Outdoor sculpture has been featured at the Menil Collection since the museum opened in 1987 with sculptures by Mark di Suvero and Michael Heizer. Today, visitors are invited to enjoy a number of works in the Menil’s parks and greenspaces throughout the neighborhood: Bygones (1976) by Mark di Suvero, Sound Figure (2007) by Max Neuhaus, Jack (1971) by Jim Love, and Charmstone (1991) and Isolated Mass/Circumflex (#2) (1968/1978) by Michael Heizer. For more information about the Menil Collection’s parks and greenspaces, visit our Menil Park and Neighborhood page.
Reaching over twenty-five feet into the air and nearly thirty-two feet across, the Menil Collection’s Bygones (1976) has been installed in a park adjacent to the museum since its opening in 1987. Constructed of two steel girders and a rectangular steel plate, Bygones exemplifies the I-beam construction for which the artist became known. The diagonals of the three elements lend an energetic dynamism to the work, tempered by the stabilizing triangle formed at its base. Di Suvero left the surface of the steel unpainted; still bearing the stamps and scars of its manufacturing; it has grown yet rougher over the years through exposure to the elements. Dynamic yet poised, monumental in scale yet elegant in proportion, Bygones embodies di Suvero’s command of materials, engineering, and geometry. As Dominique de Menil herself noted in a letter of 1984, “Mark di Suvero’s Bygones is one of the great sculptures of its time.”
Houston-based artist Jim Love made a series of sculpture in varying sizes in the shape of a toy jack. The largest, ten-foot version greets visitors to the Menil as they approach the museum from the main parking lot. The exuberant red surface of the work reinforces the playful nature of the subject matter. The artist once remarked on the series, “I love the shape of jacks…Kids love playing with my jacks…Even adults can’t stay off them.”
Entering the Menil Collection main building through its main entrance, visitors may become aware of a quiet yet distinct sound occupying the walkway about twenty feet in front of the door. This “sound shape” is a spatially contained, aural field by Max Neuhaus called Sound Figure. Following a career as a concert percussionist, Neuhaus began to use sound as a continuous material to engage the perception of physical space. Employing specialized software, Neuhaus could generate a range of sonorities, which he then chose from, combined, and blended in a way similar to a painter mixing colors on a palette. This work was commissioned by the Menil in 2006 for the space. Next time you visit, be sure to listen for Sound Figure as you approach the museum from Sul Ross Street.
A pioneer of Land Art, Michael Heizer (b. 1944) began creating immense earthworks in the 1960s. In 1968, for Nine Nevada Depressions, the artist dug nine large curved and zigzagged trenches into a dry Nevada lake bed, which were then left to erode away. Several of these designs were later re-created in weathering steel; Isolated Mass/Circumflex (#2) is one of the resulting works. It was sited and installed by the artist on the Menil Collection’s front lawn just before the museum’s opening in 1987. Heizer interrupted one of its sections with the central walkway in order to reinforce its identity as sculpture rather than a linear design element framed by the surrounding sidewalks.