Sculpture on Campus - Bills

Tobias Collection | Artists' Books | Sculpture on Campus | Hobart Manor

Tom Bills’ sculpture “Boat House”
Stephen Antonakos | Lillian Ball | Tom Bills
Rosemarie Castoro | Nancy Cohen | Bill Finneran | Tova Beck-Friedman |
Michel Gerard | Bradsford Graves | Maria A. Hall | Marion Held |
Albert E. Henselmann | Lyman Kipp | Elaine Lorenz | Eliot Miller | Sally Minker | Richard Nonas | Merril Wagner

Tom Bills’ sculpture “Boat House” has become a canonic arch and “spirit catcher” between Ben Shahn and the Student Union. It is strong, squat and alarming, and its amazing frontality may remind some viewers of the Lion’s Gate at Mycenae or the stridencies of a Richard Serra wall. But this sculpture, like Bills’ other work near Morrison Hall, “Who’s doubting who,” is meant to be both intimate and ferocious. Bills is, after all, a Vietnam vet who understands art as a lively and engaging invasion, and not as merely decorative. The sculptural program of American art since David Smith has, indeed, been about what the critic Frank O’Hara regarded as the theme of hybrids, the displacements of the human, and the possibilities of heroic or heraldic structures. Tom Bills’ pieces are excruciatingly economic. A simple symmetry reigns, but everything counts and is significant: the thickness of the piece, the little bits of negative space that become enormous, the monumentalism and lack of mere business, and the implication that something of immense gravity has to be confronted in the everyday. The cast concrete is both a fact and filled with a textural possibility that leads many students to become friendly with it. Here, everything is laid bare, and yet there is an uncontrollable grace in these large and unhurried forms. This is abstract sculpture satisfying in its dignity.

----David Shapiro