Philadelphia’s “Museum Mile” has extended to now included the backyard of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This week, the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden added new works on the one-acre site near the Museum’s west entrance, overlooking the Schuylkill River. The Garden’s outdoor gallery spaces currently feature works by Scott Burton, Gordon Gund, Sol LeWitt, Claes Oldenburg and Thomas Schütte, as well as a series of sculptures by Isamu Noguchi and the newly installed is Ellsworth Kelly’s “Curve I” from 1973.
Hovering just above the ground, “Curve I” is one of the few sculptures Kelly created to be displayed horizontally. Similar to Claes Oldenburg’s nearby “Giant Three-Way Plug (Cube Tap)” (1970), it is made of weathering steel. The surface of this industrial material oxidizes over time, developing a rust-red patina that has invested “Curve I” with subtlety and richness.
The work is one of the first outdoor sculptures Kelly made after moving to the New York countryside in the 1970s, marking the beginning of an especially prolific period in his career. Originating from the image of a flattened paper cup, “Curve I” is the result of the artist’s abstracting vision — simplifying an object that has captured his interest into a formalized geometric composition of carefully calibrated size and contours, both curved and straight.
“The most pleasurable thing in the world, for me, is to see something, and then to translate how I see it,” said Kelly, who also created the 40-foot “Barnes Totem” that stands in the garden of The Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“Ellsworth Kelly is surely one of the great artists of our time and Philadelphia is fortunate to have his work increasingly well-represented in both public and private collections,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Both ‘Curve I’ and the recently unveiled ‘Barnes Totem’ at the Barnes Foundation are extraordinary examples of his work in the medium of sculpture.”
While Kelly’s work has a subtle visual effect, the other site specific sculpture by Late Artist Franz West rises from the Garden in a contoured arrangement of animated shapes. Created specifically for the Garden’s Lower Terrace, “Lips (2012)” is the last commission West realized prior to his untimely death in July, and will serve as a testament to the powerful legacy of the artist’s influential work. “The installation of this exceptional sculpture that so richly animates the garden comes at a poignant moment as we remember Franz West and his many achievements,” said Rub. “It is a joyful, buoyant work that we hope will offer both a sense of wonder and pleasure to our visitors.”
The terraced Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden extends the institution’s vast galleries, encouraging an engaged dialogue with the city and Fairmount Park and is open to the public during Museum hours. For more information, visit www.philamuseum.org.