Steelcityscape – A Journey

Previously we looked at the emergence of the rounded square motif in Aaronel’s metal sculptures. The rounded square became the dominate feature of her larger works, Mitosis III, 1972, for Grand Central Mall in Parkersburg West Virginia and Mitosis V, 1983 for Melbourne Square, an enclosed mall in Melbourne Florida.  In between the creation of these two pieces, Aaronel produced Steelcityscape, 1976, a monumental stainless carbon steel work that epitomizes the rounded square motif and is recognized as her most well know and well loved work of art in the city of Pittsburgh. Aaronel describes it, “All the pieces are interdependent upon the total form, the beauty of geometry – a suspension in and a penetration of space. Two themes, roundness and squareness merge to form the motif – the rounded square.”

One of three prize-winning works from the 1976 Society of Sculptors Show, Sites: Public and Private, Steelcityscape was designed specifically for its location on the portico of the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. The other two winners were Peter Calaboyias’s stainless steel Five Factors II for West Park (now at Mellon Park) and H. Douglas Pickering’s Clarion Call for Schenley Park.

Steelcityscape was installed in 1976.

Steelcityscape weighs 3.5 tons and had to be removed from the City-County Building because it was too heavy and causing the portico to sink. It was moved to Fort Duquesne Boulevard along the Allegheny River at 9th Street.

Eventually it was moved upstream on the Allegheny River to Washington and Allegheny River Boulevards. This location, however, was a storage facility.  Here the records go dark and I am unable to determine when or why it was placed in storage or at what point it was painted a plum color. We do know that being out of sight, Steelcityscape did deteriorate.

As part of an ongoing conservation effort for its art collection, the City of Pittsburgh secured a private grant to restore Steelcityscape. The work, begun in 2009, was preformed by McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory in Oberlin Ohio. Meanwhile, Aaronel and her husband Irv were given a tour of possible locations for Steelcityscape by Morton Brown, Public Art Manager for the city of Pittsburgh. They looked at a park on Mt. Washington overlooking the city, a small grassy area near the Convention Center and Mellon Park at 5th and Penn Avenues. Independent minded Aaronel had several qualms about each site. She eventually settled on Mellon Park which would be host for works of two other artists, Five Factors, by Peter Calaboyias and Untitled (January Sprinter), by Tom Morandi.

Steelcityscape was installed at its present location in Mellon Park on a cold day in January 2012, six months after Aaronel passed away.