Sculpture by Robert Bruno added to the Texas Tech University Public Art Collection
On April 20, the Texas Tech University System Public Art Collection will celebrate one of its latest additions, the Untitled sculpture by the late Robert Bruno, completed in 1974. Bruno, a former professor in the TTU College of Architecture, is best known for the creation of the Steel House located in Ransom Canyon. The Untitled sculpture, a fusion of art and architecture, is said to have been the inspiration for the Steel House, and is one Bruno’s last surviving sculptures.
Although Untitled is an abstract form, I’ve had people tell me it looks like an elephant, a buffalo, and even an AT-AT (all terrain armored transport, as seen in Star Wars). Bruno certainly found inspiration in his creation, and I wonder if he hoped for the same response by the public. It is said that some days, he would sit beneath the sculpture to eat lunch. Supposedly one day he remarked to his daughter that if he rebuilt it on a larger scale, maybe he could live in it. Thus began his life-long construction of the Steel House, which remains unfinished.
After the sculpture’s creation, it was moved several times, prompting the need for the wheels that were seen attached to the sculpture. Before its move to Texas Tech, the Untitled sculpture’s last location had been in a cotton field east of MLK Boulevard for 35 years, on land owned by friends of Bruno. Perhaps many Lubbock residents had seen it out there, but few knew what it was or what it was doing there.
The purchase of this sculpture was made possible by the Texas Tech University System’s “Percent for Art” program. It was initiated by the Board of Regents in 1998 to enliven the campus environments and extend each university’s educational mission. One percent of the estimated total cost of each new capital project is allocated to commission or purchase high quality works of art, meaning that new construction on campus, as well as building renovations, receive public art.
Although the majority of the pieces in the University Public Art Collection (UPAC) are original commissions for their project, when the College of Architecture started renovation, project representatives Michael Martin and Upe Flueckiger had a different idea for their Percent for Art piece. Knowing that one of Bruno’s few remaining sculptures had been sitting in a field, they asked if the UPAC could purchase the endangered artwork instead of creating a new object. Once this idea was approved by the UPAC and the TTU Chancellor, plans to purchase, and move this sculpture to campus were finalized.
The renovations at the College of Architecture began in 2011. Between working out the details of purchasing the sculpture, as well as all the engineering and planning to figure out how to best move Untitled, it has been a long journey to get it where it is today. Now that it is here, it seems right at home, as if this is where it was meant to be displayed. The presence of Bruno’s work at the Architecture building not only serves as a memorial to Bruno, but also will provide an educational site for students upon the installation of seating spaces.
Although the sculpture was moved in January and the majority of construction on the plaza was completed in February, the final element will be installed soon, benches, designed and fabricated by a Graduate Architecture class taught by Upe Flueckiger. This final touch will transform the space into a unique outdoor learning space for TTU students.
Please join us for the official dedication of the Robert Bruno Sculpture and Plaza on April 20th at 11:30 a.m., in conjunction with the Texas Tech University College of Architecture's convocation. Members of Mr. Bruno's family and others will speak on his influence of Texas Tech, art, and architecture. The ribbon-cutting will be held on the corner of 18th and Flint, in front of the Architecture building.
For more information about the Texas Tech University System Public Art Collection, visit www.texastech.edu/publicart or contact Emily at email@example.com.
Emily Wilkinson is the Public Art Manager for the Texas Tech University System.