Where's the Art?

Three prominent American original works of art are installed in the Reagan building through GSA's Art-in-Architecture program. These works were commissioned specifically for the spaces which they now occupy.

Bearing Witness

(The Woodrow Wilson Courtyard)

Martin Puryear's Bearing Witness is a colossal sculpture of hammer-formed and welded bronze. While its taut surfaces and hull-like forms may recall those of a boat (indeed it was fabricated at a precision shipbuilding facility), the sculpture's familiar-yet-enigmatic shapes allow viewers to create their own associations.

Puryear's work aims for a point "where organic forms can coexist with forms which are clearly cultural." Bearing Witness is to be perceived as a handcrafted object, allowing weld-marks and other idiosyncratic details of its fabrication to be seen and to be an active participant in the site-specific cultural conversation.

The Woodrow Wilson Courtyard provides a weighted context for the artwork, placing the sculpture in a visual dialogue between the government and the people it serves. The sculpture's title, Bearing Witness, suggests an observer, perhaps even the collective consciousness of the public.

Federal Triangle Flowers

(Plaza Courtyard)

Stephen Robin's monumental aluminum-cast Lily and Rose, known as the Federal Triangle Flowers, mark the transition between the historic William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building on the East side of the Woodrow Wilson Plaza and the contemporary Reagan Building to the West.

Robin described his work, stating, "Flowers are used here as they have been used traditionally in the history of ornamentation. They are devices, infinitely variable, used for defining boundaries and affecting the awareness of transitions."

Route Zenith

(Atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center)

Working in collaboration with the building's architect, James Ingo Freed, artist Keith Sonnier created the monumental neon and glass sculpture, Route Zenith, for the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The sculpture plays on the subtle interchange of light reflected in the glass-covered atrium by shifting throughout the day and evening with variations in light conditions and the movement of people.

The sculpture is named after a celestial zenith – the point directly above an observer that was historically used by mariners for orientation. In a similar manner, Sonnier envisioned Route Zenith as establishing a point within the vast atrium that allows visitors to orient themselves to the space and provide a meeting place as well as source of energy and dynamism.

Art in Architecture Program

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 U.S. 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.

Last Reviewed: 2020-09-29