed the pieces with which I came into contact while exploring the architecture. My timing worked out perfectly doing it this way. Had I really tried to find every piece of sculpture on the property, I likely would have been there for another hour or two. I would eventually like to go back again, and maybe take some people with me to show them how extraordinary a place it is.
In addition to the ones I saw up close, they also have works by Jacques Lipchitz (Towards a New World, 1934), Seymour Lipton (The Codex, 1961), Aristide Maillol (Marie, 1931), Louise Nevelson (Celebration II, 1976), and David Smith (Cube Totem Seven and Six, 1961 and 1962), all of which I wish I'd seen because we have pieces of theirs at Lincoln Center. There's also a Kenneth Snelson (Mozart II, 1985) which I could barely see and an Isamu Noguchi (Energy Void, 1974) that I wish I'd spotted because I love his work. C'est la vie.
I think under different circumstances I might discuss these in a different order, probably chronologically (I love chronological order). As I mentioned, here I was more interested in how the sculptures worked with the architecture and the landscape. Besides, there are collections that make more sense in terms of the era when they were assembled (the works in Philip Johnson's Koch Theater come immediately to mind). This collection spans over a century. Stone himself continued to add pieces to the grounds until his death in 1978. Instead, this was the order in which I encountered them as I explored the site.
|Claes Oldenburg, The Giant Trowel II (1976)|
The Trowel was a great choice for this site, also. Unlike a desktop object identifying it as a corporate campus, this gardening tool beautifully emphasizes the natural, scenic qualities of the landscaped grounds. Still, there is also the connotation of industriousness, of work. It is a tool, after all.
|George Segal, Three People on Four Benches (1979)|
I'm not really the biggest fan of Segal. His work strikes me as being sort of creepy, almost so voyeuristic that it feels uncomfortable. In another sense, it has this not very subtle "interact with me!" quality to it that I find a bit too gimmicky. Evidently people occasionally plant big red lipstick kisses on their cheeks, which Segal liked. I will admit that they work quite well in this setting. The stark whiteness of them is perhaps more dramatic here, where it can allude to the "synthetic," than it might be in an urban environment where it could read as more about cleanliness or sterility. I will also concede that there are interesting connotations of brokenness and also entrapment, if you consider that they're basically encased in plaster casts.
|Henry Moore, Reclining Figure (1956)|
|David Wynne, Girl with a Dolphin (1974)|
|Henri Laurens, Le Matin (1944)|
|Henry Moore, Locking Piece (1962)|
If you look at that more closely, there is water trickling down the stone base. Of course, no one did that better than Noguchi; here it almost feels like a bit of an afterthought. Still, I always like water features and think there's never enough of them. There's something so soothing about flowing water that compares to little else.
|Henry Moore, Sheep Piece (1972)|
This is a little bit funny because it vaguely appears to be sheep mating. Moore said he would rather see his sculptures in a natural setting than adorning the most beautiful building in the world. Fortunately, this sculpture got both a natural and an architectural backdrop, and I think it works beautifully with both. This one was inspired by drawings he did of sheep on and near his property. The field where a version of it stood next to his estate was used by a sheep herder, which Moore insisted it be. You can find pictures of it with the sheep walking around through it and using it for shelter. I'm sure it's nothing magical, but I can't help but feel there's something transcendent about the fact that the sheep like it. I recently discovered that my cat likes Simon & Garfunkle, not that I'm all that surprised, but I think that's a great compliment to them. The same thing holds here. Of course, PepsiCo doesn't have sheep. Perhaps dogs are allowed on the property. I didn't see any.
|Gidon Graetz, Composition in Stainless Steel No. 1 (1979)|
The close-up shots are the best illustration of how the piece takes its environment and distorts, contorts, and reorders it. The fact that you can see me in them, as well (I had on a black shirt and brown cargo shorts), underscores how interactive it is. Its surface is so mirrored that the piece almost acts as if it wants to disappear altogether, leaving only the visual distortion behind, sort of like how the Predator looks when cloaked. It's purely about seeing a three-dimensional object. I'm not convinced that, by 1979, we really needed all that much more abstract sculpture in the world. For that matter, it's conceivable that Brancusi could have gone in this direction decades earlier. Still, I think it's a wonderful piece.
|Joan Miró, Personnage (1970)|
My encounter with the next one was sort of funny, too. As I was walking around the ponds looking for shots, I heard something in the reeds. Probably it was a frog, but I couldn't tell. It actually sort of startled me a bit. So I went to see if I could find the creature making this strange noise, and I discovered this.
|Robert Davidson, Frog (1985)|
|Arnaldo Pomodoro, Triad (1975-1979)|
I have absolutely no idea why Pomodoro has never been asked to do production design for a Science Fiction movie. He has done production design for Shakespeare's The Tempest, Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, and an opera at La Scala, amongst other things. But his aesthetic is incredible.
It was also a perfect choice for this particular complex. It's a bit plainer with his spherical pieces, which look like planets carved by fault lines or ancient riverbeds. But here, also, you have this absolutely rigidly perfect geometric shape, a cylinder, as perfect as the manicuring of the grounds in which it sits. Then it's broken open by a long haphazard gash, in this case like a tree that's been hit by lightning. The innards it reveals are these chic, industrial, extremely mechanical forms, like the inside of an old typewriter or an industrial strength grinder--much like the "grind" or industriousness PepsiCo executives no doubt hope will be going on inside the building behind it. There's also something quite architectural about these three columns, like the ruins of an ancient monument built by aliens from outer space.
|Henry Moore, Double Oval (1967)|
|David Wynne, Grizzly Bear (1976)|
|Alexander Calder, Hats Off (1969)|
While this is a stabile and not a mobile, his subject is a motion: people removing their hats. More than that, it's a motion that carries multiple levels of social significance. On the one hand, it may be deferential courtesy--removing one's hat is the polite thing to do. But deferential to what? To the natural environment? To the architecture? To the corporate might of PepsiCo? I'm not sure it matters. In this sense, this huge, bright, towering sculpture, impossible to ignore, professes its humility. In another sense, removing one's hat is a rejection of public formality, something demanded by being inside the privacy of a home. How one might choose to read the symbolism of the piece also has traditional gender roles attached to it, since hat etiquette varies markedly across gender lines.
The obscurity this creates in the reading of the piece is, I believe, part of its genius. It was created in 1969, when not only were the stuffy establishment concepts guiding social norms being questioned with great cynicism, but traditional gender roles were being entirely reevaluated. In purest Calder form, he's chosen the silliest, most innocuous manifestation of these cultural traditions to call attention to something much larger and more poignant. And in a way, it's exactly what his (and most all relevant) art was doing at this very moment in history: questioning the nature of formal, symbolic signification by pointing out its apparently arbitrary ambiguity.
|Jean Debuffet, Kiosque l'evide (1970)|
Debuffet's work with sculpture at this time had also begun to take on a vaguely environmental quality. This one is almost like a two-dimensional line drawing wrapped around itself to create a kind of "room." In a way, it's quite architectural. And because he was working primarily in black and white, it elegantly complements Stone's building. It's almost as if a giant monster bit off a chunk of the adjacent structure, chewed it up, and spit it back out again. Actually, it doesn't really sound elegant at all when I put it like that, does it. You know what I'm saying.
|Arnaldo Pomodoro, Grande Disco (1968)|
|Alberto Giacometti, Standing Woman II and III (1960)|
|Max Ernst, Capricorn (1964)|
|Auguste Rodin, Eve (1881)|
The choice of subject is pretty interesting here, as well. Coincidentially, Rodin's Eve was inspired by Michaelangelo, and it was also for his Gates of Hell, as was The Thinker. Unbeknownst to him at first, Rodin's model, Anna Abruzzezzi, was actually pregnant at the time he was sculpting this. He had to rework her slowly changing hips day after day and didn't know why until later. It was a fortuitous accident because Eve is, Biblically speaking of course, the mythological Mother of all Mothers. To me it's one of those acts of fate that makes this work of art truly transcendent.
She's quite obviously been cast out of the Garden of Eden and hides her face in shame. I think I already mentioned the Edenic quality of these grounds, so I won't belabor that point. The reason she's cast out is because she now has the knowledge of good and evil, but philosophically, knowledge and self-awareness. To me, this is the evolutionary moment where we ceased to be ordinary animals and became human beings. The analogy of carnal pleasures (leading to conception) being considered a sin may be a part of this equation. I think the relevant connection here is that knowledge, so valuable to the creative corporate work expected inside the building next to her, is exactly what prevents her from being permitted to enjoy the beauty of the natural world, like the landscaped grounds in which she stands.
All text and photographs ©2010, Ryan Witte