Public Art on Campus
The Art Gallery of York University is committed to enriching the cultural and intellectual environment of the university. We believe that the creative energies and interventions of contemporary artists can enhance York’s environment, giving a prominent place to art within the university.
Enabling art to find a public role and to interact with the natural and the constructed environments seems important today. Creating public spaces that are transformative, that can stimulate the imagination by speaking to many diverse uses and users, is a guiding principle for the development of the York University sculpture collection.
Noire Solaire, Basse (Les Tables de Sable #2), 1993
Cast concrete, black cambrian granite
1.05 x 5.32 x 2.43 m
Passageway between BSB and Vari Hall
The art of Jocelyne Alloucherie is an amalgam of painting, sculpture, and photography, relating equally to the forms of furniture, architecture, and landscape. Noire Solaire, Basse (#2 in the series Les Tables de Sable), was created specifically for its location in the passageway between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences Building. Through its use of artificial and natural stone (concrete and black cambrian granite) the work references the landscape and architecture of its surroundings. Illuminated by natural light and positioned against the view of the neighbouring architecture, the volumes of pale grey and greenish-black stand out against the limestone floor.
Noire Solaire, Basse, commissioned from the artist in 1993, is the first publicly sited sculpture by Alloucherie in Canada.
Model of Man, 1967
Painted carbon steel
3.6 x 5.15 x 2.7 m
Approx 1/6 scale maquette for Man at Expo ’67, Montreal
Alexander Calder was a distinguished American sculptor, painter, illustrator, and engineer. Graduating with a mechanical engineering degree in 1919, Calder’s artistic career began in New York in the mid-1920s. During the 1930s he began to explore the problem of physical movement within a work of art, resulting in the form of the “mobile.” These mobiles were among the forerunners of kinetic art and were concerned with the expression of free and uncontrolled movement.
Calder coined the term “stabile” to refer to any piece of sculpture that did not move. Its genesis appears to have been in certain elements of the hanging mobile, yet the stabile provides a different experience for the spectator as he or she moves around the object.
The Model of Man is a 1/6 scale maquette for a a 21-metre-high stainless steel sculpture unveiled at Expo ’67 in Montreal, the biggest stabile Calder had made to that time. Originally entitled “Three Disks,” Calder changed the name to Man to complement the theme for the exposition.
It was donated to York University by the International Nickel Company in 1967.
Crisscross Flats, 1974
Rusted and varnished steel
3.03 x 4.1 x 1.25 m
East of Curtis Lecture Hall, adjacent to the Engineering Building
Anthony Caro, one of Britain’s foremost sculptors, accepted an invitation from York University during the 1973–74 academic year to work as an artist-in-residence. This invitation subsequently led to a period of intense work by Caro and his assistants at York Steel, where the cutting and creation of work occurred during the spring of 1974. Over the next year, 35 works underwent processes of assembling, fabricating, reworking, and finishing on the York University Campus.
Caro’s process of welding large sheets of raw steel and prefabricated fragments allows the nature of the materials and techniques to guide the elements of composition. Ignoring the tradition of the “pedestal,” Caro uses the ground as his base in order to involve the spectator more intimately in the sculptor’s space.
Crisscross Flats was donated by the artist to the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1976 in recognition of the cooperation they provided for the 1974 sculpture project.
Fontana d’Italia, 1993
Bronze, granite, marble
7.0 x 4.6 x 4.6 m
South west corner of Commons
Enzo Cucchi unveiled Fontana d’Italia (fountain of Italy) in May of 1993 following five years of planning. A painter and sculptor of the Italian transavanguard movement, Cucchi is best known for his emotive paintings of elongated figures inspired by Christian imagery and early Etruscan Art.
Cucchi envisions vessels and fountains as being at the origin of the sculptural impulse, and bronze as an enduring material for the presentation of a sculptural work. From a crevice in the face of each of the bronze columns, water emerges, trickling down the trunk, to be caught in the granite saucers below. Fontana d’Italia, one of seven fountains by Cucchi, is his first in North America.
This piece, realized in Rome by master-artisan Otello Scatolini, was a gift of the artist to York University culminating the relationship between the two, which started in 1989 when Cucchi was an artist-in-residence at the University.
Mark di Suvero
Sticky Wicket, 1978
Welded and painted steel, cables
6.71 x 13.7 x 4.27 m
Between HNES and Central Square
American artist Mark di Suvero emerged as a major sculptor in the early 1960s with the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. His degree in philosophy from the University of California, coupled with his studies at the California School of Fine Art, seems to infuse his sculpture with a subtle sense of spirituality.
Di Suvero sought to bring sculpture out of the confines of the studio, gallery, and museum into outdoor space. Celebrating industrial images and materials, critics surmise that di Suvero’s sense of monumental scale springs from the grandeur of the California landscape, San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. His work hinges on the fragile balance and tension between heavy girders, turnbuckles, and cables.
Di Suvero executed Sticky Wicket during the 10th International Sculpture Conference at York University in 1978. This five-day event assembled critics, art historians, and artists from various corners of the world. In 1979, Sticky Wicket was donated to York University by the artist.
Kobar 1/3, 1970
South of Harry Crowe Co-op
White Oak Trunk Unearthed During the Construction of the Common, 1991
White oak trunk, concrete, iron post
2.90 x 7.32 x 3.96 m
(no longer extant)
Vancouver artist Rodney Graham was invited to take part in Crossroads, an exhibition of site-specific sculpture on the York University campus during the fall of 1991. Each of the works appropriate to a particular setting selected by the artist, examined the public nature of art and its interaction with the natural and constructed environments of the campus.
Graham was attracted to the University’s location on what was once Ontario farmland. His project, White Oak Trunk Unearthed During the Construction of the Common, signifies man’s disturbance of the perfection of nature. The oak trunk, a found “sculpture” displayed as a museum relic, appears divorced from its natural environment, yet acts kind of memento mori when confronting the sterility of its new surroundings.
Graham wanted the work enclosed in a large display case in situ on the campus. The maquette and drawing for the proposed project were also displayed in the Vari Hall rotunda. White Oak Trunk Unearthed During the Construction of the Common was on temporary loan to the University from the artist, and the sculpture itself no longer exists.
Stainless steel, copper, anodized aluminum, plywood
4.16 x 2.74 m
Centre for Film and Theatre façade
Toronto artist Brian Groombridge has developed his own visual language of signs and symbols that he increasingly incorporated into two and three-dimensional wall and floor constructions. Based on 15th century iconography, Groombridge’s piece consists of two-dimensional images presented in three-dimensional form of a billboard.
Copper and stainless steel panels create a checkerboard-patterned structure which is surrounded by a latticework of exposed square tubing. Each of the steel plates contains an image of an androgynous figure juggling or playing a musical instrument. The use of copper in the piece refers to its importance within modern systems of communication to relay messages. Marking one entrance to the Centre for Fine Arts, the structure relates to the film, dance, and theatre activities of the building, and complements the architecture of the Commons.
This work was commissioned from the artist in 1991.
Kuzy Curley and Ruben Komangapik
Stanstead granite, brass, silver
1.9 x 1.8 x 2.5 m
Entrance to York Lions stadium
Funded by the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage Grant and York University as an effort to Indigenize York University’s campus, Inuit artists Kuzy Curley and Ruben Komangapik led the production of Ahqahizu. The sculpture was made from Stanstead granite, a stone particular to Quebec, and created through a method of carving unique to Inuit culture which involves no calibration tools or lines drawn onto the rock. The 26-tonne chunk of granite holding a Mohs hardness rating of seven required high skill and patience, taking over 200 days to sculpt. This was a rare opportunity for Inuit to sculpt at such a monumental scale and to become a presence on the campus. The completed work offers visibility of contemporary Inuit art to the South.
The production of Ahqahizu was aided by a collaboration with the Jane and Finch York TD-Community Education Centre, who enabled the artists to teach local high-school students how to carve soapstone and thereby connecting local youth to Inuit culture and creativity. Two of these students trained for and helped with the final production of Ahqahizu.
Ahqahizu is the first Indigenous addition to York University’s outdoor sculpture collection and is permanently displayed at the entrance of the world class York Lions Stadium. Ahqahizu was completed in time to welcome athletes to 2017 North American Indigenous Games. The sculpture illustrates a young Inuk performing an Alaskan high kick, an official Inuit sport of the Arctic Winter Games, and passes on the Inuit legend of the northern lights as souls who have passed away, playing soccer in the sky.
Rainbow Piece, 1972
painted fibreglass, 2.64 x 8.75 x 6.39 m
Scott Library Watercourse
Born in Montreal in 1939, Hugh LeRoy studied at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under Arthur Lismer for five years and was later elected as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1975. Most noted for his sculpture, LeRoy works within a constructivist idiom.
Rainbow Piece utilizes arched tubular elements with applied colour, an idiom particular to the artist’s work. Located within the pool of Scott library, the arcs of Rainbow Piece are reflected across the surface of the water, shifting with the movement of the sun and wind.
In 1987, LeRoy installed The Arc & The Chord, a carved wooden sculpture that responded to the natural elements, at the Toronto Sculpture Garden.
LeRoy is Professor Emeritus of drawing, painting, and sculpture in the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University. Rainbow Piece was purchased by York University in 1972.
Bronze, silicone rubber
91 x 231 x 91 cm
Central Square courtyard
Keep was commissioned by the Art Gallery for the courtyard of York University’s Central Square and unveiled May 23, 2000. The sculpture was produced with the assistance of technicians and students at York’s L.L. Odette Centre for Sculpture. This project not only gave Magor the opportunity to work on a scale and in a medium she has never worked before, but also served as a teaching opportunity to demonstrate the techniques and tools of bronze sculpture production.
The new bronze sculpture is in the form of a hollow tree trunk, sealed at both ends with a sleeping bag protruding from one end. It was cast directly from an actual willow tree, and the sleeping bag is a cast rubber mold made to withstand extremes in climate and temperature. The subject is human shelter and refuge in nature, raising conflicting feelings about shelter and security. The return to nature is an idealistic impulse, invoking the benevolence of nature and the deep woods as a natural retreat. Yet as Liz Magor states, such retreats “also suggest the condition of last resort: for the fugitive, the misanthrope, and the disenfranchised.”
Support for the commission has been provided by York Faculty of Fine Arts, The Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance Program, the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation and Mr. & Mrs. L.L. Odette Foundation.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, 2007
0.9 x 0.6 x 0.3 m
North side of Curtis Lecture Hall
William Hodd McElcheran
The Encounter, 1991
2 x 1.3 x 1.2 m
East end of Campus walk
Bust of Dr. Norman Bethune, 1974
0.6 x 0.6 x 0.4 m
Bethune College Garden
Four Squares in a Square, 1969–70
6.71 x 2.71 x 2.71 m
Located in the Scott Library podium
George Rickey, an American painter, sculptor, and art historian, was one of the leading exponents in the field of kinetic art. Author of Constructivism: Origins and Evolution, Rickey’s primary interest was the study of movement, its choreography and shape being the essence of kinetic art. Rickey anticipated that his sculptures, moved by the force of the air, would thus express its unpredictability and variation.
Four Squares in a Square, reflects Rickey’s interest in movement and its relation to imbalance and the equilibrating force of weight. It was purchased by York University in 1971.
Marble, cement, gingko trees
Chemistry building lobby
“I am interested in the manipulation of the common. This involves the use of imagery that deals with the phenomenon of physical world and the customs of a particular time or place.” Susan Schelle (The Power Plant, 1994)
Passage, a permanent installation created specifically for the lobby of the Chemistry and Computer Science Building in 1993, reflects the relationship between parallel systems of knowledge, as represented by the image of the book and the ginko leaf. Schelle layers her narrative with words such as: “purify, filter, sublime, essence, pulverize, solve, take, compose” to reference both the language of science and a romantic vision of the natural world.
The ginko leaf, as both an image and in its real form, represents the indigenous fauna of the local area. Passage was commissioned from the artist in 1993. Since 1986 Schelle has completed a number of public art commissions, notably Salmon Run (1989), a fountain project at Toronto’s SkyDome.
The Whole Person, 1961
Bronze and brass relief
9 x 4.1 m
Glendon College Theatre Wall
Granite and steel, 1.8 x 4.37 x 1.5 m
Outside of Stedman Lecture Halls
Aluminum, 2.5 x 2.5 m
Founders College West Entrance