There’s a new addition to the St. Louis skyline, situated right in front of the Science Center in Forest Park. Occupying the island in front of the planetarium entrance is Thomas Friedman’s – the artist, not the author – 33.3 foot tall sculpture of an adrogynous figure looking toward the sky. Appropriately titled, Looking Up, the structure is made of polished stainless steel. Friedman used a foam-like material to make the initial form, then he and his team texturized the figure by pressing roasting pans, aluminum foil and baking tins into it through a process of molding and lost-wax casting. What resulted was a rust-free surface that acts as a reflector of light and its surroundings, making this whimsical giant take on an ethereal, almost weightless feel.
I liked the sculpture when I first visited, for its texture, its tall slender form, and its incredibly appropriate pose (staring into the heavens), given that it welcomes visitors at the entrance of a planetarium, where one is constantly forced to “look up.” But I loved the piece once I learned that Friedman is a St. Louis native and Washington University alum, whose work has been on display throughout the world. He’s known for his intricate, uncanny sculptures often made out of everyday household objects. Take for example this piece entitled Up in the Air from an installation in Tel Aviv or this one entitled Gravity, where he made glossy, inflated balloons, resting on the floor, while their strings float up to the sky.
Prior to finding it’s permanent home in St. Louis, Looking Up was on display on Chicago’s lakefront from Sept 2016-Sept 2017, and before that at the intersection of Park Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan. Looking Up, is one of three in the series, the other sculpture is permanently on display at The Contemporary Austin, Texas and (despite my extensive research) I can’t figure out exactly where the third one resides ….