Duet (Homage to David Smith) – Robert Murray

            Along with many other sculptures, murals, and other pieces of art on the campus of California Statue University Long Beach, I have constantly passed by this one without really knowing who put it there and understanding the history behind it. Located right outside the CSULB bookstore, near the free-speech courtyard, this sculpture is sure to capture the eye of students. On March 1st, 2020, I decided to visit the sculpture and really get a good look at it, searching for any details I might have missed. After visiting the sculpture, I decided to research it on my own to discover the true history and significance of it.

            This structure is called Duet (Homage to David Smith) and was created by Canadian artist Robert Murray in 1965. Along with many of the other sculptures on campus, such as Now by Piotr Kowalski, Murray created this sculpture during the 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium, organized by CSULB sculpture professor Kenneth Glenn and artist Kosso Eloul.[1] Artist Robert Murray was one of the artists taking part in the symposium at CSULB and decided to construct Duet (Homage to David Smith). The sculpture was created at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in San Pedro, California, and is comprised primarily of three sheets of one-inch thick steel that were intended to be “self-supporting.” The “carefully balanced geometric composition” of the piece is typical of Murray, especially among his works during the 1960s. [2] This sculpture was ultimately meant to serve as a beacon on the landscape of campus, but it is not clear if the structure has any deeper meaning.[3] In the grass, in front of the structure, there is a plaque in concrete which states, “Robert Murray, Canada. Duet (Homage to David Smith). International Sculpture Symposium, 1965.

            Due to the weather conditions in Southern California, especially with CSULB’s proximity to the coast, this sculpture has taken a beating over the years. In response to this, the Getty Conservation Institute decided to help preserve the piece of art in the summer of 2015. Over the years, this sculpture has been painted repeatedly in response to the harsh effects the environment has on the piece of art. Each time the sculpture was painted; however, the sculpture ultimately became darker and redder, which was not what Murray originally intended. After finding thirteen different layers of paint when working on the sculpture, project lead Rachel Rivenc, a scientist at the Conservation Institute, worked with Murray himself to determine the original paint color.[4] Once a paint color that was very close to the original creamy yellow was decided on, Rosa Lowinger and her colleagues worked to repaint and preserve the art piece, attempting to bring it back to how it looked when it was placed in 1965. After the conservation was complete, Murray himself said, “Paint color is just as important as maintaining the structural integrity of sculpture,” revealing just how significant this repainting process was.[5]

            Duet (Homage to David Smith) is yet another amazing work of art that sits on our campus as a result of the International Sculpture Symposium of 1965 and seems to not receive the appreciation it deserves. There is a lot of amazing artwork on campus and this piece by Robert Murray is just one of them.

Bibliography

“Built to Inspire.” Beach Magazine. California State University Long Beach. Summer 2015. https://web.csulb.edu/sites/beachmag/2015/06/built-to-inspire/. (accessed March 1, 2020).

“Duet (Homage to David Smith),” Arts Council for Long Beach. Arts Council for Long Beach. https://artslb.org/public-art/duet-homage-to-david-smith/. (accessed March 1, 2020).

Sivak, Alexandria “Outdoor Sculpture at Long Beach Campus Gets a Fresh Look.” The Getty Iris. July 25, 2018. https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/outdoor-sculpture-at-long-beach-campus-gets-a-fresh-look/. (accessed March 1, 2020).


[1] Alexandria Sivak. “Outdoor Sculpture at Long Beach Campus Gets a Fresh Look.” The Getty Iris, July 25, 2018. https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/outdoor-sculpture-at-long-beach-campus-gets-a-fresh-look/. (accessed March 1, 2020).

[2] “Duet (Homage to David Smith),” Arts Council for Long Beach. Arts Council for Long Beach, https://artslb.org/public-art/duet-homage-to-david-smith/. (accessed March 1, 2020).

[3] “Built to Inspire.” Beach Magazine. California State University Long Beach, 2015. https://web.csulb.edu/sites/beachmag/2015/06/built-to-inspire/. (accessed March 1, 2020).

[4] Alexandria Sivak. “Outdoor Sculpture at Long Beach Campus Gets a Fresh Look.”

[5] Ibid.

2 Comments

  1. ST

    Hello Ryan,
    Thank you for this post. I found your post is very informative. I passed by this piece countless times and never thought much of it. I thought of it as just an abstract piece to fill the space. I knew there is an actual meaning behind it.

    – Sirey T.

  2. ZF

    Hello Ryan,

    I was really surprised reading about this, because I’m a senior graduating this year, yet not once have I passed by this sculpture. I’ve never seen it before. I enjoyed knowing its history, it’s so cool and interesting! I will definitely stop by there!

    Zoey Ferman

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