Public Art on Campus
1 Jocelyne Alloucherie
2 Alexander Calder
3 Anthony Caro
4 Enzo Cucchi
5 Mark di Suvero
6 Kosso Eloul
7 Rodney Graham (no longer exists)
8 Brian Groombridge
9 Kuzy Curley and Ruben Komangapik
10 Hugh LeRoy
11 Liz Magor
12 David McDougall
13 William Hodd McElcheran
14 John Reynolds
15 George Rickey
16 Susan Schelle
17 Lionel Thomas (on Glendon Campus)
18 Armand Vaillancourt
19 Walter Yarwood
In the early 1970’s York University acquired, through purchases and donations, a number of large-scale works of art by prominent sculptors such as Alexander Calder, Anthony Caro, Hugh LeRoy, Mark di Suvero, and George Rickey. These works were permanently installed on the campus grounds. Our goal today is to build on this important nucleus, enabling artists of our own day to create new works through the sponsorship of site-sensitive installations for locations across the York University campus. A step in this direction has been made in commissioning works by Jocelyne Alloucherie, Enzo Cucchi, Rodney Graham, Brian Groombridge, Susan Schelle, and Liz Magor.
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.
Jocelyne Alloucherie (1947– ), born in Québec City, is a sculptor and academic. Her work often integrates drawing and photography into installations, rooted in intellectual rigour and clarity and defined by a personal visual vocabulary and definition of space.
Alloucherie began her artistic career in the early 1970s. She studied Fine Arts at the Université Laval in 1971 and received an MFA from Concordia University in 1981. Her work combines the disciplines of sculpture, architecture, photography, installation, drawing, and painting, to conceptually and poetically explore the relationships between image, object, and place. She plays with the ambiguous components that resemble architectural archetypes, urban or domestic furniture, without making any direct reference to reality. She often produces sculptural and pictorial installations ranging from human-scale to monumental.
Alloucherie has exhibited in major museums and institutions, including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (1998); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1995); the Vancouver Art Gallery (1996); Grand Palais, Paris (2008); and Musée des beaux-arts du Canada (2020). She also received numerous prestigious awards in Canada, such as the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award of the Canada Council for the Arts in 1989, the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2000, the Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.
As an academic, Alloucherie has taught visual arts and art history at the Université Laval, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Concordia University, and the University of Ottawa.
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
Patio south of Centre for Film and Theatre
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.
Alexander Calder (1898–1976) was an American artist whose practice most notably includes mobile kinetic sculptures powered by motors or air currents, wire sculptures, jewelry, and outdoor public artworks.
Calder trained as a mechanical engineer at the Stevens Institute of Technology in his early twenties. He started painting a couple of years later, which he continued throughout his career. His background in engineering influenced his stylistic turn towards kinetic sculptures.
Calder studied drawing under George Luks and Boardman Robinson at the Art Students League in New York. His first exhibition of paintings took place at Artist’s Gallery in 1926. Shortly after, Calder moved to Paris in 1926 where he became more familiar with the European Avant-Garde and garnered attention from notable figures such as Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp with his performance Cirque Calder (1926–1931) and wire sculptures. Calder had his first solo show in 1929 at Galerie Billiet in Paris.
Calder’s early mobiles were powered by motors but later transitioned to use human interaction and air to create motion in his work. In 1943, he had a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Calder is also known for creating monumental public art sculptures in the 1950s and 1960s. His works are held in the collections at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Whitney Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Gallery of art in Washington DC, and the Tate Gallery in London.
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.
Sir Anthony Caro (1924–2013) was a British Modernist who was known for his abstract sculptures in metal, however, he also worked in stone, wood, and paper. He studied sculpting at Regent Street Polytechnic and furthered his studies at The Royal Academy Schools in London. His work came into public prominence in the 1960s. Caro’s sculptures often sit at ground level as he believed it allowed for a more intimate engagement with viewers.
In the 1950s, while working as an assistant for Henry Moore, Caro encountered Modernism and switched from his earlier figurative style to create more abstract sculptures. Caro is best known for his works in metal which were completed with a coat of bright paint, as seen in works like Twenty Four Hours from 1960. Although there were other artists who had removed the pedestal from their works before him, Caro is often accredited with this innovative idea of having sculptures sit at viewer level.
From 1953 until 1981, Caro taught sculpting at St. Anthony’s School of Art in London, England and taught the likes of Peter Hide, Philip King, Tim Scott, and many more.
Between the academic school year of 1973 to 1974, Caro accepted an invitation from York University to be the artist-in-residence. With his assistants at York Steel, the spring of 1974 saw the cutting and creating of works. Over the next year, thirty-five works were created, assembled, re-worked, and finalized on the York campus.
In the 1980s, Caro along with Robert Loder founded The Triangle Arts Trust (now The Triangle Network), an arts foundation which brings together artists from around the world to workshop, discuss, and push the boundaries of their work.
Caro has had major exhibitions world-wide including at institutions such as The Tate Britain in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Trajan Markets in Rome, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and various museums in France. In 1987, Anthony Caro was knighted and received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Sculpture in 1997.
In October of 2013, Caro died of a heart attack.
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.
Enzo Cucchi (1949–) is an Italian painter born in Morro D’Alba, Ancona. He was a member of the Italian Transavanguardia movement that was active in the 1980s with Francesco Clemente, Sandro Chia, Mimmo Paladini, and Nicola De Maria. The movement was part of the wider Neo-Expressionists movement, known for its break away from minimalism and re-introduction of bright colours, symbolism, and figuration.
Cucchi’s large-scale oil paintings are characterized by their vibrant colours, mythic quality, and surrealistic landscapes. Along with being a self-taught painter, Cucchi is also a writer and often displays his paintings alongside his poetic verses. In the 1980s, he began experimenting with more unconventional techniques, such as drawing on walls, using ceramics, or incorporating painted images into sculpture. Cucchi has also worked on projects such as church altarpieces, book illustrations, and stage design for theatre and opera.
Cucchi’s first major retrospective was at the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1986. His work has also been exhibited at notable places such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, and The Tate in London, UK. He was also commissioned to do large public art projects, including the Bruglinger Park, Basil, 1984; the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Copenhagen; and Fontana d’Italia, a fountain at York University, Toronto, 1993. In 2007, the Venice Museo Corner celebrated his career with a retrospective exhibition that opened simultaneously with the 52nd Venice Biennale. He lives and works in Rome and Ancona.
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.
Mark di Suvero (1933–) is an American sculptor born in Shanghai, China. He often uses materials salvaged from demolished buildings, and his works are directly influenced by Abstract Expressionist painters, such as Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock.
Born in Shanghai to Venetian parents, di Suvero immigrated to San Francisco with his family in 1941. After studying sculpture and philosophy at UC Berkeley in 1957, di Suvero moved to New York City. He spent two-years in the East Village and moved to 195 Front Street, an artistic community, where his neighbors were Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg.
Di Suvero used found materials from demolition sites. He worked with wooden beams, planks, rope, chains, and metals to build dynamic sculptures that matched the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists in exuberance and size.
In 1960, di Suvero held his debut exhibition at the Green Gallery in Manhattan, displaying three works: Hankchampion(1960), Che Farò Senza Eurydice (1959), and Barrel (1959), where he met critical acclaim and was announced as a key modernist sculptor.
After creating a fifty-five-foot-tall sculpture named Peace Tower in Los Angeles in 1966 in protest of the Vietnam War, di Suvero left America for Europe as a means of demonstrating his contempt for the war.
In 1975, he became the first living artist to have work exhibited in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. Two years later, he established the Athena Foundation to help support other artists. His public sculptures are installed in cities around the world and can be found in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Whitney, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Di Suvero’s work is also at the Storm King Art Center, where the sculptor recently supervised the installation of a massive work, close to one hundred feet tall, called E=MC2.
While living and travelling throughout Europe in the 1970s, di Suvero created a series of smaller sculptures which investigated balance and movement and interacted with viewers in a more intimate manner. In the 1980s, di Suvero returned to New York and continued creating art.
Kobar 1/3, 1970
South of Harry Crowe Co-op
Kosso Eloul is most recognized for his perfectly balanced geometric stainless-steel sculptures. Eloul’s work is marked by a minimum of two pieces which are typically balanced upon one another. Using simple shapes, most commonly rectangles, Eloul provides a sense of warmth and humanism to materials that are mainly associated with industry and technology.
The highly polished stainless steel not only prevents rusting but gives unity and order to the pieces, which are emphasized by the act of balancing that brings separate blocks together. Kobar 1/3 is one of three copies of the same sculpture throughout the city and was created at the beginning of the artist’s time in Toronto. Unlike some of his other sculptures, Kobar 1/3 seems like the two rectangle blocks are tumbling over, giving the work a domino effect. However, despite the fact that the blocks appear to be tumbling, a sense of unity is maintained in that both are leaning in the same direction. The unity is also seen in the point of contact upon which the blocks meet, incorporating the crucial element of touch that is common in Eloul’s work.
Kosso Eloul (1920–1995) was an Israeli sculptor born in Murom, U.S.S.R and moved to Tel-Aviv, Israel, at the age of four. He began his formal art training in Israel under sculptor Yitzhak Danziger in 1938. He then moved to the United States in 1939 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago School of Design. It was not until the 1960s that Eloul began making his signature geometrically balanced metal sculptures.
During his studies in Chicago, Eloul studied with the likes of Frank Lloyd-Wright and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and in 1959, Eloul represented Israel at the Venice Biennale.
In the 1960s, Eloul discovered his signature style of highly polished, abstract geometrical sculptures and his love for international sculpture conferences. It was his geometric sculptures that led him to global commissions in locations across North America, Europe, and Asia.
Eloul predominately worked in aluminum and stainless steel, and his sculptures often took the shape of rectangles balancing off one another at odd angles.
After meeting Canadian artist Rita Letendre in Italy, they married and moved to Toronto in 1969 where he remained until his death in 1995. During his time in Canada, Eloul created numerous public sculptures around Toronto, such as Meeting Place in 1984, as well as other prominent Canadian cities like Montreal, Ottawa, and Kingston.
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.
Rodney Graham (1949–) is a prominent multidisciplinary Canadian artist. He creates Conceptual work, photography, film, music, performance and painting, often conflating personal and art historical references addressing themes of nature, music, and pop culture. He was a member of the Vancouver School of Artists. Graham studied at the University of British Columbia where he studied under Ian Wallace and befriended Jeff Wall.
Graham’s work uses humour and irony to address the relationship of civilization and nature, often using elements of disguise, and the transformation of banality in traditional narratives. Graham’s notable lightbox works blend the personal and collective memory, recreating elaborate historical scenes with himself featured as an obvious character.
Selected solo exhibitions include Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada (2014); Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2012); Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, CA, USA (2004); and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK (2002), among many others. He has participated in group exhibitions such as Carnegie International (2013), the 13th, 14th and 17th Sydney Biennales, Australia (2002, 2006, 2010), and the Whitney Biennial, New York, USA (2006). His work has been met with international acclaim and he represented Canada at the 1997 Venice Biennale. Graham has been recognized with prestigious awards such as the 2006 Kurt-Schwitters-Preis and the 2004 Gershon Iskowitz Prize. In 2016, Graham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for his extensive contributions to Canadian contemporary art.
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.
Brian Groombridge (1953–) is a Canadian artist born in Sarnia, Ontario. During the 1970s, he studied art at Sheridan College in Oakville, the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and their associated O.C.A. New York Off-Campus Study Program. He works in various mediums such as screen-printing, letterpress, and sculpture. He has exhibited across the country as well as internationally.
Groombridge’s style is described as minimalist, and his works range from sculpture, installations, and wall pieces, such as the untitled relief sculpture hanging on the York University campus. His subject matter often revolves around the historical art world and pertains to elements of communication, construction, and measurement, as seen in his 2015 series dd/mm/yyyy at the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. Groombridge works in a variety of mediums including metals and wood, and his materials have often been referred to as economical.
In his early works, Groombridge attempts to physically represent fleeting ideas, emotions, and elements in the natural world. His work also investigates his interest with space and fixed dimensions.
Groombridge’s complex works often refer to the transient nature of things and rely on structure and measurement to suggest ideas.
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.
Ruben Komangapik (1976–) is an Inuit artist and musician from Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Nunavut. He has a diploma from Nunavut Arctic College in jewelry and metalwork and is known for his mixed-media sculptures.
Kommuatuk (Kuzy) Curley (1984–) is an Inuit artist, director, and videographer from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Nunavut. He is known for his carved sculptures which range in both size and stone.
Both artists have accredited their grandparents as inspiration for their art, as it was their grandparents who taught them about their Inuit culture and heritage.
Ruben especially praises his paternal grandfather, Joshua, as he is the one who taught Ruben how to create things by hand, from the likes of tools and furniture, and from a variety of materials, such as metals and whale bone.
Like Ruben, Kommuatuk also learned to carve from his family and after beginning his professional career at the age of sixteen, has become the third-generation carver.
In 2016, Ruben and Kommuatuk teamed up for a commission by York University for the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage project and created the twenty-six-tonne granite sculpture, Ahqahizu.
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.
Hugh LeRoy (1939–) is a Canadian sculptor born in Montreal. A student of Arthur Lismer and Louis Dudek at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design, LeRoy became a Professor Emeritus at York University and has taught at many other schools across the country.
His works include both natural and humanmade materials such as stone, wood, plexi and fiberglass, resin, charcoal, and metal. LeRoy’s works have been described as Abstraction, for his focus on colour, line, shape, and texture, Minimalism, and Constructivism.
LeRoy is notable not only for his works, but for his belief of art for art’s sake. That is, he enjoys making art as opposed to thinking or theorizing about art. He has been quoted stating that he enjoys making “useless things” that happen to be lumped into the category of modern art.
Despite his beliefs about his own work, LeRoy’s pieces are displayed throughout the country in both public and private spaces. Some of his monumental pieces include Rainbow Piece (1972) on the York University campus, and Four Elements Column (1967) in René-Lévesque Park in Quebec.
In his lifetime, LeRoy has received three Canada Council Grants, a UNESCO fellowship, and has been elected as an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
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.
Liz Magor (1948–) is a Canadian visual artist well known for her sculptures that address themes of history and survival, often referencing still life, wildlife and domesticity. She frequently re-purposes domestic objects such as blankets, incorporating them into mold-making techniques that create highly realistic replicas.
Magor studied at the University of British Columbia from 1966–1968. She subsequently studied at Parson’s School of Design in New York from 1968–1970 and completed her diploma at the Vancouver School of Art in 1971. She had an established career as an educator at the Ontario College of Art and Design, before moving to Vancouver to teach at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design where she taught from 2000–2013.
In 2017, Magor’s work was the subject of a travelling survey at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg. Her work has been displayed at Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, Paris (2016), Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (2016), The Vancouver Art Gallery (2002), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015) among many others. Additionally, Magor participated in the Sydney Biennale (1982), Documenta 8, Kassel (1987), and the 41st Venice Biennale, Venice (1984). Magor has received numerous awards such as the sixth annual Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2009), the Gershon Isowitz Prize at the AGO (2014), and the Governor General’s Award (2001). She is currently based in Vancouver.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, 2007
0.9 x 0.6 x 0.3 m
North side of Curtis Lecture Hall
David McDougall sculpted the bust of Pakistani founder and first governor general, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, while he was completing his MFA at York University. The sculpture echoes the classical tradition of erecting political leaders in marble or bronze. The bust sits upon a pedestal, another classical tradition, which commemorates Ali Jinnah’s actions and efforts that led to Pakistan’s independence.
The statue was comissioned by the Pakistani Students’ Association at York University and funded by a series of sponsors and the Consulate General of Pakistan, Ghalib Igbal. The sculpture marked the 60th anniversary of independence in Pakistan and the 50th anniversary of York University.
David McDougall is a Canadian sculptor born in Toronto. He acquired his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Queen’s University, Kingston, and completed his Master of Fine Arts at York University in 2008. Before his current position as a studio technician and instructor at the University of Ottawa, McDougall taught as an instructor of fine arts at York University.
In 2007, while still a graduate student at York University, McDougall created a bronze bust of Pakistani founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The bust marks McDougall’s signature use of the bronze medium, but in a more traditional manner as compared to his later works.
McDougall’s early career centered on figurative sculptures, but rather than copy the styles of traditional bronze sculpture, he explored the correlation between bronze and snapshot photography. In his series Veruccio Dante’s Sexy from 2008, McDougall takes the traditional belief of the bronze monument as a medium used to depict authoritative figures and subverts the antiquated notion by representing everyday figures from modern street photography.
Through his collaborations with artists such as Daniel Jolliffe (The Aesthetic Rover, 2014) and Sasha Phipps (Rite of Way, 2014), McDougall has investigated the likes of kinetic and electronic art through accessible social media platforms like Vimeo.
McDougall’s art is currently focused on socio-political issues, or what he refers to as “aesthetic issues related to technology and the environment.”
William Hodd McElcheran
The Encounter, 1991
2 x 1.3 x 1.2 m
East end of Campus walk
The Encounter marks one in a large series of sculptures depicting what Hodd McElcheran titled Businessmen. The series consists of a bronze figure or figures who are usually in the process of commuting to or from work. The Encounter relays the tale of two businessmen approaching from opposite directions who have just narrowly avoided colliding into one another. The figures dynamic movements of long strides and leaning back to avoid the collision gives the viewer a sense of a loud encounter, in terms of both sound and movement.
The Businessmen series is satirical, meant to poke fun at the business elite and society’s seeming inability to stop and smell the roses. At the same time, Hodd McElcheran’s Businessmen have been admired for their sense of humanism and relatability.
William Hodd McElcheran (1927–1999) is a Canadian sculptor, painter, and designer. Seemingly born with his artistic gift, McElcheran began creating realistic portraits by the age of ten, and by sixteen he was given advanced standing in his second year at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto for his talent and already substantial number of works. Although he painted as well as designed an array of architecture, McElcheran was mostly known for his series of bronze Businessmen sculptures.
During his extensive career, McElcheran created numerous works on multiple continents and in a variety of media such as wood, stone, clay, and castings in fiberglass and bronze.
Most notable about McElcheran’s style is the sense of movement he creates. Although his sculptures and paintings focus on figures with little to no background, viewers can comprehend that his works are a small part of a larger and ongoing scene.
From early on in his career, McElcheran desired for his works to be critiqued based on content rather than form, and it is through the content of his Businessmen series that McElcheran has become best known for creating the anti-hero and the everyman. The sense of movement in his Businessmen running with their briefcases, in deep discussion, or just walking alone or through a crowd – all dressed nearly identical – creates a sense of relatability in their mundane daily tasks.
Cast in bronze, McElcheran’s sculptures of men and women with rounded bellies take the historically monumental and idealized sculptural medium and subverts it to celebrate and everyday people and modern society.
Bust of Dr. Norman Bethune, 1974
0.6 x 0.6 x 0.4 m
Bethune College Garden
Dr. Norman Bethune was a Canadian thoracic surgeon, member of the communist party, and an early advocate for universal healthcare. Dr. Bethune came to public notoriety when he served as a trauma surgeon for the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War and the Communist Party of China during the Second Sino-Japanese war. Dr. Bethune is still fondly remembered in China for bringing modern medicine to rural areas of the country, hence, this bust was gifted to York University’s Norman Bethune College by Chinese ambassador Chang Wen-Chin in 1975.
McCombe Reynolds calls upon the classical tradition of using bronze to create a bust of a much-revered figure within society. The texture in the sculpture’s sweater highlights the technical aspect of casting in bronze in which the artist shapes the bust in a malleable material such as clay to create the casting mold.
John McCombe “Mac” Reynolds (1916–1999) was a Canadian sculptor, painter, photographer, and historian born in Toronto. Reynolds is best known for his sculpted portraiture works as he “never found anything as inspiring as representation of the human form,” and he created busts of notable figures from poet Gwendolyn MacEwan to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Reynolds was a student of Arthur Lismer and Emmanuel Hahn. While studying under Hahn when Reynolds was only 12 years old, he was selected to participate in a series of experimental classes in Hahn’s studio at the Ontario College of Art. After this, The Royal Ontario Museum and the Group of Seven studio building were Reynold’s playground, allowing him to escape and create his own work.
Reynolds stated that in order for him to consider his work successful, he needed to create an empathetic connection with his models.
While working for the CBC, Reynolds lived in Montreal for seven years during the 1940s where he became friends with artists like Jean-Paul Riopelle and Marcelle Ferron, as well as poets like Gilles Heneault. During his twenty-eight years at the CBC, Reynolds was a historian in the program of archives department which placed him in the circle of journalists Rene Levesque and Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
In the 1970s, Reynolds was living and sculpting in England where in 1973, he casted a series of thirty-eight bronzes at the foundry in Basingstoke.
Reynolds was the first Canadian to be awarded membership in the Royal Society of Sculptors in London at the age of 64. As only members of the society are allowed to create busts of the Queen, Reynolds was placed on a waiting list for the opportunity to do so. At the age of 67, Reynolds received his chance to sculpt the Queen, and according to his son Rolf, his father not only sculpted her but managed to charm and chat with Her Majesty as well as make her laugh.
In the late 1980s, The Fathers of Confederation Memorial Citizens’ Foundation commissioned Reynolds to produce a series of memorial sculptures to commemorate the first Confederation Conference of 1864. Located at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, attached to the provincial building in Charlottetown, the series consisted of busts of the original delegates who gathered for the conference in 1864.
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.
George Rickey (1907–2002) was an American painter and kinetic sculptor born in South Bend, Indiana. While his early interest was in painting, Rickey’s passion for mechanics and sculpture awoke after he was drafted into the American military in 1942, where he worked with aircraft and gunnery systems maintenance and research.
In 1913, when Rickey was only 6 years old, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland, for his father’s work. He earned a degree in history from Balliol College, Oxford, and would often visit the Ruskin School of Drawing. After travelling Europe, Rickey attended the Paris Académie L’Hote and Académie Moderne to study art.
Rickey returned to America in 1930 and taught at a variety of schools, participated in Artists-in-Residence Programs, and maintained a New York studio until 1942, when he joined the military. It was in the Air corps where Rickey was taken with the gyroscopes on B-29 gunnery sights, and it was the gyroscopes and childhood memories which would inspire Rickey’s kinetic art. After he was discharged, Rickey attended the New York University Institute of Fine Arts and the Chicago Institute of Design. While teaching at a variety of universities, Rickey decided to move back to South Bend, Indiana, where he taught at the local university, and it was there that he became inspired by the work of David Smith.
By the late 1940s, Rickey began using more simplified geometric forms that were arranged into carefully planned patterns that dictated the speed and movement of the piece. Designed to be placed in public settings, Rickey’s works relied on the interplay and atmosphere of the surrounding environment.
While Rickey’s work is often compared to that of Alexander Calder’s mobiles, his European schooling situates him among the Constructivists, and in 1967 he published Constructivism: Origins and Evolution.
Rickey is mostly known for his metal sculptures which incorporate elements of engineering and mechanics as there are often parts that move with the air currents. His works can be found internationally in places such as the United States, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand.
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.
Susan Schelle (1947–) is a Canadian sculptor and photographer born in Hamilton, Ontario. She studied at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, during the 1970s and began to exhibit her work shortly after. Currently, Schelle is an Associate Professor Emeritus of Visual Studies in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto.
Schelle has described her work as a manipulation of the familiar as she works with images from the physical world and explores how they connect to cultures or customs of a certain time and place. Schelle works with a multi-media approach and has used a variety of mediums throughout her practice.
She is best known for her public sculptures which can be found in notable places around Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre, the York University campus, and Court House Square Park. Schelle has exhibited her work across the country and internationally in countries such as the United States and Italy.
While she works independently, Schelle has also worked collaboratively, most notably with artist Mark Gomes. They have created several works together, including Lineage (1993), Overlay (1994), Matt Cohen Park (1997), a granite and steel couch in the Prince Arthur Condominiums (1998), Oxford (2000), and most recently, Jet Stream (2004), located in terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport.
Beginning in the early 2000s, Schelle began creating digital animations such as Float (2010). Her more recent works tend to be displayed in gallery spaces and consist mostly of sculptures, installations, and prints.
The Whole Person, 1961
Bronze and brass relief
9 x 4.1 m
Glendon College Theatre Wall
Lionel Thomas’ The Whole Person represents York University’s dedication to educating the whole person. The focal point of the relief is referred to as the “lamp of learning” which evolves into a dove, symbolizing peace through education.
Ironically, the relief sculpture is constructed of bronze and brass, bronze being a material that has been traditionally used to create sculptures of great war leaders throughout history. The use of bronze in this sculpture subverts the metal’s traditional uses. As both bronze and brass are strong and durable materials, Thomas uses them in this sculpture to symbolize enduring peace through education, just as bronze has been historically used to symbolize a leader’s eternal impact.
Lionel Thomas (1915-2005), also known as Lionel Arthur John Thomas, was a Canadian artist born in Toronto, Ontario. He studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco under Mark Rothko. Thomas is best known for his sculptures, drawings, prints, easel, and mural paintings.
In 1940, Thomas married Patricia Simmons with whom he frequently collaborated, and the two moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. Thomas, at times in collaboration with his wife, is best known for his abstract murals of landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes which are in both museums and public spaces. Thomas’ favourite mediums include gouache, oil paint, charcoal, enamel, and foil on metal.
While his early career focused on painting, Thomas’ focus switched to sculpture and murals around 1956.
Between 1944 to 1950, Thomas was an instructor at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art and Design), and from 1950 to 1959, he taught at the School of Architecture at the University of British Columbia. Thomas was an associate professor of fine arts at the University of British Columbia until 1981.
Between the 1950s to the 1970s, Thomas exhibited his works both nationally and internationally. His works are in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. He has exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Hart House in Toronto, the Grand Central Galleries in New York, and the Biennials in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Seoul, South Korea.
Granite and steel, 1.8 x 4.37 x 1.5 m
Outside of Stedman Lecture Halls
Growing up on a farm near Quebec’s Appalachian mountains, Vaillancourt developed a deep connection with the earth. This connection is seen in Presence, a large single block of granite which was mined in Vaillancourt’s home province of Quebec.
The artist chiselled deep channels throughout the rock to demonstrate a new relationship between the stone and space, revealing the core of this rock that has been taken from the earth. The granite’s rough texture symbolizes the tumultuous relationship between nature and humans. The durability of the granite combined with its sheer size reveals Vaillancourt’s intention for the natural stone to dominate the space in order to serve as a reminder that humans are closely connected with the earth.
Presence was sponsored by The House of Seagram and commissioned by Expo 67, where it was first exhibited. In 1968, the sculpture was a part of the Man and His World exhibition in Montreal and was then donated to York University at the request of The House of Seagram.
Armand Vaillancourt (1929–) is a Canadian sculptor, painter, and performance artist born in Black Lake, Quebec. He attended the École des beaux-arts in Montreal and his art is often political in nature, as he utilizes his work as a key part of his activism.
Vaillancourt, the sixteenth of seventeen children, has accredited growing up on a farm as what encouraged his love of nature and his hippy ideology. After the end of World War II, Vaillancourt travelled North America before attending the École des Beaux-Arts. His travels educated him about social injustice and became the basis of his activist and artistic work.
Vaillancourt is known for using found objects to create his sculptures as a means of representing the beauty in everything and everyday life. He is accredited with first using Styrofoam as a cast for bronze sculptures. Vaillancourt is also known for creating works in public spaces to advocate for inclusivity within the art world by demonstrating to viewers that creating art is achievable.
His most notable work, Vaillancourt Fountain from 1971, is a large public fountain at the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, California. Vaillancourt Fountain is more commonly known as Québec Libre! as the artist himself inscribed the statement on the fountain in bright red the night before the unveiling. The statement refers to Vaillancourt’s support of Qeubec’s liberation movement. Disappointed to see that the city had removed Québec Libre! from the fountain at the unveiling, Vaillancourt hopped into the fountain to rewrite it. Vaillancourt Fountain has since become a symbol of freedom.
Along with the Quebec liberation movement, Vaillancourt’s art and activism also incorporates environmental issues and the social injustices faced by Indigenous communities.
In 1993 the Quebec government awarded Vaillancourt the Prix-Émile-Borduas, and in 2004 he received the title of Chevalier of the National Order of Quebec.
Aluminum, 2.5 x 2.5 m
Founders College West Entrance
Walter Yarwood’s cast aluminum Crest was commissioned by York University to hang above the entrance to Founders College. The work consists of three rows of what appears to be hooded figures. These figures have been interpreted as ancient scholars, the foundation of our learning and education. It is said that the group of cubes in the first row represent newer studies and that the blank panels in the third row are unknown future discoveries. The abstract relief sculpture can also be interpretated as the founders of York University. The piece captures the feeling of various free spirits at a university and the wonders of new discoveries.
Walter Yarwood (1917–1996) is a Canadian Abstract Expressionist painter, sculptor, and founding member of Painters Eleven. He produced Abstract Expressionist paintings from the mid-1950s until 1960 when he turned to focus his practice on sculpture, producing a large number of public art commissions across Canada.
After attending Western Technical School in Toronto, Yarwood worked in a publicity firm and as a freelance commercial artist. He shared studio space with painters Ronald York Wilson, Oscar Cahen, and Jack Bush. From 1950 to 1952, he attended the San Miguel Allende School of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Upon returning to Canada, Yarwood and a group of other painters interested in abstraction formed Painters Eleven in response to the emergence of Abstract Expressionism in New York. Their first exhibition was held in 1954 at Roberts Gallery in Toronto. The group disbanded in 1960.
At this time, Yarwood stopped painting and transitioned to sculpture, producing a number of public artworks between 1960 and 1970. He began working with recuperated metals before turning to welded steel, cast aluminium, bronze, iron, brass, wood, and found objects. He often created effects on the metal’s surface using acid. Between 1970 and 1979, he taught drawing, photography, and sculpture classes at Humber College in Toronto. In 1979, Yarwood moved to Port Rowan, a town on Lake Erie. Freed from his responsibilities, he began painting again with oil and distemper in the summer and watercolour in the winter. He continued painting until his death in 1996.
Yarwood’s work has been exhibited internationally, and his sculptural commissions continue to have a lasting presence across Canada. His work is held in many museum collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, among others. During his lifetime, Yarwood was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Canadian Group of Painters.