Tuesday, January 25, 2011

nuclear energy & art 3: chicago & henry moore

to finish the thread, there is also a (in my eyes) disturbing sculpture `nuclear energy' by henry moore, which was commissioned to mark the place where the first makeshift nuclear reactor was realized in chicago (chicago pile-1). the sculpture was erected in 1967 at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the splitting of the atom on the grounds by enrico fermi on december 2, 1942.

nuclear energy, henry moore
henry moore, nuclear energy (picture lenka reznicek, click on the image for an enlargement, cc-license see the link)
It’s a rather strange thing really but I’d already done the idea for this sculpture before Professor McNeill and his colleagues from the University of Chicago came to see me on Sunday morning to tell me about the whole proposition. They told me (which I’d only vaguely known) that Fermi, the Italian nuclear physicist, started or really made the first successful controlled nuclear fission in a temporary building. I think it was a squash court - a wooden building - which from the outside looked entirely unlike where a thing of such an important nature might take place. But this experiment was carried on in secret and it meant that by being successful Man was able to control this huge force for peaceful purposes as well as destructive ones. They came to me to tell me that they thought where such an important event in history took place ought to be marked and they wondered whether I would do a sculpture which would stand on the spot. (Henry Moore quoted in Art Journal, New York, spring 1973, p.286)

i think moore captured this duality rather too well...the sculpture reminds me of a giant skull. i don't think this is quite coincidental either, because imho moore was a great artist.

lenka reznicek writes a blog called radioactive! the nuclear blog, below is another of her pictures (creative commons licensed, go to her flickr page -link above- for the full license).

caution do not dig, lenka reznicek
plot m marker, red gate woods chicago (photo lenka reznicek, click on the image for an enlargement).

enrico fermi died in 1954 of stomach cancer, as a result of overexposure to radiation. below his image in a graffiti tribute from vitoria in spain:

enrico fermi, mural graffiti

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