Works of art in busy places add character, stir emotions

'Alabama Moon' at AmSouth/Harbert is an elegant essay on architectural form.

By James R. Nelson

Critic for the Birmingham News and Director of the Alabama School of Fine Arts



The recently installed "Alabama Moon" by Clyde Lynds is a stunning accomplishment in the plaza of the AmSouth/Harbert building. It is an elegant essay on architectural form.

The brick herringbone pattern rectangular base repeats the shape of the plaza and is marked by obelisk-like short posts at the four corners.

The centerpiece is made up of a pair of polished steel arches which support a stone arch. The center arch is occupied by a pyramid-tipped shaft with a great ball balanced on its apex.

The result is a tri-arcade reminiscent of the great triumphal arches of antiquity. Each arch has a void or break at the point where the keystone would be, giving the two side arches the look of tuning forks and the large center stone arch a strong Baroque sense of tension.

The stone-capping arch is carved in the effect of basket weave and truss crossings, with some hint of living nature in the upper section. Worked into the carved relief of the concrete, thousands of optical fibers transmit light in a programmed display of light sequences.

The relationship of this work with the building is complex and fascinating. The great ball, or moon, of the sculpture repeats the large ball ornaments at the top four corners of the building. The supporting shaft repeats the verticality of the high rise structure. The arches are imperial and Baroque, becoming a variant concentration of the building itself, and the use of stone and steel relate to the fundamental construction of the architectural statement.

This work is undoubtedly the most ambitious site-oriented public sculpture in Birmingham.

The installation of works by artists of national and international reputation provides the kind of comparison and variety that gives our public places much of their vitality and energy. Sculpture for public enjoyment is nothing new and yet it is ever new. It gives character to place, energizes the eye to concentrate, and stirs the emotions. It is a source of civic pride and awareness.