Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Half and Half

In 1964, a national competition was held to find a work of art to welcome shoppers at one of the entrances to the Merrion Centre, a new, modernist shopping precinct in the heart of Leeds. The winner was 'Androgyne', by art student Glenn Hellman.

Glenn said of the work "the myth of the Androgynes is relevant to the title. They were a race of people joined with the perfect partner who because of their perfection, in time became so arrogant that that they angered the Gods so much that they split them asunder and ever since we have wandered the world seeking our other half. This destruction is a recurring theme in my work, but not the only one. Forms tearing themselves apart, or if you are a 'glass half full' person, then healing themselves. Personally I think the glass is down to the dregs."

Famous and controversial in its time, this photograph shows it as it looked in 1967. Part of a vibrant thoroughfare, surrounded by life and movement. There are even benches in front of it for passers by to sit and look at it. Sadly, fifty years on, it has become one of the most neglected pieces of public art in the city, with changes to the precinct and surrounding areas slowly turning the busy area it was once situated in into a dingy courtyard, a non-place. It's really rather sad, and 'Androgyne' cuts a lonely figure these days, the spirit of modernity become old and marginalised.

Glenn Hellman went on from the competition to have a long career as a professional sculptor. His work becomes even more abstract and divisive as it goes on, which is something I always look for in an artist.

Screen Maquette

Curly Vee


Horizontal Curves
I wonder if Glenn Hellmann ever thinks of 'Androgyne', surely his most seen work? Either way, whenever I'm in Leeds, I always make sure that I seek it out and give it a little pat.

1 comment:

  1. I am happy to see Art Informel beginning to be re-discovered and appreciated once more. It is so emblematic of a very precise time in the 50s and 60s that I am surprised at the lack of attention it gets in scholarly circles. Most of it has been regarded as kitsch since the 70s, like the architecture from its same era, and it is ripe for re-discovery.