Illinois Landscape No. 5 1976
Artist: John Henry (American, b. 1943)
Materials: welded and painted steel
Provenance: Commissioned by the Governors State University Foundation with assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts
The sculptor John Henry was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1943. He gained an appreciation of construction materials and techniques from his father, who was a construction engineer. Henry attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earning a BFA.
The artist was a founding member of a group of young sculptors who championed the idea of placing large scale sculpture in public places. He organized Eight American Sculptors, an early group exhibition of large scale, abstract sculpture which invaded Pioneer Court, the plaza of the Equitable Building off of Michigan Avenue, in 1968.
Illinois Landscape No. 5 was commissioned by the Governors State University Foundation with assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts. It made its debut on the GSU Campus in 1976 when William Engbretson, the outgoing president of the university, spearheaded the groundbreaking exhibition The Sculptor, the Campus, and the Prairie, bringing work by seven sculptors to the campus. Many of those works have, over time, become part of the collection of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park.
This sculpture, which measures 134 feet in length, is typical of John Henry's work. Through the careful arrangement of simple forms and with great attention to angles of incidence and visual weight, the artist has created a structure which seems, from a distance, to dance effortlessly across the landscape. But it is also an interactive work, so large the viewer can enter it, move easily between its monumental components observing the play of light and shade - experiencing the work from both the inside and out.