1969. Cor-ten steel, 24' 7 1/4" x 10' 5 1/2" x 10' 5 1/2" (749.9 x 318.8 x 318.8 cm)
Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk, made of Cor-Ten steel, stands over 25 feet tall and weighs 6,000 pounds. An inverted obelisk—a four-sided tapering monument from Ancient Egypt—balances precariously atop a pyramid, another Egyptian form. The sculpture was designed for no particular site, and it commemorates no specific person or moment in history. Some interpret Broken Obelisk as a universal monument to all humanity. However, the severed, upended form could also suggest that there is nothing to celebrate—perhaps an allusion to the social unrest of the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War protests occurring in the United States in the 1960s.
A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.
A tall, four-sided monument that tapers into a pyramid-like form.
A steel alloy that develops a rust-like appearance when exposed to weather for several years, eliminating the need for repainting. Because of this quality, it is also called weathering steel.
An Unburdened Art
Barnett Newman said: “I believe that here in America, some of us, free from the weight of European culture, are finding the answer, by completely denying that art has any concern with the problem of beauty and where to find it. … We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been devices of Western European painting.”1