Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore), 1967
approx. 40 x 40 x 30 feet
Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund and Gift of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, by exchange (99.19 )
One of America's most important living sculptors, Mark di Suvero is renowned for his monumental open-work constructions. Using cast-off materials such as ladders, chains, and metal bars, he devised a robust, geometric style of abstract sculpture in the early 1960s. Later, using I-beams, he developed an assertively industrial aesthetic that pays homage to modern engineering and the skills of construction workers. With a few massive elements, he creates compositions ranging in effect from lyrical to muscular.
The 10-ton "Are Years What?" was the first sculpture di Suvero built using I-beams and a crane from start to finish. He worked intuitively and alone as he cut, bent, and welded the beams to achieve his desired effect. Despite its massive size, Are Years What? exhibits a subtle tension between the powerful stability of the main structure and the delicate freedom of the suspended 'V' element. Its vivid red-orange beams are visible from the National Mall and Jefferson Drive, as well as from the museum plaza.
The sculpture's title alludes to the poem "What Are Years" by American poet Marianne Moore (1887-1972), which ends with the image of a captive bird that becomes mighty and sure as it sings, evoking the valor of living in the face of our mortality.
Adapted from text by Valerie J. Fletcher and Anne-Louise Marquis, 2001.