Cubed Curve, New York City
Until recently, Cubed Curve sat outside the Time-Life Building on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 50th Street in New York City. The sculpture, by New York-born artist William Crovello, was commissioned by the Association for a Better New York and installed in 1972.
The blue metal Curbed Curve is appropriately named. It’s a giant curve (think of the horseshoe-shaped magnets we had as kids) that has had its “legs” bent into additional curves so the entire object forms a cube.
The sculpture looks different from various positions around the cube and the flow of curves in the sculpture provides interesting angles to photograph. Add the tall buildings that surround it (the Time-Life Building beside the sculpture, the McGraw-Hill Building and News Corporation Building in the next block to the south, Radio City Music Hall across Sixth Avenue) and a blue sky above and a photographer is presented with almost unlimited compositional opportunities.
But Cubed Curve is now gone, I hope just temporarily. The Rockefeller Group, owner of the Time-Life Building, is renovating the building. The renovation includes redesigning the plaza facing Sixth Avenue and creating a new landscaping feature and fountain. The landscaping feature will extend atop the subway entrance on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 50th Street where the Cubed Curve sat, so it has been removed. It’s unclear what the Rockefeller Group’s plans mean for the sculpture.
Cloud Gate, Chicago
The Cloud Gate sculpture, installed in 2006 on Chicago’s AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park, is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture forged from a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates. The sculpture, often referred to as “The Bean” by many locals because of its been-like shape, is by British artist Anish Kapoor.
The curving sculpture reflects the city’s skyline and, in a way, becomes part of the skyline. Like the Cubed Curve, photographing Cloud Gate from different angles provides different results, so the number of potential compositions is great.
An issue when photographing a reflective sculpture like Cloud Gate is avoiding having the photographer prominent in the reflection.
How did I stay out of my photos? I didn’t. If you could zoom in on an area near the center of the sculpture you’d see me standing there with the camera in front of my face.
Cupid's Span, San Francisco
Cupid’s Span is a giant sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Brugge. It’s one of a number of sculptures along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The 60-foot-high sculpture represents a bow and arrow shooting down into a small pedestrian park.
When viewed from one side the San Francisco skyline is in the background. When viewed from the other side, the Bay Bridge is in the background. And the colors really pop when viewed on a clear day against a blue sky.
The sculpture, installed in November 2002, is bizarre in a “I wonder why they did that?” way. So I looked it up
According to a statement from the artists on their web site:
"Inspired by San Francisco's reputation as the home port of Eros, we began our project for a small park on the Embarcadero along San Francisco Bay by trying out the subject of Cupid's stereotypical bow and arrow. The first sketches were made of the subject with the bowstring drawn back, poised on the feathers of the arrow, which pointed up to the sky.
"When Coosje van Bruggen found this position too stiff and literal, she suggested turning the image upside down: the arrow and the central part of the bow could be buried in the ground, and the tail feathers, usually downplayed, would be the focus of attention. That way the image became metamorphic, looking like both a ship and a tightened version of a suspension bridge, which seemed to us the perfect accompaniment to the site. In addition, the object functioned as a frame for the highly scenic situation, enclosing — depending on where one stood — either the massed buildings of the city's downtown or the wide vista over the water and the Bay Bridge toward the distant mountains.
"As a counterpoint to romantic nostalgia, we evoked the mythological account of Eros shooting his arrow into the earth to make it fertile. The sculpture was placed on a hill, where one could imagine the arrow being sunk under the surface of plants and prairie grasses. By slanting the bow's position, Coosje added a sense of acceleration to the Cupid's Span. Seen from its ‘stern,’ the bow-as-boat seems to be tacking on its course toward the white tower of the city’s Ferry Building.”
There are many more photos of public art in my collection, many of which are in the grid below and on my site. And when I’m walking the streets of various cities I’m always looking for public art to photograph. The art itself is always interesting, but capturing photos to show how the art integrates with its surroundings is a fun photography challenge.