LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art has selected an untitled “sounding sculpture” by Harry Bertoia as the KU Common Work of Art for the 2022–2023 academic year. The sculpture, which was designed to be touched, seen and heard, connects to themes of access in the KU Common Book “Disability Visibility” edited by Alice Wong.
Bertoia’s “untitled (sounding sculpture)” will be on view in the Spencer Museum’s Jack & Lavon Brosseau Center for Learning beginning Aug. 16, along with a month-long installation of other art from the collection in dialogue with themes from the Common Book. The sculpture will remain in the Brosseau Center for the entire academic year through May 14, 2023.
Bertoia created sounding sculptures with metals such as brass based on their ability to resonate sound when gently touched. Despite his intentions, touching these sound sculptures poses several risks. The oils present on hands can damage metal over time. Aggressive handling can bend or even break the sculpture’s thin brass rods, and art displayed without a protective cover is subject to damage from dust and accidental contact.
Curator Kate Meyer said that highlighting this multisensory artwork poses questions about how museums can support multi-faceted access to art mindfully, compassionately and sustainably.
“How can we honor Bertoia’s intent for his sculpture while maintaining it for future audiences to enjoy? This question relates to a larger theme of equitable access,” Meyer said.
Resources for expanding conversation about the KU Common Work of Art are available online, including audio and video recordings of the sculpture being played. Instructors interested in incorporating the KU Common Work of Art and other Spencer Museum resources into their fall courses are invited to fill out a class engagement form.
Image: Harry Bertoia, “untitled (sounding sculpture)” (multiple views), circa 1968, brass, Bequest of Donald Hatch in memory of Mary Bole Hatch to the University of Kansas. On deposit to the Spencer Museum of Art from the School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1980.0207