A Sculpture’s Move from Downtown to Oakland

For today’s Throwback Thursday, we’re tracing the story behind Kenneth Snelson’s Forest Devil and how the sculpture made its voyage from Mellon Square Park to the Portal Entry at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The tubular, metal sculpture was originally installed in Mellon Square in 1977 as part of the Sculpturescape exhibition for the Three Rivers Art Festival. Four artists were commissioned to create works that would achieve the Festival’s aim to bring significant outdoor monumental sculpture to Pittsburgh. Sculpturescape connected Pittsburgh industry, labor, students, and locally-produced materials directly with the artist for the community project.

A sculpture made of thin, long metal bars and wires installed on a green space
Outdoor installation view of Kenneth Snelson’s Forest Devil in downtown Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square Park

In 2013, the City of Pittsburgh decided to restore Mellon Square to its original design, which would not include Forest Devil, and Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) was asked to help remove it. A team of outside experts and CMOA staff helped reassemble and relocate the sculpture to the Portal Entry at the front of the museum.

A crew of workers install a large, metal sculpture in an outdoor courtyard
Midwest F.A.S.T. (Fine Arts Services and Transportation) and CMOA staff oversee reinstallation
A crew of workers install a large, metal sculpture in an outdoor courtyard
Midwest F.A.S.T. (Fine Arts Services and Transportation) and CMOA staff oversee reinstallation

In 2014, Kenneth Snelson visited the museum to discuss his sculptural practice of “tensegrity,” the blending of flexible and rigid components. Dan Byers, former Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, described Forest Devil as “in dialogue with the movement around it at the museum—cars circling it, people walking around it—and in some ways it takes on that energy and also holds its ground. It’s a still point in a moving world, and it’s that tension between stillness and movement inherent in the work that makes it so interesting in its new space.” Read more about the lecture on the Carnegie Magazine archives.

A man with grey hair and a dark sweater stands, smiling, in front of an abstract metal sculpture on a green space in front of a large building
Image Caption: Artist Kenneth Snelson poses in front of his work, Forrest Devil

Be sure to look for the sculpture the next time you visit the museum!