On City Sculpture...
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
A few months ago I was introduced to the work of Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. He’s not so well known this side of the Equator, but you can appreciate his calibre when you consider that his works stand before renowned institutions including the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, Trinity College in Dublin, and the Vatican Museum. Pomodoro is best known for his 'Sphere-Within-Sphere' series; a collection of striking bronze sculptures, their smooth surfaces cracked in the middle revealing a second sphere inside. I’ve read that they’re representative of a new world coming…a world less troubled then our present one.
I'm no art critic, but my guess is that Pomodoro intended to invoke a reaction by interrupting the perfectly smooth and shiny metal surface of his spheres with disorderly - almost savage - abrasions that invite the viewer to touch and explore. This interaction would surely please the artist who himself said, “I like to see people lean their bicycles on the sculpture, and pigeons come to rest.”
There is a scene in Roman Holiday - the much loved 1953 film - where Audrey Hepburn is enticed to place her hand in La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), a simple marble carving of the face of a man. Legend has it that anyone who told a lie with their hand placed in the mouth would have it bitten off. It may be a silly superstition, but the tradition that has evolved compels visitors to physically engage with the image…perhaps with tragic consequences!
The degree of human interaction is perhaps the best measure of success of public artworks. Notable examples are the I Amsterdam sign in Amsterdam, Charging Bull on New York City’s Wall Street, and ‘Cloud Gate’, Anish Kapoor’s stainless steel “bean” in Chicago. The many thousands of visitors that touch, climb and cuddle these objects every year is testimony that each has transcended from urban folly to become a destination in its own right. So too Pomodoro’s glistening orbs, with their curious crevices that seem to beckon by-passers for a closer inspection. Even if you set aside the intended metaphor, you might appreciate Pomodoro’s work for the exceptional craftsmanship, the beauty of the bronze, or the way the broken spheres reflect the light. I certainly do.