Agora Design Partnership | Design for Public Parks & Spaces

Totemic Columns

  • 52″ or 10′
  • Bronze platters or bronze
  • 2014–2016

In an homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Light created “Totemic Column, Four-part Male” and “Totemic Column, Four-part Female.” These are 52 inches or 10 feet in height. Shown here is the male and female, 52″ x 20″ x 14″. The “Endless Column,” inspired by Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, shown here in bronze, is 10’ x 4″ x 4″.

There have been many totems throughout history, such as the French menhirs (1100 BC) and the English henges (2000 to 3000 BC), thought to have a basis in religion or astronomy. Later examples include the Column of Trajan (113 AD) and that of Napoleon (1810 AD), which honored the ego of those leaders.

In the twentieth century there have been several notable columns, for example Brâncuși’s Endless Column (1938, Romania) the Washington Monument (1885) and even modern high rises. These latter would seem not to have any religious significance. However, they do reach to the heavens, and the pursuit of money and capital comes very close to a religion in this country.

In the Totemic Columns series, sculptor Richard Light has developed his version of these figures. “The Four Minute Tower,” for example, reminds us of the industrial forms found in the masks. “The Bell Tower” was developed from mass-produced cups resembling bells. The others use plant-derived forms.