Fabricated in aluminum and coated in white enamel, Ugo Rondinone’s series of sculptures are cast from olive trees found in the countryside outside Naples, Italy—the hometown of the artist’s parents. Italian law mandated that rubber casts be done on-site. In the foundry, wax gave way to a final aluminum cast, painted in weather-resistant white paint and weighing approximately one ton.
In the urban environment of downtown Des Moines, the presence of this ghostly copy of a tree that grows in the warm mediterranean climate furthers the artist’s investigation into the themes of time, displacement, and the relationship between natural and artificial environment. The sculpture “air gets into everything even nothing” clamors for the viewer’s attention, even in the John and Mary Pappajohn sculpture park where it competes with a number of other exceptional works. It is both a compliment and a contrast with urban Des Moines’ glass and concrete downtown, particularly in the harsh winters when the surface of this ghostly white sculpture cast from a tree that grows in the warm climate of the mediterranean plays against the snow’s luminescent tones.
This poetic sculpture, which has lent its name to the artist’s 2006 exhibition, reflects, as part of a new poem, on the question of finitude by transforming a natural element into an artificial one, and thus withdrawing it from the natural course of time. The tree serves as a metaphor for the human condition, a thread which runs through Ugo Rondinone’s entire oeuvre.
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