Group of Four Trees, 1969-72
The trees manage to look both big and small at the same time. Although almost dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, Group of Four Trees in turn stands high above the people who walk by. Because of the unusual shapes of the trees, and the lack of natural color, the trees seem not quite organic. They do, however, add dynamic movement to the plaza.
In 1969, David Rockefeller, then chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, asked Jean Dubuffet to design models for a possible sculpture to be placed in front of the bank's new building . Already, the building's plaza included Isamu Noguchi's Sunken Garden, completed in 1964, and the bank's leaders wanted to add another sculpture as well. Dubuffet submitted a number of models, of which Group of Four Trees was chosen . Dubuffet then enlarged the piece for placement in the plaza. The sculpture is made of synthetic plastic over an aluminum frame, with a steel armature holding the whole piece together .
Group of Four Trees is part of a large group of pieces that Dubuffet called "L'Hourloupe." In describing the meaning of this invented term, Dubuffet explained that the word implies "some wonderland or grotesque object or creature," and that it "evoke[s] something rumbling and threatening with tragic overtones" . He went on to describe the pieces of L'Hourloupe as "the figuration of a world other than our own, or... parallel to ours..." . Rather than defining the pieces as sculptures, Dubuffet called them "drawings which extend and expand in space" .
At the unveiling of Group of Four Trees in 1972, Dubuffet expressed pleasure at the location of his sculpture. He explained, "I do not believe that these four trees, which I hope will not be taken as representations of real trees, but as semblances of the thrust and fertility of human thought, bear contradiction in any way to the site upon which they now stand.... They give an impression of feverish intoxication. But they seem to me, by this same febrility, to manifest the ardent source of the enormous intellectual machinery of which this plaza is the core" .
Possible discussion themes
How can images of nature fit into an urban setting?
Related art works
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