Our Forbes Avenue entrance features large-scale outdoor artworks just steps from our front doors. Take a moment to enjoy these behemoth and contemplative works beside our tranquil fountain. After which, you’ll be ready to encounter more art inside the museum.
Perhaps the most prominent, large-scale sculpture, if not the heaviest, on view at the museum is Richard Serra’s Carnegie. Internationally famous for his site-specific sculptures, Serra was at the forefront of a group of young American sculptors whose work, beginning in the mid-1960s, constituted a reaction against the rational geometries of Minimalism. These so-called post-Minimalists, including artists Barry LeVa and Alan Saret, created sculpture with the freedoms of technique and media that the Abstract Expressionist painters had established in the previous decade. Carnegie, like all of Serra’s work, responds to its site. The three-story-high sculpture is an enormous, animated composition of planes meant to respond in its mass and gravity to architect Edward Larrabee Barnes’s monolithic Museum of Art (1974). Walking into Serra’s hollow taper, one feels the applied pressure of the four skewed walls and their top plane, the sky. The work’s title is the artist’s salute to Andrew Carnegie, the founder of both Carnegie Museum of Art and the industrial behemoth that became US Steel.
Beside the peaceful fountain in our Fountain Plaza is Henry Moore’s contemplative Reclining Figure (1957). The reclining female figure was Henry Moore’s favored subject throughout his long career. This piece (one of an edition of five) served as a model for the travertine marble figure that Moore was commissioned to carve for the grounds of the UNESCO building in Paris. Like much of Moore’s work, this figure has roots in antiquity: in this case, the carved recumbent figures of Mayan culture called chacmool. Early Greek sculpture and Etruscan and African carved figures also inspired him. A profound understanding of anatomy, based on years of observation, informs Moore’s figurative works.
In this work, Moore reconstitutes the body as an exaggerated conglomeration of massive bones. Moore’s status as one of the most significant post-war European sculptors grew out of his interest in the relationship between positive and negative space. He broke with the traditional notion of sculpture as contained mass, integrating space into his work through hollows and voids as an equally important aspect of sculptural form. As he wrote, “The whole of my development as a sculptor is an attempt to understand and realize more completely what form and shape are about and to react to form in life, in the human figure, and in past sculpture.”
The seventh of eight children born to a miner and his wife, Henry Moore showed an early aptitude for drawing and an appreciation of the Gothic church carvings common to his native Yorkshire. He studied at Leeds School of Art and then served in World War I. In 1921, on a scholarship from the Royal College of Art, he traveled through France and Italy; in 1924, he joined the college’s faculty. His first large reclining figure is dated 1938. It was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and it won Moore enormous popularity in America.