Columbia’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs has released this new video documenting some of the recent conservation work that took place on campus this summer. Stay tuned for more photos and information about some of the sculptures recently conserved on campus.
Art Properties, Avery Library, and Columbia Facilities is pleased to be working with Conservation Solutions/EverGreene Architectural Arts Inc. for the cleaning and conservation of a few public outdoor sculptures on the Morningside campus in July 2018. The most important work on campus that will be affected by this short-term project will be Alma Mater. Other sculptures that will have conservation work done this month will be Le Marteleur outside the Engineering school; the Battle of Harlem Heights relief sculpture on Broadway near the Earl Hall gate; the two-part Rives Memorial reliefs on College Walk; and the Mitchell Memorial on the exterior wall of Hamilton Hall. Many of the employees of EverGreene are alumni of GSAPP’s Historic Preservation program and we are delighted to have them back on campus working on these sculptures.
Anyone walking past Uris Hall these days will now notice that Clement Meadmore’s sculpture The Curl is looking better than ever, or at least better than it has for the past 15+ years. Seeing it in its newly-conserved state, the viewer can appreciate fully Meadmore’s intent of using the painted surface of the sculpture to create a sleek, sinuous form that belies the weight and hard materiality of its Cor-Ten structure. Although rust is a natural part of the appeal of Cor-Ten steel, environmental conditions led to the erosion of the steel in some parts and an adverse reaction with the paint. After nearly three months of conservation work spearheaded by Conservation Solutions, Inc.–to whom we owe our thanks for all their hard work–we are now pleased to showcase Meadmore’s masterpiece in its newly-conserved state. Upon seeing the sculpture, Ellen Goldberg, Trustee of the Meadmore Foundation, recently responded with exuberance that “Clem” would be thrilled with the results.
In September, The Curl was dismantled and removed from the campus, then traveled to Virginia, where in a warehouse layers of old paint were removed and the entire sculpture pressure-cleaned to remove all the rust. Areas of degradation and fissures in the surface were repaired with new steel. The entire sculpture was then sprayed with a zinc coating to strengthen its resistance to natural degradation, then sanded to create an even surface, but respecting the original surface conditions from when the sculpture was first made. Once the sculpture returned to campus, it was housed in a tent so the final coats of paint could be rolled on, as they would have been applied in Meadmore’s day. Only when the sculpture was fully dry and cured was the tent removed to reveal the sculpture in its revitalized form. To see more photos of the return of the sculpture to campus, go to the Avery Library blog, https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/avery/2015/12/22/the-curl-is-back/.
A brief rededication ceremony was held on December 16, 2015, to celebrate the beauty of this sculpture and its importance to Columbia, and to acknowledge all of Columbia’s partners for their critical roles in bringing this project to fruition: Office of the Provost, Columbia Business School, Columbia University Facilities, Columbia University Libraries, the Meadmore Task Force and the Committee on Art Properties.
To see the latest video produced by Columbia’s Office of Communications about The Curl, including historical footage and highlights from the recent rededication ceremony, go to https://vimeo.com/columbiauniversity/review/149888572/2bfc55c0a5.
As with all the public outdoor sculpture, we kindly remind everyone to please respect these sculptures by not climbing on them or abusing or vandalizing them in any way. By doing this, you are helping to ensure the long-term preservation of these important art works for generations to come. Thank you.
Image Credit: Clement Meadmore, The Curl, 1968, Cor-Ten steel with paint, Gift of Percy Uris (1968.3.1), Photo: Brett Essler, Columbia Business School.
Here are a few recent photos, taken by Avery Library’s Registrar & Digital Content Librarian, showing the dismantling of Clement Meadmore’s Curl as it makes its way off-site to be conserved and returned later in the fall semester. To see even more great images, visit the Avery Library blog for images from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the dismantling process. If you have your own images that you want to share with us, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservation day has arrived! The Curl by Clement Meadmore, the large sculpture installed outside Uris Hall, is about to undergo a major conservation project. Those following the Public Outdoor Sculpture at Columbia blog may recall our previous posts about this work, including a video about its history and deteriorating condition over decades of exposure to NYC environmental conditions. In both of those posts we noted that a task force was exploring conservation options for this sculpture, and those plans are now in place.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, September 8 and 9, Conservation Solutions and their riggers will dismantle the sculpture, and on Thursday, September 10, the sculpture will be moved off-site so conservation work may begin. The sculpture will be reinstalled later in the fall semester, looking as good as it did when it arrived on campus nearly fifty years ago.
Among the more significant works of public outdoor sculpture on the Morningside Campus, the Curl by Clement Meadmore (1929-2005) was commissioned by Percy Uris (1899-1971), businessman and benefactor of the Columbia Business School. Meadmore received his training as a sculptor in Australia, and in the 1960s emigrated to the United States where he was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the improvisational sounds of jazz. Curl was the artist’s first commission for a large-scale public monument and in 1968 it was installed on the lawn of the new Business School building, which Uris had endowed. This sculpture made Meadmore’s international reputation, and he went on to receive numerous other commissions for public outdoor sculptures from universities, corporations, and cities around the world.
Meadmore began experimenting with Cor-Ten steel, at that time a new product, and he developed his signature fluid-like geometric sculptures that belie the industrial materiality of the metal from which they are made. The inherent nature of Cor-Ten steel is that it rusts, and in the oeuvre of artists such as Richard Serra this rust effect is seen as part of the sculpture’s aesthetic. Meadmore’s interest in painting his steel structures, however, gave them a more pure and streamlined appearance. Unfortunately, over time, the degradation of the paint in combination with the oxidating steel resulted in a number of structural issues. When the Curl conservation project is completed, the revitalized sculpture’s fissures and gaps will be repaired, the rust will have been removed, and a fresh uniform coat of paint will restore the beauty of this work similar to its origins as Meadmore intended.
Acknowledgments are due to everyone who has worked on bringing this project forward, including the Office of the Provost, the Meadmore conservation task force, the Columbia Business School, Columbia Facilities, and the Columbia University Libraries.
If you are strolling around the Morningside campus this week and next week, you will notice people working in the hot sun treating three bronze sculptures: William Ordway Partridge’s two statues of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, and Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Conservation Solutions has been contracted to clean, treat, patinate, and rewax these statues and their pedestals, to freshen them up and stabilize the condition of each sculpture.
Since the statue of Jefferson outside the School of Journalism is celebrating his 100th birthday this year, this seemed like a great opportunity to give him a “facelift.” Similarly, Jefferson’s partner Hamilton, installed in 1908 outside Hamilton Hall, needed cleaning and treatment. Unfortunately, the Rodin sculpture recently had been vandalized, someone having brushed and sprayed gold paint onto parts of the statue, so it too needed treatment to remove the paint and restore the statue’s protective wax finish.
The two pictures you see here show the conservators using blow torches for the application of hot wax. As noted on this blog, the care and protection of public outdoor sculpture is costly, but critical to the long life of these beautiful works of art. Stay tuned for more news about conservation and the public outdoor sculpture at Columbia, and say thank you to the staff from Conservation Solutions!
The image you see here was published a few months ago on the BWOG, Columbia’s student-run campus news site. Although the caption suggests that their editorial group appreciated the skateboarder’s midnight riding skills (“color us impressed”), in fact this kind of activity on a public outdoor sculpture is one of the worst things that can happen to the work of art itself. Sculptures in stone and metal naturally suffer from the elements of nature, from acid rain to guano, but they also suffer a great deal from the acts of humans. This ranges from the unconscious touching of sculptures, leaving oil residue that erodes the surface, or outright vandalism and abuse of the works of art themselves. Skateboarding on Clement Meadmore’s Curl clearly is an example of this latter abuse. This sculpture has been interpreted as many things, but the one thing that can be confirmed is that it is NOT a skateboard ramp!
This abstract sculpture was the first commission for a public outdoor monumental sculpture that Clement Meadmore (1929-2005) received. Born in Australia, where he received his artistic training, Meadmore emigrated to the United States where he was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the improvisational sounds of jazz music. He began experimenting with Cor-Ten steel, and developed his signature fluid geometric sculptures that belie the industrial materiality of the metal with which they are made. Meadmore received this commission from businessman and philanthropist Percy Uris in 1967. The sculpture was installed at the Morningside Campus a year later as a gift from Uris to decorate the lawn of the new Business School building, which he had endowed. This sculpture made Meadmore’s international reputation, and he went on to receive numerous other commissions for public outdoor sculptures from universities, businesses, and cities around the world.
The natural degradation of the paint on the Cor-Ten steel has, unfortunately, made the Curl look less desirable today as it once did. However, a Task Force has been formed to address the concerns of this sculpture and to make recommendations for ways in which Meadmore’s first major work of art can be properly preserved and restored to its original glory. Stay tuned for more information about this.
And, as a reminder, please don’t ride skateboards on the sculpture!