Monday, September 12, 2011

Bell Library Mosaics

This four-panel mosaic in the Bell Library on Gage was created in 1960 by Tom Van Sant. It's called "The Inventive Progress of Man" (yeah, sexist title but it was 1960), and the theme is pretty clear--there's a wheel on the lower left, leading up to an atom on the lower right. Right in the center is a printing press.

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission says this is made of stone and inlaid cork, and a key to the 26 inventions is framed and set by the mosaic.

Van Sant graduated from the Otis Art Institute in 1957, and there's a beautiful wall at the west entrance of the Ceramics Building that he created as his master's thesis. It's titled "Fire, Earth, Water" and that's a pictures of it at left.

His web page says he's created more than sixty large projects and murals for public spaces in his fifty-plus years of work. After having looked over his sculpture, I have to say that the Bell Library is a pretty tame example of his work. Here's a shot (below) of a bronze sculpture in Newport Beach to give you a better idea.

Van Sant created the GeoSphere Project in the 1980s, and the Earth Situation Room in the 90s--the latter was in An Inconvenient Truth.  Both show our planet and its features and systems, and the changes that occur on a global scale.

I'm sorry I can't find a better picture of the mosaic. Given the amazing things that Van Sant when on to do, most of which are so graceful and soaring, it's interesting to see this very conservative example of his art. Does it strike you as very 1960-ish, as it does me? Looking at the 1957 wall and the bird sculpture--done about ten years ago--I can't quite make the mosaic fit.

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