Agriculture, Industry, Justice and Literature
These four allegorical figures appear on the south exterior of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (formerly the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office), and represent four of the foundations of American society. They flank the building’s two entry pavilions. The figures were carved by J. (John) Massey Rhind (1860-1936) in 1906.
Agriculture is depicted as a seated, classically-draped female figure holding a scythe in her proper left hand and a sheaf of wheat in her proper right hand.
Industry is depicted as a seated, classically-draped female figure holding a hammer and with an anvil at her proper right side.
Justice is depicted as a seated, classically-draped female figure holding a sword in her proper left hand.
Literature is depicted as a seated, classically-draped female figure with an open book on her lap and a rolled scroll in her proper left hand.
The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is a distinguished example of Beaux Arts architecture, typical of the 19th and early 20th centuries for public buildings. Begun in 1902 and completed in 1905, the U-shaped structure occupied an entire block, rose four stories, and housed federal courts, offices, and the main post office. The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse inspired Beaux Arts designs for other public buildings in Indianapolis, including City Hall (1910), the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library (1917), and buildings in the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza (dedicated in 1927). In 1974, the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For more information about the building, visit the General Services Administration’s website.
Rhind was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied art with his father, a renowned sculptor, and at the Royal Scottish Academy in addition to private lessons with the French artist Jules Dalou in Lambeth, England. Rhind emigrated to the U.S. in 1889 and settled in New York City, moving to New Jersey ten years later to set up his own studio. He was very prolific, and well known for his free-standing portrait sculptures, some of which are in the U.S. Capitol, fountain sculptures, and architectural enhancements for public structures, including monuments, courthouses, commercial establishments, and churches. Read more about Rhind at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Massey_Rhind
Color Fuses consists of 35 bands of painted color and corresponding illumination wrapping the base of the Minton-Capehart Federal Building. Commissioned by GSA’s Art in Architecture program in 1974, the piece emerged from collaboration between Glaser and building architect Evans Woolen, who shared the goal of making the austere building more appealing to the general public. Color Fuses celebrates the interplay of color and light to make the stark, heavy building appear to float weightlessly. To further this effect, Glaser programmed the exterior perimeter lighting, visible from dusk to dawn, to illuminate his mural in a slow rise and fall sequence at night. This rhythm alludes to the gradual rising and setting of the sun and the timeless wonder associated with the qualities of light as it shifts and reveals itself on the horizon.
At the time of its installation, Color Fuses was one of the world’s largest contiguous murals, measuring 672 feet in length. Although the effect of the lighting was minimal when it was originally installed and had to be abandoned, after a 2014 restoration with digitally-controlled LED technology the combination of color and light finally enhances and enlivens the pedestrian experience as the artist intended.
Milton Glaser (b. 1929) is a celebrated graphic designer, probably best known for inventing the iconic “I [heart] NY” logo in 1977. At the time he was commissioned to create Color Fuses, Glaser owned his own design firm and was one of the founders, and chief designer, of New York magazine (1968).
Read more about this artwork at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/141903 and http://blog.art21.org/2012/08/28/no-preservatives-restored-and-renewed-milton-glasers-1975-artwork-color-fuses/
Mail - Transportation and Delivery
Mail – Transportation and Delivery is one of a series of nine murals in the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office painted by Indianapolis artist Grant Christian in 1936, with funding from the Treasury Relief Art Project. The mural consists of 7 oil on canvas panels.
In 1934, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. established the Section of Painting and Sculpture with the goals of providing decoration for public buildings to increase public exposure to art and to provide financial relief for Depression-era artists. The Section’s head, Edward Bruce, considered post offices to be ideal locations for art, since they were accessible and widely visited. The Treasury Relief Art Program (TRAP), affiliated with the Works Progress Administration, was part of this initiative. A national program of murals in post offices was commissioned with the requirement that, if possible, murals were to be painted by residents of the state in which the mural appeared. In Indiana, 37 murals were commissioned from mostly unknown artists.
Under TRAP, Indianapolis artist Grant Christian in 1936 painted a series of nine murals for the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office in Indianapolis (now the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse). This mural, located in the southwest corner of the third floor on the south wall, is one of them. Christian was 24-years-old and a recent graduate of the John Herron Art Institute (now the Herron School of Art & Design) when he was commissioned after winning a competition.
From left to right, the individual panels are titled “The Capital’s First Railroad,” “Transportation and Communication,” and “Industry and Legislation.” The last panel shows Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt (with document) and Indianapolis Mayor John W. Kern (behind the Governor) who were in office when Mr. Christian painted the murals. At the upper right of this panel, over the sleek modern train, is a depiction of the Indiana State House dome.
Photo, text, and permission credit: U.S. General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service, Fine Arts Collection
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