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Art Installations on College Campuses

Apr 11, 2011

From Seattle, Washington, to Houston, Texas, college campuses across the country are home to some beautiful - and strange - works of art. Here are six of our favorite university installations.

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By Megan Driscoll

college art

James Turrell's Light Reign

Permanently installed in an atrium attached to the University of Washington in Seattle's Henry Art Gallery, Light Reign is one of many James Turrell Skyspaces installed around the United States. Other college campuses that host Turrell Skyspaces include Pomona College, the University of Illinois and, by the end of this year, Rice University.

Although the Skyspaces can vary significantly from one to the next, each offers a beautiful, contemplative space that is profoundly affected by light. Turrell's Skyspaces are frequently filled with ambient artificial light that slowly shifts color, but they also respond to changes in natural light throughout the day. And some, including Light Reign, have circular windows carefully cut so that they appear to be paintings on the ceiling rather than views of the shifting sky. The result is a space that makes for a very peaceful study break.

Michael Heizer's 45°, 90°, 180°

The new Turrell Skyspace won't be the first major artwork to grace the Rice University campus. The Houston, Texas, university has been home to Michael Heizer's 45°, 90°, 180° since the mid-1980s.

One of the major players of the land art movement, Michael Heizer is known for large sculptures and installations that play with ideas of geometry and space. His 45°, 90°, 180° is no exception - it features three enormous rectangular blocks placed vertically, horizontally and at a right angle. These shapes, which were originally cut from a single stone monolith, are arranged near the engineering building with several other smaller, supporting slabs to provide a little artistic inspiration.

Martin Puryear's Ark

Martin Puryear's Ark is situated delicately in the atrium of a building on the York College campus in Jamaica, New York. York College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system.

Although Martin Puryear is another American sculptor, he takes a very different approach than Michael Heizer. Puryear's works, while large, are typically composed of relatively thin lines. They form each work's final shape as though someone had made a three dimensional pencil drawing in space. Ark outlines the skeleton of a boat, bringing to mind iconic vessels like Noah's Ark or the American slave ships. (Puryear is African American.)

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Claes Oldenberg's Split Button

Swedish sculptor Claes Oldenberg is one of the giants of the public art and installation world, and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is lucky enough to be home to one of his pieces.

Split Button is what it sounds like - a massive white button split by an equally massive crevice. The split separates off one of the four thread holds, sending the button's pieces leaning into the ground. Oldenberg sees the split as representative of the Schuylkill River, dividing the button into four parts that reflect the four original Philadelphia squares.

Robert Indiana's Love

Most people have probably seen at least one iteration of Robert Indiana's iconic red sculpture spelling out the word 'Love.' Middlebury College is home to a 1973 edition of the sculpture, which is just one of an astonishing 19 different works of public art on its campus in Middlebury, Vermont.

Indiana first designed the Love image for a Christmas card sold by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1964. He later turned it into a series of steel sculptures, another of which is installed at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Love image has also appeared in other formats, including a U.S. postage stamp, and has been widely adapted and parodied.

José Clemente Orozco's The Epic of American Civilization

José Clemente Orozco's stunning murals grace the walls of several university campuses, including Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, which is home to the fresco The Epic of American Civilization.

Orozco, who died in 1949, was a Mexican social realistic painter heavily influenced by symbolism who examined themes from human history in his complex, large-scale murals. The Epic of American Civilization explores the history of the Americas, going back as far as the migration of the Aztecs into central Mexico and ending with the industrialization of society.

Learn how artist Chuck Close overcame prosopagnosia and dyslexia to win the National Medal of Arts.

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