steel and painted steel
436 in. x 219 in. x 214 in. (1107.44 cm x 556.26 cm x 543.56 cm)
Henry Melville Fuller Fund,
Mark di Suvero’s Origins
stands 36 feet tall at the entryway to the Currier Museum, serving as a visual marker and beacon to the public. Three steel I-beams, painted bright orange, form a sturdy tripod base, converging in a central knot of welded steel circles from which three I-beams emerge to pierce the sky. The strong vertical thrust of the I-beams breaks the horizontal line of the museum’s low, flat roof, creating a dynamic division of space. Contrasting with these static, looming I-beams, a wavy form of black-painted steel slowly spins on top in response to shifting air currents. This kinetic quality makes for a work of art that changes continuously over time.
Context and Analysis
Di Suvero began his artistic career in New York City, where he encountered Abstract Expressionism and began focusing his work on abstract, geometric sculpture. Initially, he used materials like wax, plaster, and wood to craft geometric sculptures. After being exposed to the work of artists like David Smith who were working with welded metal, he quickly moved from these traditional sculptural materials to industrial materials. Origins
exemplifies di Suvero’s mature work, characterized by monumental sculpture crafted from steel I-beams, forming abstract geometric shapes with an emphasis on unique divisions of space.
Di Suvero had studied philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, before moving to New York. The influence of this early interest and the effects of the accident and injury show up in a focus on balance and gravity in his work. As he puts it, “I’m always conscious of balance and gravity’s center point. . . . Gravity isn’t an adversary or an obstacle but an enabling force.” 1 Instead of fighting against gravity, di Suvero often uses it in a process called cold bending
, in which anchors and a crane are used to shape pieces of steel. His artistic approach is intuitive: “I don’t build small models or draw detailed plans first. I start with a vision, a dream of what I want to do and see where it goes.” 2 To work in this organic way, di Suvero personally constructs and installs all of his sculptures. In this he differs from most sculptors working with industrial materials, who have other professionals fabricate and install their work.
The artist explained the meaning of the title Origins
this way: “There is nobody in the world that doesn’t have origins. Some of them are origins that come from other civilizations, other cultures, but it deals with the roots of who we are.” 3 In this view, the central unifying knot of the sculpture is analogous to humankind’s shared source.. Di Suvero’s interest in the universality of humankind is rooted in a Chinese philosophical and religious tradition called Taoism, which stresses the value of living harmoniously with all beings in existence.
A major component of the Currier’s expansion project in 2006–2008 was acquiring a sculpture to serve as the focal point of the Zachos Court, located at the museum’s main entry. After considering work by many contemporary artists, the museum chose Origins for its scale and color, and the way it relates to objects in the museum’s collection. For example, it complements the mobile-like sculpture by Alexander Calder, Petit Disque Jaune
), which consists of painted metal disks delicately balanced by thin metal supports. In its use of painted steel, Origins
alludes to the wide range of materials that contemporary artists use to create art.
Written by Aimie Westphal
1 Myers 2011.
Castro, Jan Garden. “To Make Meanings Real: A Conversation with Mark di Suvero.” Sculpture Magazine
24, no. 5 (June 2005).
Mante, Janes K. Mark di Suvero
. New York City: Whitney Museum of Art, 1976.
Myers, Marc. “A Cultural Conversation: Mark di Suvero.” Wall Street Journal
, August 25, 2011.
Purchased by Currier Museum of Art, 2006