Molecule Man

Background information

Jonathan Borofsky, 32' x 25'10" x 25'10", 1991
Borofsky's first proposal, a 60' high mock stone or boulder column, was accepted by the art advisory panel but rejected by the GSA Regional Administrator and the GSA Commissioner because the latter felt it would not be understood by a wide range of the viewing public. "Molecule Man," Borofsky's next proposal, was approved in early 1990 by both the art advisory panel and the GSA.

Borofsky traced the figures for his work from a photograph on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which depicted two basketball players running to congratulate each other after winning the National Basketball Association Invitational finals. His composition celebrates the glory of a collective endeavor with recognition of our fundamental unity. According to Borofsky, this monumental work recognizes "the fact that the human body, though appearing quite solid, is mostly made up of water. In fact 97% of our body is made up of a sea water molecule..." He was pleased that his work was installed at the front of the Edward Roybal Building, near the new federal detention center and across the street from Parker Center. Like the "three buildings, each symbolizing in their own way, the efforts of human beings to live with and respect each other," Borofsky felt his four monumental figures represent "molecules working together with common goals" and are a reminder that each of us "are all made of the same molecular structure."

Unaware of Borofsky's explanation, some people have noticed the proximity of the work to the police headquarters and have concluded that the numerous holes in the four figures symbolize bullet holes. Regardless of the interpretation, the holes create a transparency, making the four figures appear like shadows when silhouetted against the sky and the surrounding buildings.

While the sculpture's 2" thick plates were being fabricated, Congressman Edward Roybal, who chaired the House Committee charged with oversight responsibility of the GSA, expressed concern that the holes would invite children to climb on the piece. These concerns were resolved when Ron McPhersen, who fabricated the $295,000 sculpture, placed the holes and indentations in the figures so it is difficult for children to mount. Finished with power grinders, the sculpture was assembled by attaching the four figures together at the arms.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, August 1997.

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