School of Arts
Explore UT’s Landmarks Public Art Program with This Illustrated Guide
By Jess Archer
Illustrated by Corey Carbo
Maybe you have a day off and are craving inspiration. Or perhaps you want to delight out-of-towners with a tour of artsy Austin. Take time to explore the University of Texas Landmarks program, a collection of more than 40 works of distinguished public art, spread across campus, all free and open to the public. Some pieces are practically hidden in plain sight. Others are impossible to miss. Here are 10 selections from the program that are worth seeking out.
1. The Color Inside, on the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center rooftop
James Turrell uses light as his medium, projecting rays across plaster walls to create colorful displays amid the silence of a reverent “Skyspace.” Make a reservation and spend an hour at sunrise or sunset to truly experience Turrell’s art. The exhibit is open at other times for quiet contemplation.
2. O N E E V E R Y O N E, at the Health Learning, Health Discovery and Health Transformation Buildings, Dell Medical School
Through the particular we experience a touch of the universal. This is the message behind Ann Hamilton’s portraits of Austin residents who were photographed behind frosted, plastic material. The transparent barrier puts details in focus while subtly blurring the rest of the figure.
3. Amistad América, in Robert B. Rowling Hall, McCombs School of Business
Named for the 19th-century ship carrying slaves who famously mutinied and reclaimed their freedom, José Parlá’s sweeping and ambitious mural is more than 4,000 feet of painting. The vivid red, yellow and blue hues suggest the impression of place while simultaneously conveying a journey or route.
4. Monochrome for Austin, at the northwest corner of 24th Street and Speedway
When you consider an aluminum canoe, you probably think of its buoyancy on the water. But what about a cluster of 70 recycled canoes and boats hanging from a listing column? Art critic Nancy Princenthal says Nancy Rubins’ piece, which hovers above a walkway to appear both precarious and sturdy, a balancing act of “improbable grace.”
5. Spontaneous future(s) Possible past, at the Health Transformation Building, Dell Medical School
Have you ever pondered all the possible outcomes that could come from a single decision? Beth Campbell has illustrated this kind of mental mapping in her pencil drawing and three-dimensional mobile. The piece, which feels like an intimate diary entry gone wild, shows how a single choice can lead to dozens of possible outcomes.
6. Untitled (Seven Mountains), at Bass Concert Hall, sixth floor
Ursula von Rydingsvard chipped, carved and rubbed pieces of wood with powdered graphite and then layered them to create seven structures that resemble geological formations. The effect “produces a nuanced surface coloration that suggests the patina of time,” Valerie Fletcher, of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., writes in an essay about the sculpture.
7. (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations, at the Gordon-White Building Atrium
The metaphor in Michael Ray Charles’ work of crutches bound together and suspended in the air is compelling: A device that’s needed for support during a period of weakness now soars and finds strength in numbers. The placement of the sculpture — in a location dedicated to the study of minority cultures and their histories — is no accident.
8. Figure on a Trunk, at Bass Concert Hall Plaza
Magdalena Abakanowicz’s bronze figure is impossible to miss. It is “a lone human form, presented on a stage of sorts, as if for our approval, judgement, or condemnation,” according to a Landmark description. The platform under the body’s feet suggests balance, yet it rests on round legs, making viewers question its stability.
9. Spiral of the Galaxy, at the Health Learning Building Courtyard, Dell Medical School
Artist Marc Quinn has called seashells “the most perfect pre-existing sculptural ‘readymades’ in our natural world.” At more than 10 feet tall, his bronze piece with its organic structure stands out in an urban setting — and reminds us that all life is connected and both strong and fragile.
10. And That’s The Way It Is, at Walter Cronkite Plaza, Moody College of Communication
Pioneering contemporary media artist Ben Rubin depicts a constant flow of information that is truly something to see at night. This six-channel video projection places overlapping text from five live network news streams, along with archived transcripts of the CBS Evening News from the Walter Cronkite era, onto a building façade.