Three Bronze Discs
Three bronze discs, a sculpture by James Wines, New York, were placed in the courtyard reflecting pool of the new UWM Library on Wednesday, May 10, 1967. The intricately designed abstract forms measure 10, 8, and 5 feet in diameter, respectively, the largest weighing over a ton. Commissioned by Fitzhugh Scott Architects through the Marlborough-Gerson Galleries of New York, the work was initially sculpted in plaster and the molds were then sent to Rome for casting at the Nicci Foundry there. The Foundry, several centuries old, is famous for its excellence, said Wines, who until recently intermittently maintained a studio in Italy for eight years. His present studio is in Manhattan.
This represents the third major commission within a period of two years for the young sculptor who received his Fine Arts degree from the University of Syracuse in 1956. The original disc casting stands at the American offices of the Swiss pharmaceutical firm, Hoffman-LaRoche, Nutley, New Jersey. A different large concrete and steel composition is at the Paul Rudolph Visual Art Center, Colgate University.
Explaining the forms, Wines referred to them as “geometric units designed in answer to the building’s sharp, angular feeling”. He said it was placed “to pick up the vocabulary of the building”, contrasting interplay of curved and linear relationships.
Architecturally-oriented, Wines admits to being “in some ways, more interested in architecture than sculpture — although I have been an artist-sculptor nearly all my life.”
The bronzes, which pick up the buildings’ metal patina and can be seen from a number of different angles inside and outside of the Library as well as from the large window-encased stairwell overlooking the court yard, offer an infinite variety of patterns created by play of light and shadow.
Wines personally supervised installation of the discs by a truck crane crew, directing them to place the sculpture upright on the randomly-placed cement bases in the reflecting pool. He remarked, “They will seem to float in the water.”
A native of Chicago, Wines’ work is represented in several museums and galleries across the country, including the Chicago Institute of Art and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
THE ARTWORK: “Milwaukee” was created specifically for the northwest entrance area to the UW-Milwaukee Golda Meir Library. Standing 18′ high, 5′ wide, and 20′ long, this work draws upon landmarks and significant images relating to the city’s heritage and contemporary identity. The figurative elements are hot-forged or blacksmithed and painted with gloss enamels. The I-beam on which they are placed is supported by three steel arches.
George Greenamyer described his work in these words: “As a New Englander, I was impressed by your city on an inland sea. I pictured a cross section of the city, looking from the water to the interior. To some, Wisconsin is dairy country, so I used agricultural symbols of rural activity: a farm couple, a cow, and the mailman delivering mail to a typical midwestern farmhouse. In the city are houses typical of those built by the early German and Polish immigrants. Next, a painter touches up the mullions on City Hall, with the ‘downtown folks’ nearby, and a businessman and businesswoman wait outside the First Wisconsin Center. A workman holds a shovel on top of a grain elevator, and a seaman stands on duty aboard a Great Lakes freighter. At the breakwater is the Milwaukee harbor lighthouse and a lighthouse keeper.”
THE ARTIST: Born in Cleveland, Ohio, George Greenamyer received his BFA in Dimensional Design from the Philadelphia College of Art and went on to the University of Kansas where he was awarded an MFA in sculpture. He has taught at the Massachusetts College of Art since 1968, serving as Professor since 1978. He was honored in 1979 with an appointment as Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has lectured across the nation, has displayed his craft at numerous exhibitions from Brunswick, Maine to San Francisco, California, and has been awarded commissions in nearly all states through “one percent” programs.
THE PROGRAM: “Milwaukee” was commissioned under Wisconsin’s Percent for Art Program which provides 2/10 of one percent of the total construction cost of state funded buildings for the selection of artwork. For this specific project, $21,400 was made available to the artist for the design, fabrication, transportation of the artwork to the site, and installation.
An advisory committee representing the University, the Division of State Facilities Management, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and local art professionals went through a rigorous selection process to commission an artist who had the expertise to create a work appropriate for the site. The committee met six times over a two-year period. George Greenamyer work, “Milwaukee,” was their first and unan1mous choice out of 47 artists who submitted proposals for this committee’s
Wisconsin’s Percent for Art program is one of approximately 30 state programs and 100 municipal or private programs which sponsor the installation of artwork in public places. Most however, allocate a minimum of 1/2 of 1% and up to 2% for artwork. Wisconsin’s program is rather modest at 2/10 of 1%. Since 1981, 70 projects have been completed in 32 communities statewide. Nearly 300 works of art have been commissioned or purchased.