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28 Ft. Punctuation Spire Becomes IUPUI's Newest Public Art


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September 13, 2010

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Punctuation Spire, a 28 ft., 3000 lb. sculpture by internationally-known artist William Crutchfield, is the most recent addition to the growing collection of public art on the IUPUI campus.

Made of steel, aluminum, eight-ply birch plywood and Honduras mahogany, the monumental work was originally commissioned by shopping mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman for the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. Completed in 1981, the sculpture celebrates the English language and is comprised of 12 basic symbols inspired by the typewriter, stacked on a question mark base.

According to Crutchfield, “balancing on this visually small point lends Spire a feeling of buoyancy, a feeling of lift, a sense of life and love—a powerful presence.”

Crutchfiled, a Herron School of Art and Design alumnus (B.F.A. in painting, 1956) and former Herron faculty member, arranged for the work to be gifted to Herron for the occasion of its 2005 move to Eskenazi Hall on the IUPUI Campus.

The soaring work proved to be too tall for the Herron building’s grand hall, almost scraping the ceiling. Stuart’s Moving and Storage looked after the crated colossus for a number of years until a suitable location could be found. The four story atrium of IUPUI’s Campus Center provides a perfect home and appreciative audience.

Crutchfield was born in 1932 in Indianapolis. After Herron, he went on to Tulane University, graduating in 1960 with a master of fine arts degree. A Fulbright Scholarship funded his studies in Hamburg, Germany from 1960 to 1962. He joined Herron’s faculty to teach foundation studies and advanced drawing from 1962 to 1965 and then became chairman of foundation studies at the Minneapolis College of Art from 1965 to 1967.

He and his wife, Barbara (whom he met at Herron), settled into their studio in San Pedro, California, producing drawings, paintings, lithographs, screenprints and sculpture. His work is in collections from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.

“One of the most important things about my work is imagination,” Crutchfield said. “Everything in the composition is necessary, and it’s alive. I draw a complete idea--hopefully. Every dot, every line is in the right place. And that’s something I think about.

“The finished work should have multiple levels of expression. I think drawing is the root of everything including sculpture and after you’ve drawn for so many years, you just think that way.”

Herron School of Art and Design’s dean, Valerie Eickmeier, observed “We are fortunate to have acquired such an outstanding work of art. His sculptures are rare relative to his prolific production of prints and drawings.

“He has a whimsical and satirical approach to art that is at once humorous and thought provoking. The body of his work emphasizes trains, ships, aircraft and other things mechanical, yet there are many quirky figures, animals and other tangents on display throughout the decades. The range of scale and mediums he uses—from small notepad line drawings to six-foot watercolors to 28-foot tall wooden sculptures—qualify him as a true multi-media artist.”

Punctuation Spire is one of a series of four monumental works.

The other three works include:

Alphabet Spire, the first in the series and the tallest at 32 ft. Comprised of the alphabet from A to Z, its structure suggests civilization’s upward growth as language has evolved through time. It is located in Westfarms Mall, Corbins Corner, Connecticut.

Countdown, a tribute to Apollo 11, which delivered the first humans to the moon. Comprised of the numbers zero through nine, the work commemorates space exploration as expressed by the launch countdown. The polished stainless steel insert in the number zero at the top of the sculpture symbolizes the moon and the beginning of space exploration. It is located in Short Hills Mall, Short Hills, New Jersey.

Wish, the fourth and most recent sculpture, is the first major sculpture assembling a word and, in this case, signifying hope. It is located in Marley Station Mall, Glen Burnie, Maryland.

“William Shakespeare's plays and poems had done the groundwork,” said Crutchfield. “These four sculptures are the only ones I know of that deal with all the symbols of our modern written language. I hope that these four sculptures will remain as monuments to one of the greatest achievements of mankind.”