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Cohen, Way of Life
Squibb Sculpture Project
Those who read the
finance and science pages of their newspapers know that Bristol-Myers
Squibb defines itself as "a global pharmaceutical and related health
care products company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life."
that's what such companies are all about. However, on four of its 10 New
Jersey campuses, the company gives value-added meaning to the concept
of "enhancing human life": the Bristol-Myers Squibb Sculpture
Project. The project began in New Brunswick in July 2003. Eventually it
will extend to three more campuses, with nearly 30 sizable outdoor sculptures
installed in central New Jersey. And then, the plan is to start all over
again, replacing all but one piece at each site with new work. Bristol-Myers
Squibb employees will vote for one sculpture to be purchased for each
sight for sore eyes," a towering 21-foot-high concrete and stainless
steel sculpture is visible from Route 1, a major New Jersey traffic artery.
Easily accessible from the highway, all seven works are positioned in
a park-like corner of the 96-acre New Brunswick campus. The site is open
to the public WednesdaySunday, 117 pm.
Kamasa, named for a nearly extinct Southeast Asian language, conveys the
artist's concern for continued diversity in the world. Resembling a giant,
wide-ribboned figure 8his works are often based on simple mathematical
formsthe sculpture's curving lines are continuous and connected,
suggesting relatedness; its mixed and sometimes rough surfaces mesh smoothly
into a whole that encompasses two rounded spaces.
Hamburger, Sun Scoop
Nancy Cohen's horizontally
oriented Way of Life, made of steel, rope, rubber, and cement, "explores
ideas of shelter and containment," the artist says. She uses "male
materials" like heavy steel and industrial tubing in the traditionally
female craft of basket-making. Her surprisingly colorful eight-foot-long
sculpture can be seen as a nest or cocoonor body bag.
and Christoph Spath both address balance. Cleve, Strzelec's twisting bronze-tubing
composition, seems to be about balancephysical material and space,
curves and planes, resting and near-airiness. The oxymoronic quality of
Strzelec's artful bronze doodle is counterbalanced by Ulrich's Gift, Spath's
12-foot-high granite and glass column. A shaft of light through aqua glass
filling a central void seems to warm the artist's balance of natural stone
with manmade form, suggesting creative energy, even soul.
Sydney K. Hamburger's
bright yellow painted aluminum Sun Scoop is a small version of the monumental
piece she hopes someday to create as part of her Safe Spaces
series. In the middle of an untamed forest, signified by crosshatched
angular metal rods, its square tube area could serve as a safe place for
meditation, even play. Robert Lobe's tree figure, Frank and Marthalee,
with a robustly curving segment and a decrepit, gnarly part, represents
a metaphor for life. The process for this bronze work began with repouséeparticularly
challenging considering the soft, decayed areas of the actual treeafter
which Lobe reassembled the forms in his studio before casting the work.
Edwards, For Moon and Stars
Inner and outer spaces,
as well as time's continuum, are the subjects of Melvin Edwards's stainless-steel
For Moon and Stars. Just as his material comes from iron, which the artist
calls "the earth's Stone Age mineral cache of experience," so
are our contemporary experiences beholden to earlier discoveries and inventions.
How is it that a
pharmaceutical company has moved into the art business? The sculpture
project merely continues a long-time commitment to the visual arts that
began with the 1972 opening of the Squibb Gallerywhich, notably
at the time, had been part of the original architectural design for the
Lawrenceville campus. With the 1990 merger, it became the Gallery at Bristol-Myers
Squibb, continuing to be a much sought-after exhibition space.
Speaking at the reception
for the inaugural show, Thomas Primm, BMS's president of technical operations,
spoke of his company's belief in "good corporate citizenship"
and his conviction that "being in the presence of art encourages
us to express our own creativity in the work we do."
The excitement and
success of 2001's "Off the Wall" sculpture exhibition prompted
Kate Somers, gallery curator since 1999, to propose a sculpture program.
Corporate collaboration led to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Sculpture Projectwhich
to Somers is just the latest example of how, "in a time of miserable
arts funding, this company has stepped up." Other corporations should
do the same, she says.
Spath, Ulrich's Gift
are selected by a three-member advisory committee with varied perspectives.
They nominated, considered, and selected the artists to invite for the
first exhibition, often choosing the specific works too. Succeeding shows
will feature the work of artists suggested either by sculptors already
involved or by committee members. Sculptors named for future installments
of the BMS Sculpture Project include Hope Carter, Kate Dodd, Richard Heinrich,
Jon Isherwood, Joel Perlman, John Van Alstine, and Jay Wholley.
"In an indoor
gallery, the conditions are static. When sculpture is placed outdoors,
nature and its changing elements can play off the surface of the work,
making the whole experience more complex. Weather conditions of all kindsthe
quality of the light, the angle of the sun, the fog, the raindirectly
impact the viewing of the sculpture. This is why I have always found viewing
sculpture outside more exciting," Somers says.
Maybe it's true that
nature can't be improved upon, but it's indisputable that Bristol-Myers
Squibb's Sculpture Project has enhanced New Jersey's cultural landscape.
It might be said that this committed pharmaceutical company has boosted
New Jerseyans' aesthetic health.
Pat Summers is a
writer living in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
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