Art Type
Media / Materials
Year Completed
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Gift of the Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation and the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Family Foundation, 2004.27
Latitude & Longitude
41.589023, -93.616833
Location Description
West side of the Des Moines City Hall facing the Des Moines River, The Principal Riverwalk


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According to the artist, this 2001-2003 sculpture references real psychological states and human movement that are caught between implosion and explosion, between troubling collapse and exuberant release. The author Michele Gerber Klein suggested that the artist’s “work is about longing and impossibility.” Here Shapiro courts gravity as a sculptural partner, and his sculpture plays with gravity’s pull in an interactive tussle.

Like many of his sculptures which are reduced to stick-like configurations, this large-scale form is anonymous — a figure stripped down and devoid of detail. It stands 20 feet tall. Masterfully poised, the ambiguously unbalanced figure’s skewed beam-like limbs reflects human energy: the expressiveness and expansiveness of gravity-defying, human movement.

Shapiro notes that one of the basic questions that has driven him as a sculptor is, “How do you animate material so inanimate, so obdurate?” His sculptures often recombine simple forms to play with the internal and external relationships that define a sculpture. He looks at how the individual parts relate to one another, and how the sculpture as a whole relates to its surroundings (ground and viewer). Using dynamic ways of joining wood, bronze, or metal, Shapiro addresses fundamental formal concerns that cross centuries of art making.

In one way, this artwork can be considered transparent, allowing interplay with the Des Moines City Hall (aka Municipal Building; a three-story Beaux Arts style structure) next to it and people walking along the Riverwalk.

This beautifully fabricated work, cast bronze, is a pleasure to examine up close.

DIMENSIONS: Overall: 20 x 22 x 16.2 ft. (609.8 x 670.7 x 492.9 cm.)

INSCRIPTION: “Joel Shapiro 2001-2003, of 2” inside, bottom

EDITION: 1 of 2

©Joel Shapiro/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The opportunity to try to project all one’s thoughts into a condensed form is irresistible –- that is what sculpture is.

Joel Shapiro