The newest addition to Rice Public Art, Jarrod Beck’s “Origin, 135 degrees,” probably took you by surprise last semester during your regular walks through the academic quad. The sheer mass of the sculpture alone has greatly altered the treed path that passes by Sewall and Rayzor Halls.
Despite its industrial tone, the work finds a strange harmony with its environment — the steel bars and their geometric crossings echo the dark wood and rigidity of the trees surrounding it. “Origin”’s immediate sense of solidity is quickly undermined as the viewer realizes they can enter the work through the large gaps of the frame. Within they’ll find clumps of gray resin clay stuck to the piece, which look like plastic stone. These spots of clay interrupt the perfect steel bars, the suggestion of manufacturing, and remind the viewer of the human hands that assembled the sculpture — each person who aided in the sculpture’s construction left a handprint in one of the pieces of clay.
These traits are characteristic of Beck’s larger body of work.
On his website, he describes his artistic interest in “us[ing] materials on vast scales to overwhelm peripheral vision and to increase potential points of contact for the viewer.” Past works have also shown tendencies toward natural materials and minimalist structures, especially in Beck’s previous public art pieces.
Erected late October 2017, “Origin, 135 degrees” is the first piece in the Rice Public Art “Platform” series, which invites artists to respond to “artworks, architectural structures, and research at Rice University” with temporary, site-specific public art projects, according to the Moody Center for the Arts website. As its title indicates, “Origin, 135 degrees” responds to Michael Heizer’s 1984 sculpture “45°, 90°, 180°,” located in the engineering quad. In fact, Heizer’s sculptures can be seen through “Origin, 135 degrees” from one side.“Origin, 135 degrees” also had a performance component, a procession carrying a large swath of fabric between the sculpture and its inspiration, which took place on Nov. 11.
The sculpture will be on view until May 31. After its disassembly, the materials will be transported to and reassembled at Beck’s West Texas ranch, where it will become further weathered, according to a Rice News release. But even when “Origin, 135 degrees” leaves Rice to continue its life elsewhere, we can still look forward to the rest of the Rice Public Art “Platform” series.