Pitt's Angular Arch Turns 40

May 13, 2014

The bright yellow geometric arch outside the University of Pittsburgh’s Posavar Hall will have a 40th birthday party on Thursday, complete with cake.

Pittsburgh’s Office of Public Art (OPA) and the University Art Gallery (UAG) are joining forces to celebrate the history of Tony Smith’s minimalist sculpture.

A tent will be set up next to the sculpture and guided tours around the sculpture will be offered at noon and 3pm.

UAG curator Isabelle Chartier will be one of the tour guides.

“I think the piece itself has a very interesting history,” said Chartier. “It’s also part of the city’s public art, so it’s part of the city’s landscape.”

The work was commissioned by Westinghouse Electric Company in 1971, and was first installed outside Gateway Center in downtown Pittsburgh on May 15, 1974.

In the 1980s, Gateway Center was renovated and the piece was placed in storage. In 1989, the University of Pittsburgh erected the sculpture in its current location. Light Up, as the piece is named, was moved to Seagram plaza in New York City for the 1998 exhibition of Smith’s work at the Museum of Modern Art, but was returned to the Posavar courtyard afterwards.

Chartier says the angular arch is aptly named.

“The yellow sculpture brightens up, lights up the grey concrete of the courtyard,” Chartier said.

OPA’s Director of Educational Programs Laura Zorch will also be guiding tours. She says Light Up is a departure from Smith’s usual style.

“If you’ve seen some of his other work, sometimes it’s dark, it can be black…but this is an interesting piece in that the color is bright and vibrant,” Zorch said.

According to Chartier, few people know the background of the work.

“We often go underneath it or pass by it but there is no marker, so a lot of people don’t actually know what it is,” Chartier said.

Zorch hopes that many members of the community come to celebrate and learn.

“It’s a great opportunity to explore what’s around you and get a new perspective on the things you may see every day,” said Zorch. “And we’ll also have cake!”