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Houston Conwill

Arc, 1986 - Metals and Concrete, span 26 feet

Houston Conwill received his BFA from Howard University and his MFA from University of Southern California. He received several prestigious awards including the 1984 Prix de Rome. Conwill’s most recognized sculptures are site-specific installations created in collaboration with architect J. DePace and poet Estella Majozo. Their designs are often floor installations that can be entered and contemplated from within.

Arc’s shadow aligns with thin bronze inlays drawn in the concrete below that chart time as the sun moves overhead. The metal arch was created using arc spraying, an unusual technique for fine art sculpture. One can walk under and around Arc to examine the multitude of symbols rising from its surface. But there are no translations.

Conwill often looks to the Kongo peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo for artistic inspiration. Arc includes three bronze circles imbedded in the concrete paving each with one word repeated twice. The first, Memory, lies beneath the arch as if asking us to somehow recall those ancestral symbols. Descend a few stairs to stand inside Vision, climb a few more to encounter Imagination. All three circles are divided into four equal parts after Yowa, the Kongo sign for the continuity of human life: youth, maturity, old age, and death. Perhaps Conwill saw York College as a place of transformation that welcomes students at all stages of life as long as they are willing to put memory, vision and imagination to work.

by Linda Buie, Class of 2003

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  1. Biographical data was taken from Thomas Riggs, ed. St. James Guide to Black Artists (Detroit, 1997), p.188-121.
  2. Rivers is located in Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
  3. Molten metal, usually zinc or copper, is sprayed in fine droplets that cool and solidify. Common applications are for corrosion control and decorative detailing on architecture.

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This project was completed in Spring 2008 by students in English 384, Writing for Electronic Media.