Sometime in 2012, a New York art critic of my acquaintance reached out to alert me to an "Art Research Project" on Wikipedia, the first of its kind, dedicated to the American sculptor Tony Smith (September 23, 1912-December 26-1980). The idea was to pay tribute to Smith on his 100th birthday by means of an online community-generated catalogue of his outdoor works. My friend thought that, being a full-time resident of Hawaii now, I might handle the entry on The Fourth Sign, a magnificent piece of Smith's on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in Honolulu. The reward would be a limited-edition T-shirt. I was happy to do the research, make the site visit, and follow the template, but the instructions for posting on Wikipedia defeated me. Several months' effort to enlist a helper having proved unavailing, I am posting this here now. Factual information not referenced by hyperlinks was furnished by the Department of Art and Art History at UH; descriptive passages are based on my personal observations. Anyone capable of transferring this material to the master list on Wikipedia is invited to do so, with whatever editorial tweaks that person deems appropriate, since authorship is not the issue here. Should that helpful soul also wish to claim the T-shirt, that helpful soul has my thanks and my blessing.
The Fourth Sign
The Fourth Sign is a public artwork by the American artist Tony Smith, situated on the lawn outside the Art Building at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, in Honolulu. The material is steel, painted black. In 1976, the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts commissioned Mamoru Sato, a professor of art at the university and a sculptor in his own right, to oversee the fabrication, which was carried out by the Hawaii Welding Company, Inc. at a total cost of $65,000. The edition is limited to this single piece, completed in 1977. The measurements are 15' x 37' x 20'. The university lists The Fourth Sign as a partial gift from the artist.
Smith visited Hawaii at the invitation of the university to teach a sculpture course there in the summer of 1969. He contemplated two other projects for the campus (Haole Crater and Hubris), but only The Fourth Sign was realized. The title of the completed work refers to the fourth sign of the zodiac, Cancer, or The Crab; some have seen in its shape a reference to the legs and claws of a crab.
The Fourth Sign consists of nine straight sections, fused end to end to form a broken circle. Three horizontal sections rest on the ground. Using the orientation of a clock face, 12 o'clock falls at the center of one of these sections, while the other two converge on 6 o'clock, where the break occurs. Connecting these sections are two broad arches, each composed of three sections. (See photographs.) Though open to the sky, the sculpture defines its own "interior" and "exterior," offering a startling sense of safe haven and enclosure. In 1978, the Honolulu-based artist and professor of religion, described how quickly the university community made Smith's sculpture its own: "When he returns to Hawaii, Smith will see students draping their young bodies over his sculpture and nestle within the circle of its arms, just as they bathe under the pool under Manoa falls. This is the local reaction to what, however awesome, is beautiful and a gift." As of 2013, such interaction with the sculpture may be observed on any given day.
The National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Program supported The Fourth Sign with a $20,000 grant. The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for the state of Hawaii lists the piece on its register of Art In Public Places under number C0121.
Main article: Tony Smith (sculpture)
Per a general article on public art at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, published in 1998, "virtually all of the outdoor pieces were in stages of disrepair -- from neglect to vandalism." A casual inspection with the naked eye in April 2013 revealed some corrosion and gentle graffiti (see photograph), but no signs of outright vandalism.