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|Lost Quad Cities: Removed, Relocated, and Recovered Public Art - Page 2|
|Art - Feature Stories|
|Written by Bruce Walters|
|Wednesday, 15 August 2012 08:28|
Page 2 of 2
New Contexts for Moved Sculptures
Near the entrance to the Davenport Museum of Art at 1737 West 12th Street were two monumental metal sculptures with rusted surfaces: Trapezium by Beverly Pepper (1981) and Sophisticated Lady by Clement Meadmore (1977). Pepper’s 23-foot-tall sculpture rose vertically from an anvil-like base. Though shorter by eight feet, Meadmore’s work was equally massive.
The two sculptures were removed on May 1, 2001 – more than a year before the groundbreaking ceremony for the Figge Art Museum, their intended destination once the new building was completed. The removal was part of the construction project to create an entrance and parking area for the Putnam Museum’s IMAX Theatre.
The Chicago company Methods & Materials lifted the sculptures by crane, transported them by flatbed truck, and reinstalled them on the lawn of Davenport’s Public Works Center (1200 East 46th Street).
The sculptures have now been at the Public Works Center for a decade, though their residence there was meant to be temporary. Trapezium is installed on an immense lawn, and Sophisticated Lady is near the entrance to the building. The building itself is appropriate for their scale, medium, and modern style, but the sculptures seem isolated and without context, as the center is located in a commercial and light-industrial area. Across the street is an empty field.
A third Davenport Museum of Art sculpture, Rhythm by Gene Horvath (1983), was also near the museum’s entrance. Though substantially smaller, it worked well with the other two pieces, as each emphasized the spaces between its angular forms. Rhythm has been in storage at the Figge since its removal.
Another sculpture by Gene Horvath has also been moved. Invitation was installed in 1982 at the entrance to the First National Bank of the Quad Cities in downtown Rock Island for the bank’s 130th anniversary. (See RCReader.com/y/horvath.) In 2011, the sculpture was given as a gift to the city when the bank building’s current owner, Modern Woodmen of America, made plans for exterior improvements. The sculpture is now located on Fourth Avenue near 17th Street – only a few blocks away from its original location.
When viewed from an approach to the bank’s entrance, the sweep of the sculpture’s arc was emphasized. At its current location on a one-way street, it will be seen primarily from an angle that highlights its openness. Its present placement in a flowerbed amid trees seems to bring out an organic, almost tree-like form in the sculpture.
Sol LeWitt’s Tower was installed near the entrance to the RiverCenter at 136 East Third Street in Davenport in 1984. Twenty years later, it was moved to the Figge Art Museum plaza. Although specifically designed for its original site, the 21-foot-tall sculpture is better-suited to its new location because of the spaciousness of the plaza and the work’s visual consistency with the minimalist architectural style of the museum. (See RCReader.com/y/lewitt.)
Since 1954, the granite sculpture of Black Hawk by David Richards has gazed over the Rock River from a high ridge at the Black Hawk State Historic Site. The location of the sculpture near the site of Black Hawk’s village, Saukenauk, is so appropriate and poignant that it’s surprising to learn that the sculpture was first in downtown Rock Island, on Second Avenue, for more than 60 years. (See RCReader.com/y/blackhawk.) The sculpture was moved from Spencer Square when the Rock Island post office was built on the site.
Two elegant sculptures of lions, originally purchased by Frederick Weyerhäeuser in 1889-90, were also moved from Spencer Square in 1954. They were placed near the south entrance to Longview Park. After 120 years, they were cracked and physically deteriorating. In the past few years, they have been replaced with new lion statues.
For decades, the grave of Charles H. Deere (1837-1907) in Moline’s Riverside Cemetery was marked by a large cross and a cast-metal sculpture of a woman approximately seven feet in height. The cross remains, but the sculpture was removed by the family in the 1970s after it became a target of vandalism and the subject of spooky stories about a black angel. In one story, a woman’s hair turned white after spending the night with the statue. In another, a dead boy was found in the sculpture’s arms.
The woman is now at the entrance to the Mandala Center in New Mexico on the Sierra Grande Mountain. Anna Hewitt Wolfe, great-great-great granddaughter of John Deere, founded the retreat center.
The sculpture is usually described as an angel, yet there are no wings or overt angelic symbols. Through her gentle gesture and facial expression, the woman expresses a sense of serenity. One hand holds a wreath (a traditional symbol of victory) and the other holds grapes (a symbol of the Eucharist). Removed from a cemetery and far from the urban legends about a black angel, it is hard to envision this sculpture in any other environment.
A Happy Ending
In 1976, thieves stole a 1905 Tiffany stained-glass window from the Denkmann mausoleum in Rock Island’s Chippiannock Cemetery.
Measuring 40 by 50 inches, the window was visible from outside of the mausoleum, its rich colors iridescent and radiant. Titled The River of Life, it is a bountiful image with flowers in full bloom and a golden river gently winding through the landscape. Partly because of our association of stained-glass windows with religion and its location in a cemetery, it is imbued with a spiritual quality.
The search for the stolen window by the cemetery superintendent, Greg Vogele, paid off after two decades when a Florida museum that specialized in Tiffanys informed him that it had received a flyer advertising the stolen artwork. Working with the FBI, the window was recovered from a residence in Jamaica, New York. The window was finally returned to the Denkmann family in 1997 and was restored. It is now on permanent loan to the Figge Art Museum and displayed prominently in the museum’s permanent-collection gallery on the second floor.
When I looked at the old photo of downtown Davenport, I realized that the familiar landmarks – rather than the location itself – create a sense of place and character. The Gateway Arch immediately identifies St. Louis. The Statue of Liberty is synonymous with New York. My immediate image of Rock Island is the towering mural of Black Hawk. These iconic public artworks tell us of the aspirations, ideals, and self-identity of these cities, as do more modest examples.
Those things are lost when a piece of art is removed or destroyed.
And when public art is preserved but moved, a new setting can either diminish or improve it, because artworks in public spaces are seen in relation to their environment, not in isolation.
The statue of Black Hawk is all the more meaningful because of its relocation to the Black Hawk Historic Site and positioning at the ridge over the Rock River. Conversely, the two sculptures at the Public Works Center have little association with the center or the surrounding fields or nearby businesses. Though the works themselves are unchanged, something subtle – but important – was lost when they were moved from the entrance to the art museum.
Bruce Walters is a professor of art at Western Illinois University.
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