Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A visual tour de force that says you're definitely in Berkeley

The Rotante Dal Foro Centrale / A visual tour de force

Look, how the floor of heaven
is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold;
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings ...
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

~ William Shakespeare, from The Merchant of Venice

The Rotante Dal Foro Centrale is a shining orb measuring six and one-half feet in diameter. It sits on a swatch of circular bricks surrounded by a bed of bright green grass amid a tall grove of California redwood trees. It's a head turner and an eye opener that's located just off bustling Oxford Street, along a busy pathway near the western entrance of the 178-acre University of California campus in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco.

Walking by the Rotante Dal Foro Centrale, as I did on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, it garnered my attention. And, it grabbed the attention of many others, too: UC students, tourists, football fans heading across campus to Memorial Stadium and locals just up from downtown Berkeley, who snapped photographs standing next to the bronze sphere, peered through it, touched it and stared curiously at it. I suppose small children could crawl through it, though I wouldn't recommend it. Yet, it's opening is big enough to leave gifts or secret notes inside.

The Rotante Dal Foro Centrale is the creation of the Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro (b. 1926), who has sculpted variations of the "Sphere Within Sphere" that are located around the world, including at the United Nations Headquarters in New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran; and Tel Aviv University, Israel.

While some have suggested that the Rotante Dal Foro Centrale resembles a huge eyeball gazing at us, one can't help wonder if the sculpture's design is meant to symbolize the September 11 attacks on America because of its explosive appearance.

On a campus filled with political and counterculture history, classic architecture and freestanding art that includes both modern abstracts and artistic gods and goddesses -- plus an assortment of bears reflecting the school mascot Oski -- leave it to a burnished metal ball with a large jagged hole to be a visual and conversational tour de force.

It's a campus landmark that definitely says you're in Berkeley.

Photograph of Rotante Dal Foro Centrale by Michael Dickens, copyright 2013.

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