Donald Lipski, “The West”

Donald Lipski, “The West”

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Donald Lipski, The West, 1987.

American, born 1947

Like the Dada artists of the 1910s and Pop artists of the 1960s, Donald Lipski uses ordinary objects from daily life—things easily recognized but not necessarily having a single or specific intended meaning—and assembles them in whimsical and surprising ways. He is best known for extensive arrangements of found objects that appear to have little or nothing in common, often using humorous and perplexing titles to enhance or mask meanings. Unlike formalist artists, whose goal is visual beauty, Lipski’s approach to art is primarily conceptual; that is, he seeks to express ideas and elicit viewer reactions. The visual appeal, however, remains strong and tantalizing.

The West consists of two spherical buoys, each measuring five feet in diameter. Such buoys mark deep-water shipping channels and are often used to indicate where large commercial and military ships are permitted to anchor offshore. Their typical place is floating on open bodies of water. Now situated on dry land, the buoys are no longer functional, like fish out of water. Instead of providing secure anchorage to ships, the two buoys are shackled uselessly to each other. To the surfaces of the metal buoys Lipski glued regular pennies that he deliberately corroded, alluding to the predominance of capitalism in Western values and the global reach of the American dollar.

A certain conversation starter, The West combines items that offer visual allusions, inviting the viewer to engage in the mental work of supposing. For some, the title of the piece implies unchartered territory, while the suggestive shape of the buoys hints at the brut force and masculine energy that is needed to conquer the unknown. The pennies attached to the surface of the sculpture—heads on one buoy and tails on the other—suggest the odds of a great gamble. Like much of Lipski’s sculpture, understanding The West is similar to teasing apart a poem—multiple meanings can be coaxed out and revealed over time.

  • <p>Donald Lipski, The West, 1987.  Photo by Ben Aqua.</p>
  • <p>Donald Lipski, The West, 1987.  Photo by Marsha Miller.</p>

Location: East of COM on Inner Campus Drive

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