(American, b. 1938)
Scale model for Engagement
copper, plastic, glass, wood, 30" x 30" x 25"
Gift of the Artist
Drawing study for Engagement
pencil, colored pencil, pastel on paper,
50" x 38"
Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation Purchase
Beginning with his early investigations
into earth art, body art, video and installation sculpture
in the late 1960s, Dennis Oppenheim has consistently created
artworks that probe deeply and at the same time lightheartedly
into human desires, emotions, relationships and thought processes.
A conceptual trope often employed by the artist is that of
a system – whether one of the body, the mind, or of society – in
the midst of breaking down. Engagement is typical of Oppenheim’s
recent sculpture, in that it uses easily recognizable images,
greatly increased in size, to spark a dialogue about situations,
emotions and relationships common to most people. Rising to
a height of thirty feet in the outdoor public sculpture, Engagement
is comprised of two immense rings, each sporting a house-shaped
gem of steel and colored glass. Leaning precariously away from
each other, the rings refer both to traditional notions of
unity, home and family, and to their fragility and potential
for dissolution. As in many of Oppenheim’s works, the
common objects (in this case rings and houses) are often sculptural
stand-ins for individuals.
Widely acknowledged as a seminal influence on contemporary
art practice, Oppenheim’s work has been featured in literally
hundreds of exhibitions worldwide, and scores of his public
sculptures have been commissioned and built. On the occasion
of his 1996 solo exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art, Oppenheim
gifted this work, two other models for public sculpture, and
two large drawings to the permanent collection.