Renowned Artist's Work Installed Between Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall and Davis Parking Facility

April 18, 2012

Wellesley College is the new home for Clement Meadmore’s monumental steel sculpture Upsurge. Characteristic for its fusion of geometry and fluidity, the work—which stands 20 x 13 x 8 feet and weighs nearly 1500 pounds—is sited between Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall and the Davis Parking Facility, on a small curved grassy landscape feature located near the College’s Route 135 main entrance. The sculpture was installed on Friday, April 13.

Upsurge comes to Wellesley through the generosity of Bob and Lynn Johnston ’64, who is a member of the College’s board of trustees. The Johnstons also donated Mozart, a sculpture by Kenneth Snelson that is sited near the Science Center, to the College in 2008.

Meadmore, a native of Australia who moved to the United States in the 1960s, was renowned internationally for his massive outdoor pieces made of square-sided steel beams bent or coiled into sinuous forms. Monumental in scale, his sculptures can be found on college campuses, at corporate headquarters, and in the collections of major museums around the world.

At the time of his death in 2005, The New York Times wrote:

With their stark power and smooth, black-painted surfaces, Meadmore's sculptures combined Minimalism's devotion to pure geometric form with the evocative powers of Abstract Expressionism. They were also influenced by the rhythms and improvisational quality of jazz, an art form he passionately admired. His best pieces were studies in line, form, movement and balance, played out at epic scale.

Many of his sculptures are so large they are meant to be walked around, ducked under, perhaps even sat in, and are heavy enough to be installed by crane. Still, they have a dynamic quality that belies their heft: Some appear to soar weightlessly into space while others have the pent-up energy of coiled springs.

About the Artist

Clement Lyon Meadmore was born in Melbourne, Australia, on February 9, 1929. At the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, he studied aeronautical engineering before switching to industrial design. In the 1950s, while working as a furniture designer, he made his first welded sculptures.

In 1963, Meadmore resettled in New York, where he came under the influence of the painter Barnett Newman. Inspired in part by Newman's uninterrupted expanses of saturated color, Meadmore gradually renounced the more open, airy sculpture that Picasso and his followers had made de rigueur. Meadmore's work, by contrast, helped signal sculpture's renewed concern with denser forms.

His work is displayed on the campuses of Columbia University, Middlebury College, and Princeton University and at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, and is part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Australia, and other institutions. He wrote several books, including How to Make Furniture Without Tools (Pantheon, 1975) and The Modern Chair: Classic Designs by Thonet, Breuer, Le Corbusier, Eames and Others (Dover, 1997). His work was the subject of a book by Eric Gibson, The Sculpture of Clement Meadmore (Hudson Hills Press, 1994).

Although his sculpture was often described as gestural, Meadmore was adamant that it did not depict anything or even stand for anything. His art was about the possibility of form, and only that.

''I'm not interested in metaphors of infinity or of anything else,'' he told Time magazine in 1971. ''I have to start with a real object, a thing—and then try to let it transcend its physicality.'' 

A documentary on Meadmore’s life and work is in development, and can be previewed online.

About Wellesley College and the Arts

The Wellesley College arts curriculum and the highly acclaimed Davis Museum and Cultural Center are integral components of the College’s liberal arts education.  Departments and programs from across the campus enliven the community with world-class programming – classical and popular music, visual arts, theatre, dance, author readings, symposia and lectures by some of today’s leading artists and creative thinkers – most of which are free and open to the public. 

Located just 12 miles from Boston and accessible by public transit, Wellesley College’s idyllic surroundings provide a nearby retreat for the senses and inspiration that lasts well after a visit.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world.  Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.