Donated sculpture finds home at UTD

A crew from the Kirk Hopper Fine Art gallery in Dallas in stalled an anonymously donated art piece on Nov. 4. Photo by Noah Whitehead | Mercury Staff.

The newest addition to UTD’s outdoor sculpture collection, a large metal sculpture, was placed outside JSOM after an anonymous donation.

On Nov. 4, a new piece of art was added to UTD’s growing collection. This piece was particularly interesting because it is one of the few monumental sculptures on UTD, said Rick Brettell, distinguished chair of art and aesthetic studies. Named the “Big Bend,” the abstract sculpture has a long history of different owners.

“It’s the most important work of monumental sculpture that we’ve ever received as a university,” Brettell said. “It was very generous of the donor — it was an unsolicited gift.”

John Murdock, the late curator of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, originally commissioned the “Big Bend” in 1976 for an exhibition. Its artist, Mac Whitney, was one of the forerunners of abstract sculptors in Texas. He was commissioned $2,000 to create this sculpture, which is made entirely of hot-rolled steel.

It was initially placed on display outside the museum in the exhibition of abstract sculpture. The Murchison family, who are art collectors, then purchased the “Big Bend” in the same year. They displayed it on their lawn outside their home, where it remained until the property was sold upon the death of Mrs. Murchison.

The Kirk Hopper Fine Art gallery in Dallas kept the “Big Bend” until the piece was anonymously donated to UTD this year. It is now located behind the School of Management. However, because of the sculpture’s location, it will be difficult for students to view it completely, Brettell said.

“I think that the placement of it is unfortunate, and that’s its too far back, that one can’t go around it,” Brettell said. “(It’s) not placed so that (there is) full aesthetic impact, which is an important piece to be felt. But it’s also really near the trees, and the trees do this unfortunate thing called grow. They’re going to grow all into the sculpture all within two years.”

Linda Anderson, a Ph.D. student in art, art history and archeology, was one of the few people who witnessed the setup of “Big Bend” outside JSOM. Because Anderson was one of the only people there that day when the sculpture was being placed on its stand, she decided to film the whole process.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “It was really fun, and I sort of outlined the steps when you’re going to install a work of art, that you have to watch out for — lamp posts, buildings, trees. You got to have a guide wire, somebody with a guide wire, so that when the wind picks up then, even though it weights four tons, it’s going to fly.”

The piece had previously been kept disassembled in storage, with one part weighing four tons and the other weighing seven tons. No one knew how the piece had originally fit together, and thus had to base the reconstruction of the sculpture on a photograph, Anderson said. Eventually, the construction crew from the Kirk Hopper gallery managed to fit the pieces together.

“It was like a jigsaw puzzle, basically,” Anderson said. “They used these big, huge bolts. I was really amazed because they had a wrench to turn the bolts, but because you want to really get them in there tight, they put in an extension and so, I learned something out of it — that’s a lot of weight to make stand really still.”

However, even after they managed to figure out the placement of the two parts and had positioned it on its slab, they realized that they had placed it off-center, and the construction crew had to replace the sculpture again.

Brettell said he hopes the sculpture encourages students to consider the art.

“(It) will play a role in the consciousness of UTD, which will, for some people, be a positive role, and for some people, will be a perplexing one. And that’s great,” he said.

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