The fifth installation of 20th century American sculpture in the
Sculpture Garden has been selected from the public collections of
Washington D.C. We were honored to be asked to curate this wonderful
endeavor to bring increased public attention to outdoor sculpture. As
the National Gallery of Art begins construction on its own Sculpture
Garden on the Mall, it joins the prestigious company of the renowned
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which has been such a generous
lender to this particular undertaking.
The context provided by the design of the Kennedy Sculpture Garden
ensures that each of these works by American artists can be seen both
individually and as part of a whole, a tradition of outdoor sculpture
that strengthens with age. The objects range from Alexander Archipenko's
figural Gondolier of 1914, to Joel Shapiro's cubist Untitled
of 1989, to Judy Shea's surrealistic Post-Balzac of 1991. The
large Alexander Calder stabile, Nenuphar (1968), anchors the
installation, resting as it does at one end of the garden. David Smith,
surely one of the most celebrated of America's sculptors, is represented
by two freely-composed works,
All of these artists provide a wide range of subject, scale and material, allowing for a fascinating dialogue between and among the diversity of styles: for example, the muscular strength of de Kooning's Seated Woman on a Bench from 1972 and Richard Hunt's Large Hybrid of 1971; or the vertical rhythms of Harry Bertoia's Tonal Sculpture (1977) and Isamu Noguchi's Great Rock of Inner Seeking (1974).
The two indoor pieces, Immi Storr's Five Horses and Roy Lichtenstein's Untitled Head I, offer a scale more compatible with sheltered space, with their surfaces less vulnerable to the elements.
This installation, coming as it does from Washington collections, embodies the goal of many private individuals, whose vision inspired them to share their collections with us. The same vision is reflected in this White House and particularly by Mrs. Clinton, who with the support of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, has focused new attention on 20th century American sculptors. We would also like to acknowledge the ready cooperation of our colleagues Jim Demetrion at the Hirshhorn and his staff, Elizabeth Broun and her staff at the National Museum of American Art, as well as Rebecca Phillips Abbott and her staff at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I am especially grateful to our own staff at the National Gallery, whose willingness and professional expertise have made this project a delight.
Finally, our thanks to Rex Scouten and members of the White House staff, whose guidance has facilitated every step of the process. And above all, thanks to the artists represented here, whose talent provides us every day with immeasurable pride and pleasure.
Earl A. Powell, III