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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A work of art?

‘Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century’ installed on Brown’s College Green

Brown University

Passersby venturing across Brown’s College Green in recent days may likely have noticed a striking new addition to the University’s public art collection. Installed prominently near Friedman Hall on Friday, May 14, a 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture by distinguished contemporary sculptor Rebecca Warren now greets students, staff and faculty as they walk onto the green from George Street.

The British artist creates bronze, clay and steel sculptures that are not so much literal transcriptions of the human body, but rather seem to reflect the messy vigor and vitality of being alive, often with a sensual flair.

Dietrich Neumann, a professor of the history of art and architecture who chairs Brown’s Public Art Working Group, says that “Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century” — with its exaggerated, knobby and vaguely humanoid figure — is no exception.

The artwork presents a visceral, boisterous comment on the roles of gender, identity and the male gaze in the 20th century, he said, and adds a dynamic and humorous counterpart to Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure No. 2 — Bridge Prop” and Giuseppe Penone’s “Idee di Pietra,” two nearby installations on the College Green.

It’s also sure to provoke discussion, especially after a series of spirited events during the academic year about the role of monuments in public spaces.

“By calling the piece a ‘monument,’ Warren questions what we have habitually put on pedestals in public space,” Neumann said. “Her piece thus provides a provocative contribution to our intense debates about monuments on campus last year, which we hope to continue as students return.”

In response to the installation, Brown’s David Winton Bell Gallery will exhibit “Spectrums: Gender in the Bell Collection” through July 18. “Spectrums” contains myriad interpretations of gender that are not always “concretised” or reified, but rather embodied and performed in unexpected ways. Brown community members enrolled in the University’s COVID-19 testing program can make a reservation to view the exhibition.

Neumann said that additional programming, including a discussion with Warren, will be scheduled during the 2021-22 academic year. A loan to Brown’s public art collection, the sculpture arrived through the generosity of an anonymous donor and will remain on the College Green through 2026.

“Large Concretised Monument to the Twentieth Century,” which Warren created in 2007, has been displayed in the New York City Civic Center and London’s Chiswick Park, among other locations.

The sculpture comes to Brown through the work of the Public Art Working Group in collaboration with the Corporation’s Subcommittee on Public Art, both of which are dedicated to making public art part of the day-to-day experience of campus and to enriching the cultural, intellectual and scholarly life of the University and the broader communities.