Natural Histories: Public Art by Larry Kirkland

The new book on the work of Larry Kirkland begins not with a title page or a big spread of the artist’s work, but with a series of photos: a marble quarry in Carrara, the quarrying of stone that is then transported to a studio in Torano, the stonecarvers with a sculptural element for one of Kirkland’s public artworks, and the finished sculpture that is the end point of the process. This opening illustrates only one segment of the artist’s process, but does indicate one characteristic of his work: he is quick to give credit to his many collaborators. The book also includes drawings, as well as many overviews and details of the artist’s large-scale works in public spaces from 1993 to 2008.

For an artist like Kirkland, whose work is in (and is the creation of) public spaces, it’s often difficult to get a sense of the work as a whole. This book demonstrates a solution to that problem: there are copious color photos, with short explanatory texts. The thorough and thoughtful introduction by Nancy Princenthal points out that “In his hands, placemaking becomes an opportunity to remind us that knowledge can be a sensory experience as well as an intellectual pleasure.” In immersive public environments, indoor and outdoor spaces, engraved stone and carved sculpture, Kirkland draws upon science and mathematics, classical sculpture, and foundational texts of our culture. He is also one of a small group of artists who conceived and created public art as a profession.

The book not only illustrates the work of a remarkable artist, it also provides a glimpse into the possibilities and potentials for placemaking and public sculpture in our contemporary social environment.

Book Information:
Natural Histories: Public Art by Larry Kirkland
edited by Carolyn Horwitz and Anthony Iannacci,
with an introduction by Nancy Princenthal.
Los Angeles: Architecture Interiors Press, 2011.
Hardcover, 184 pages, $70.00.

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