Blue Poles, 2004-06
Painted steel and aluminum
600 in. (1524 cm.)
Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds
Blue Poles by sculptor and MacArthur Fellow Sarah Sze is a recent commission for the Sidney-Pacific Graduate Residence. A committee of MIT student residents, faculty, and dormitory staff helped to select this work as a part of MIT’s Percent-for-Art Program, which is administered by the MIT List Visual Arts Center.
Sze designed a work composed of a series of modular ladder-like structures and balconies or platforms that join together and are installed both inside and outside the six-story building façade, starting at the entrance canopy. Her works are often site-specific sculptures that utilize prefabricated materials to construct fantastic and provocative responses to functional spaces. They usually do not stand alone, but effectively infiltrate the space they inhabit. During her residency at the former studio of American sculptor Alexander Calder creator of the La Grande Voile (The Big Sail) in McDermott Court at MIT, Sze developed the idea of using a modular, ladder-form unit. In her essay for a brochure on Blue Poles, art critic Eleanor Heartney writes: “Sze, who grew up in Boston, notes that this work was inspired in part by the fire escapes that she observed stretching across the fronts and backs of tenement apartment buildings. Providing both a means for escape in case of disaster and a place to hang out that is simultaneously inside and outside, fire escapes add a human dimension to the urban landscape. Newer, more modern buildings, like those on the MIT campus, eschew this old-fashioned safety system for more invisible means of escape. Thus, by fusing this jumble of ladders onto a sleek glass facade, Sze joins two apparently antithetical architectural styles. In the process, she offers a subtle critique of the dehumanizing quality of much contemporary architecture and design.” The title refers to the well-known painting Blue Poles (1952) by the American Abstract-Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock. Sze writes, “I decided to name the piece out of my love of the Pollock painting to emphasize the intuitive gestural side of the work, and its relationship to color and form.”
Building Number: NW86
Accession Number: PFA.2006.001