At the Contemporary Austin, an artistic monument to liberty and justice rises

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A potent, monumental sculpture has now taken up permanent residence on the rooftop of the Contemporary Austin.

Working over the last two nights, the museum installed Jim Hodges “Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress), an illuminated sculpture of seven-foot-tall letters that rim the newly updated rooftop of the museum downtown Jones Center venue at Congress Ave. and Seventh — just a few blocks from the Texas State Capital

During the day, the letters’ iridescent, mirrored surfaces will oscillate hues shifting between blues, purples, oranges, and pinks.

At night, the letters are lit from within.

In his artistic practice Hodges — born in 1957 in Spokane, Washington — typically uses mundane materials to create his poetic and conceptual sculpture as a means to embrace the ephemerality of art and celebrate the handmade.

As a gay artist, Hodges was deely affected by the culture wars and AIDS epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s. As Contemporayr curator Heather Pesanti points out, Hodges devised a creative strategy of using language in a profound but simple manner. Writes Pesanti; “Hodges’s response was not heavy-handed politicism but disarmingly simple, sometimes beautiful, and seemingly innocuous objects and installations that often engaged the viewer in an immersive or even playful manner while serving as Trojan horses for powerful political messages.”
In 2004, for an installation at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, Hodges invited representatives from all member-nations of the United Nations to write down the phrase “don’t be afraid” in their native language.
“Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) is permanent installation. It will be celebrated Dec. 17 with a slate of free public programs and free admission at both the Jones Center and at the Contemporary’s sculpture park at Laguna Gloria.
Photo courtesy The Contemporary Austin.

Photo courtesy The Contemporary Austin.

The Hodges’ installation is just part of a $3 million renovation of the architecturally distinctive Jones Center. Most dramatically, a 21-foot high canopy was added to the rooftop where the museum stages films screenings and other events. The new canopy offers shade and rain protection, fans and hook-ups for heaters as well as sound abatement.

Inside the museum’s first floor was opened to add 2,000 square feet of flexible gallery space. In total, the Jones Center now has 7,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Less visible are significant upgrades to the Jones Center humidity and temperature controls to meet stringent museum industry specifications. And a heavy-capacity electric lift between the lower and upper floors allows the museum to move larger works of art. The seven-foot letters of Hodges’ sculpture were among the first art works to make use of the new lift.

The museum funded the $3 million renovation from a combination of $1.3 million grant from the Moody Foundation, a bridge loan and private donations.

Acquisition of Hodges’ sculpture comes from donors including Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman, Agnes Gund, Horizon Bank, Candace and Michael Humphreys, Jeanne and Michael Klein, Lannan Foundation, Nancy and Dr. Robert Magoon, Amy and John Phelan, Lora Reynolds and Quincy Lee.

A previous version of the work installed on the ground level outside the Aspen Art Museum in 2014.

 

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A day after its initial installation, Jim Hodges’ sculpture on the rooftop of the Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center, Congress Ave. and Seventh St. Photo by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin.


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