Each week in What’s the Meaning of This?, we explain what those weird public-art installations you walk by every day are supposed to represent. This week: a Financial District curio crafted by one of England’s most renowned sculptors.
Name of installation: Parent 1
Artist: Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Location: 150 King St. W.
Date of display: 1970, but acquired and placed in its current location in July, 1984.
What’s it supposed to be?: A colleague and close friend of Henry Moore (whose sculptures appear outside the AGO and City Hall), Barbara Hepworth was one of England’s most influential modernist sculptors, and Parent 1 displays her knack for investing geometric images with feeling and emotion. Originally one piece in a nine-part bronze collection called The Family of Man (seen together, they resemble a modernist Stonehenge), this sculpture, located right near Earl’s Kitchen and Bar at the northwest corner of King and York, is accompanied by some granite benches and a small garden of shrubs, and consists of four bronze blocks (one of which has a large hole in it) placed on top of each other. And while Hepworth’s work is less about provoking symbolic meaning than it is about perfecting “geometry with the vital grace of nature” (as art critic Herbert Read once said), it is nonetheless remarkable that this piece of public art, by a renowned British modern artists whose sculptures regularly sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions, gets little more than a cursory glance from post-work punters looking to grab a nearby drink.