Friday, 11 February 2011

Bite 58: Barnett Newman - Broken Obelisk, 1963-9

Broken Obelisk, 1963-9, Cor-Ten steel, 750 x 319 x 319 cm
The top of a broken off obelisk 'kisses' the top of a pyramid. Both symbols from Egyptian art, they are borrowed here, combined in a kind of 'surrealist' object, becoming a monument to nothing, a monument to everything, a monument to monuments themselves. 

The point of meeting in the work - mathematical triangles barely touching yet one mass holding up the other - creates a sense of tension, ambiguity in an otherwise solid object. But this 'solidity' is an illusion. The work, in its abstraction and lack of apparent purpose tends to float - the concept as well as the obelisk itself, uprooted from the ground. 

Inverted and aimless, this monument speaks not of grand ambitions or successful lives lived, but rather of unfulfillment, of banality and futility.

It explores similar themes to Steve Woodward's sculpture Step Touch Stone.
In the collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.