Broken English by Gregory Gómez - Sand-cast bronze letters with patina repeat the first few lines of The Second Coming by Yeats

Campus Art

Grinnell Crossroads, 2020

Walter Hood - Hood Design Studio Grinnell Crossroads, 2020 Site-specific installation Commissioned by Grinnell College

Walter Hood, Hood Design Studio
Site-specific installation
Commissioned by Grinnell College

Grinnell Crossroads welcomes people to the community by honoring the past and providing a space of respite in the present. Located on an empty lot at the intersection of Highways 6 and 146 in Grinnell, the installation is inspired by the foundations and walls of two homes and a carriage house that originally stood on this site. The diagonal lattice walls evoke local wooden covered bridges and fences. Visitors circulate on paths that echo walkways at Grinnell College, moving through the ghost houses. Grinnell Crossroads celebrates the crossing and intersecting lives and histories that compose Grinnell.

Walter Hood is the winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2019 and numerous other awards. The work routes visitors between this site and campus, inviting participants to uncover remnants of Grinnell’s past to bring them into the present. Hood combined collective exploration with archival research to create Grinnell Crossroads, activating a once-vacant lot with memory and life.

Broken English, 2019

Students walk by "Broken English" installation in HSSC courtyard

In his sculpture Broken English, Gregory Gómez ’80 uses strong hard materials – steel and bronze – to construct a surprisingly delicate piece that celebrates the power of art to reach back to the past and ring true in the present. The bronze letters that repeat the first three lines of W. B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” form a net of text around a thick tube sitting on a low plinth. The patina on the letters lends them age and weight. The letters do not cohere immediately into lines, but the order is there in the sculpture’s inner structure. Gómez then breaks the flow of text and pulls his loop up abruptly, interrupting the continuity of thought and form.

Yeats’ poem, written exactly 100 years ago in 1919, feared the anarchy that accompanied the end of World War I, the war to end all wars. Yeats’ most famous line from the poem may be “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” While Gómez selected the text for his sculpture before the 2016 election, it has proven to be a powerful commentary on our own era’s flirtation with chaos. No doubt, his art will resonate with the future in ways we cannot anticipate.

Broken English rests on the plaza in front of the Humanities and Social Studies Center where light catches the steel spokes that hold the letters. Sitting at the height of a bench, the sculpture has a quiet presence, but it does not rest easy. Only with some effort do Yeats’ words come into focus and fall into place. Gómez works masterfully with the sense of Yeats’ poem in the sculpture’s form: it is a circle disrupted, threatening to let go of its center. But Gómez does not illustrate Yeats – he engages him through his title, Broken English. His compelling sculpture suggests that though communication in difficult times can falter, the breaks may allow in new and perhaps regenerative ideas.

--Lesley Wright
Director, Grinnell College Museum of Art

Visualizing Abolition and Freedom, 2017

Student stands in front of art installation in HSSC

Visualizing Abolition and Freedom is more than a visiting artist’s contribution to public art at Grinnell College; it is a collaborative project that brought students, faculty, and staff together over a shared passion for both art and history. The piece itself consists of thirty-five resin blocks, each created by a different student or faculty member, in which the artist aimed to visualize a story, theme, or idea relating to slavery and freedom. Spearheaded by renowned Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrié, this piece examines themes of enslavement, abolition, and freedom through the lens of the Haitian Revolution of 1791. Although the piece originated with a study of Haiti, this project assumed a global perspective. By studying the Haitian Revolution from within the walls of a small and insular Midwestern college grappling with its own relationship to race and oppression, Grinnellians were able to connect themes from a seemingly extraneous subject to their own interests and experiences, finding relevance and meaning in unexpected ways.

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