Where's the Art?
Five prominent American artists contributed works of art to the Hubert H. Humphrey building—four were commissioned through GSA’s Art-in- Architecture program and one piece was donated by a former New Deal-employed artist. These site specific works were commissioned specifically for the spaces which they now occupy.
Heroic Shorepoints I (Exterior Plaza)
James Rosati’s Heroic Shorepoints I is a large, sprawling geometric sculpture made of three sections of cubic aluminum. The cubist, or minimalist style of the sculpture was a collaboration between the building’s architect, Marcel Breuer and sculptor James Rosati.
“…I never could let go of the idea that a mass of form was a big chunk…a monolith. I found that if you set it up, perfectly horizontal and vertical —all sides—the light hits it the same, and it’s equal. But if you take the same form and cut it down until it is slightly diagonal, you’ll find that the light will hit it more strongly at one end and will diminish toward the other. This is a natural physical phenomenon, not chiaroscuro. … It not only gives the masses power, it takes away that solid weight about them.”
Floating (Interior, Independence Avenue Lobby)
Although known primarily for his revolutionary architectural work and furniture designs, Marcel Breuer also enjoyed the opportunity to explore other art forms, such as tapestries. Breuer’s tapestry works fall into two general categories: those that are highly architectural and regulated by geometric shapes, versus others that are more free-form. Breuer used the full spectrum of colors in his tapestry designs, often juxtaposing them to produce daring combinations.
Floating is made of dyed, woven silk threads that have been tufted and sheared. The tapestry’s abstract forms are carefully structured: Breuer arranged squares in varying sizes and colors in an overall square field, resulting in a well-balanced composition.
Symphony (Interior, Great Hall)
Just before Symphony was installed, Jan Yoors composed a statement about his work that began, “Tapestry is by definition a mural art and as such can, and must, be the epic scale and heroic dimensions…” and concluded, “I see contemporary tapestry as a way to give human, that is lyrical, scale to massive corporate architectural environments…to widen horizons and heighten the awareness of human vitality dignity and of the inherent joy of life.”
He also pursued filmmaking, photography and sculpture, although he is most well-known for his large, boldly geometric tapestries, the vibrant colors and stark black background of which were influenced in part by the stain glass art of his father Eugene.
“The vibrancy of color plus the textural warmth and the monumental scale seem a combination limited only to tapestries. To me, no other art form offers the same stimulation and excitement.”
Evolutionary Notes to WK (Interior, Penthouse Café Entrance)
Annette Kaplan’s dramatic black and white tapestry is made of hand-dyed domestic wools. Kaplan completed the tapestry in seven sections over a period of three months. She wrote about her work: “While working on each piece, I am concerned with the dynamics among linear space relationships, tension, asymmetry and the total reading by the eye as it travels over the entirety.”
The narrative of Evolutionary Notes to WK reads from right to left. On the far right is a thunderstorm, with jagged bolts of lightning. At the center of the composition are pyramids, sailboats and a cityscape, where two animals approach each other. One animal descends from a mountainside and the other stands in the middle of a road. The structure in the far left corner is a bridge. Kaplan’s overall composition uses simple line and pattern to create a surprisingly varied sense of space and movement.
Happy Mother (Interior, Independence Avenue Lobby)
While continuing to depict performers, Gross also frequently made sculptures of mothers playing with their children. For many years, he focused on depicting the family unit, most often mother and child, often cavorting or playing, but always loving and affectionate.
Whether painting or sculpting, Gross’s preferred subject matter was always the human figure. The planes of his bronze sculptures are not softly rounded like his carvings but are flat with sharp edges. Essentially, Gross’s forms were styled with fluid lines without refined details.
Gross’s belief that the subject is a vehicle for obtaining an “aesthetic response from the arrangement of forms” is apparent in the complex interweaving lines and shapes. Indeed the relief possesses an abstract pattern that links it directly to the modernist movement of the period, yet it has been created with the greatest appreciation of the inherent nature of the bird’s-eye maple.
Bronze works revealed a new freedom to extend forms into space and incorporate space into his compositions. In building up the plasters, he utilized carving techniques that contributed to the angular forms characteristics of his bronzes.
For more than sixty years Chaim Gross’s art has expressed optimistic, affirming themes. His acrobats, cyclists, and mothers and children convey joyfulness, exuberance, love, and intimacy. This aspect of his work remained consistent with his Hasidic heritage, which teaches that “only in his childlike happiness is man nearest to God.”
On January 13, 1993, Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. Secretary of Health and Human Services dedicated this gifted work by Chaim Gross in honor of Hubert H. Humphrey.
The GSA Art in Architecture Program commissions the nation’s leading artists to create large-scale works of art for new federal buildings. These artworks enhance the civic meaning of federal architecture and showcase the vibrancy of American visual arts. Together, the art and architecture of federal buildings create a lasting cultural legacy for the people of the United States.
Fulfilling the recommendation of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 Ad Hoc Committee for Federal Architecture that “where appropriate, fine art should be incorporated in the designs of federal buildings with emphasis on the work of living American artists,” GSA convenes a panel comprised of art professionals, civic and community representatives, and the project’s lead design architect to discuss opportunities for artists to participate in the building project. This panel reviews a diverse pool of artist candidates and nominates finalists for GSA to evaluate. Artists who receive federal commissions work with the project architects and others as members of a design team to ensure that the artworks are meaningfully integrated into the overall project.
GSA Fine Art Collection
The GSA Fine Arts Program manages the collection of fine art found throughout executive branch federal buildings in order to ensure its safety, accessibility, preservation, and appropriate use in order to enhance and promote high-quality work environments for federal agencies and the public they serve. The Fine Arts Collection is one of our nation's oldest and largest public art collections. It consists of permanently installed and moveable mural paintings, sculptures, architectural or environmental works of art, and works on paper dating from 1850 to the present. These civic works of art are in federal buildings and courthouses across the United States. In addition, more than 20,000 small moveable New Deal works of art are on long-term loan to museums and other nonprofit institutions. Maintained by GSA as a part of our national and cultural heritage, the Fine Arts Collection serves as a reminder of the important tradition of individual creative expression.