Who cares about public art?: ‘Concerto’

Today, I sat for 30 minutes outside of Buchanan A as the forecasted rain became an actual problem dotting my notebook pages. See, there’s this wacky green sculpture on the side of Buchanan, on the entrance right off of Main Mall. Despite the fact that most of my classes are in Buchanan, I hadn’t known that entrance or that sculpture existed for almost a whole year.

And, judging by my half-hour observation, not many people know or care that it’s there either.

“Concerto” is a wall art installation by Gerhard Class. It is a geometrical abstract form made of welded sheet copper, which was originally installed in 1960. “Concerto” marks the first time Class experimented with metalworking, which he later would use frequently. It’s an interesting piece, given that it looks like solid metal head-on but is definitely welded, and also it’s just plain nice to look at.

After all, who has time to examine a sculpture when you’re just trying to get to class on time? With homework and work and sports and everything else that fills up a student’s life, no one could expect thoughtful contemplation of every sculptural work on UBC’s campus. Especially when, as with a lot of sculptures that aren’t statues or busts, you’re not really sure what it’s supposed to be or supposed to mean.

“Concerto” is interesting in that regard. As little as I know about music, I do know the term is music-related. And yeah, I can see it: the sculpture does seem to move out from a central horizontal line and there are a lot of curves, which we all know are music-related. A quick Google search informs me that a concerto generally has three movements featuring a soloist — and there are three cut-out circles spread horizontally along the piece. Cool.

And — that’s really it.

Okay, there’s also the aging property of the sheet copper, which is pretty interesting. When it was first installed, it would have looked like a warm bronze colour. But now, due to nearly sixty years of rain and heat and sometimes snow, it looks like various types of splattered green mold. It even has a dirty yellow dusting along the upper right which like — how did that get there? It’s an old sculpture. It shows all its history on its bare surface.

And that’s it.

At least, as much as I’m going to examine it on this occasion. There are probably plenty more cool things that could be pointed out about this sculpture. But that’s okay. It’s enough to look at a piece of art and think “nice” and then move on. Sure, I enjoy looking at art. I enjoy spending absurd amounts of time considering art, especially sculptural works. But I’m not about to shame people who don’t enjoy it for not going out of their way to do it.

It’s enough for art to be nice to look at. As an artist, it’s easy to get caught up in visions of making people feel something or react a certain way or understand a specific concept, which are all worthy things to strive for. But it’s also okay just to make things that people like to look at.

Remember when you were younger and you drew all the time in crayon or marker, because you liked looking at the things you made? And you gave it to family or friends because you liked that they liked looking at it? It’s enough for art to make someone’s day a little nicer, even if it’s only one day a year.

Today, the clouds are grey, and the stone is a bit lighter, and the green of the copper is dark enough on the underside of “Concerto” to match the pines a few feet away. Specks of rain darken the curved top of the sculpture.

It’s beautiful and that’s nice. But I still go inside to get out of the rain.