Three-Way Piece: Points, 1964-65

Artist
Henry Moore

Location
The sculpture is located on the campus of Columbia University, on the north side of the plaza that stretches over Amsterdam Avenue between 116th and 118th Streets (it would be above 117th Street if 117th Street crossed Amsterdam Avenue, which it doesn't).

Description
Three-Way Piece: Points is an abstract sculpture, as a whole curvaceous, but not without surfaces that connect to form corners and points. The sculpture rests on three "feet," one that touches the pedestal as a point, one that is rounded at the bottom, and one that is flat on one side and curved on the other.

The surface of Three-Way Piece: Points gives the overall impression of being smooth. Upon closer inspection, however, the viewer will notice small gash marks and cross-hatched scratches located only on the sculpture's concave curves. The convex curves, which constitute more of the sculpture's surface area, and which are more immediately noticeable as they reach towards the viewer, are the areas that remain smooth. The surface is dark in color, and just slightly reflective.

The sculpture sits on top of a cylindrical pedestal, about equal in width to the sculpture itself. The roundness of the sculpture and pedestal stand in contrast to the straight edges of some of the buildings nearby, however they also bring out the curves of a round-walled chapel located on Columbia's campus just north-west of Three-Way Piece: Points.

Because the sculpture is placed at the north end of a bridge that stretches over Amsterdam Avenue, looking at the sculpture from different vantage points provides very different backdrops. When looking north, for example, Amsterdam Avenue extends into the distance, and the viewer's position, elevated on an overpass, is clearly evident. Looking towards the west, in contrast, the viewer sees the sculpture with a tall building behind it, providing a background that does not have variation of depth.

In placing the sculpture on the Amsterdam Avenue overpass, Columbia University has had to contend with various issues. An early concern was whether the structure of the overpass was strong enough to safely support the sculpture and its pedestal [1]. This having been positively resolved, the sculpture was installed in 1967.

Another issue has been the weathering of the bronze. Weathering of outdoor sculpture is unavoidable. Henry Moore, in a letter to a Columbia University official, described the original surface patina of the sculpture in comparison to another piece that he had made: "...It is richer and darker, and eventually by being out of doors, it may go darker still. It is not possible to control entirely the patina of an outdoor sculpture, as the atmosphere may change it..." [2]. Extensive weathering can, however, be damaging to a sculpture's surface, and the placement of Three-Way Piece: Points leaves it exposed to pollution and dirt particles from the road below [3], requiring Columbia to take protective measures to conserve the work.

Possible discussion themes
How does outdoor placement affect the way we see a work of art?
Because it is possible to walk around Three-Way Piece: Points and see widely varying backgrounds, students can see first-hand the ways in which the environment can affect the way in which we see a work of art. Some of the nearby buildings contrast sharply with the color of the piece, while others mirror the color even to the point of having light green roofs that almost match the glimpse of green patina at the top of the sculpture and on the pedestal.

Related art works
Life Force.
This piece is located at the south side of the overpass, just across from Three-Way Piece: Points. It also overlooks Amsterdam Avenue, and even has a wide hole through it that almost asks a viewer to look at the sculpture's environment as well as the sculpture itself.

Flight.
Flight is located just east of Three-Way Piece: Points, next to the law school building. A discussion of the effects of the placement of a work of outdoor sculpture could compare the way in which Flight's reflective surface allows the viewer to see the surroundings in the work, and the way in which the position of Three-Way Piece: Points, makes the viewer look beyond the piece to see the surroundings.

Footnotes

  1. Letter from Davidson Taylor to President Grayson Kirk, Feb. 17, 1967, Office of Art Properties files, Columbia University.
  2. Letter from Henry Moore to Mr. Schuck, Mar. 7, 1967, Office of Art Properties files, Columbia University.
  3. Letter from Curator Jane Sabersky to Dean Arthur O. Kimball, Mar. 17, 1977, Office of Art Properties files, Columbia University; and Condition and Treatment memorandum, Dec. 13, 1988, Office of Art Properties files, Columbia University.
 

 
 
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