Student Docents Drop New Tracks…in the Campus Art Walk Audio Tour

The Block Museum Campus Art Walk is a selection of sixteen sculptural works, free and open to all. Primarily located outdoors around the Northwestern Arts Circle as well as in a sculpture garden designed by renowned Chicago architect John Vinci, the walk is a campus highlight for visitors and campus regulars alike.

A campus art walk audio guide has long been available via cell phone and on SoundCloud, created by student interns in 2017. This season we are proud to announce the expansion of the audio guide – to include two artworks that were repositioned after campus-wide construction projects necessitated their removal and storage. The sculptures by Italian American artist Virginio Ferrari are owned by the Bienen School of Music and have become #15 and #16 on the campus art walk. The new entries were researched, written, and recorded by Giboom Joyce Park (’22) a Block Museum Student docent studying Political Science, History, and International Studies.

JOIN THE ART WALK BY PHONE

  1. LOCATE a sculpture of interest by using the corresponding Campus Art Walk Map.
  2. DIAL the audio tour number (847) 582-0651.
  3. ENTER the object number listed on the map followed by the # key. Enter another sculpture number at any time. For instructions hit the star key. To leave comments about the cell phone tour press 0 #.

Download the Campus Art Walk Map


#15 – Virginio Ferrari – Armonía (1963)

At the corner of Bienen, Northwestern University’s world-renowned music school, we find the installment of two large organic pieces of bronze metal, intersecting and shapeless multi-dimensional boundaries. This is Armonia, a signature work done by Italian American sculpturer Virginio Ferrari in 1963. Armonia, or harmony in Italian, is widely covered in patina, or the green film that naturally forms over the metallic bronze due to oxidation over a long period. Now, take a step closer to the piece and move slowly around the sculpture. Stand on your tiptoes. Crouch a little. Move forward and backward. You will notice that with every new angle, the organic shapes will interact with each other in differing, yet complementary ways. Ferrari’s adventurous piece dynamically changes with the shifting perspective of the viewer, making the rigid structure of the bronze come to life in a fluid-like breathing manner. From one angle, the two large patented pieces might seem to oppose each other in a rather abrasive conflicting composition. From another, they become one.

Armonia is a piece indicative of Ferrari’s interest in the negative and positive space. Positive space refers to the subject or areas of interest in artwork. Whereas negative space is the background or the area that surrounds the subject of the work. Ferrari one stated in an interview that the negative and positive spaces in his artwork remind him of the male and female having dialogue, as they almost touch each other and talk to each other, creating a sense of harmony, or Armonia.


#16 Virginio Ferrari – Prism in Two Elements (1979-80)

And finally, we arrive at the last destination on our campus art walk where we find two parallel flat squares, each perched on one of its four corners, balanced in altering angles with a rectangular horizontal beam running through them like an axle. This is Prism in Two Elements, another piece by the sculptor Virginio Ferrari created in 1979 to 1980. Like Armonia, the large cast bronze sculpture is covered in deep-set green patina masking a way what once used to be a bright, shiny bronze that glistened under the sun. You’ve probably noticed that this piece is significantly larger than Armonia as well as many of the other pieces you might’ve explored on this tour. Now, take a step closer, appreciating this exponentially larger scale and its rigid geometric shape.

Take some time to walk around the sculpture, simultaneously absorbing the neighboring buildings in your periphery, the light bouncing off the edges of the walls and onto the piece, and the overall environment and scenery that surrounds Prism in Two Elements. Personally, I always found this piece to resemble a wheel stuck in time, unable to fully turn. It’s turning rotating flow contrasting with the rather structured nature of the bronze. It always created an ironically unsettling, yet comforting sense within me. What about you? How does its size, its positionality, and its composition make you feel? How does this sculpture seem to interact with the buildings and space around it? Do you think the name, Prism in Two Elements, is appropriating and fitting? As you walk around, walk closer and walk further away from Prism in Two Elements, notice how each and every different perspective changes Ferrari’s piece and changes your opinion on this sculpture as well.

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