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“Gracehoper,” by artist Tony Smith, crouches on the Overlook at Louisville Waterfront Park. The sculpture, constructed of black painted steel, measures 23’ x 22’ x 46’.
“Gracehoper” was dedicated in 1989 as a gift of the Humana Foundation in appreciation of Wendell Cherry’s leadership as first Chairman of the Board of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. It has been on loan to Waterfront Park from the Kentucky Center’s art collection since 1999.
“Gracehoper” was created as a series of three. The sculpture in Waterfront park was the second of three; the first is located at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The title comes from the central passage of “The Ondt and The Gracehoper” in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. In the novel, the “Gracehoper” is an insect representing progress, change and dynamism, very much like Smith’s own work.
“Now whim the sillybilly of a Gracehoper had jingled through a jungle of love and debts and jangled through a jumble of life in doubts afterworse, wetting with the bimblebeaks, drik-king with nautonects, bilking with durrydunglecks and horing after ladybirdies… O moy Bog, he contrited with melan-ctholy. Meblizzered, him sluggered! I am heartily hungry!”
James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake
From the Kentucky Center’s website:
“Tony Smith wanted his sculpture to serve as a springboard for the imagination. He believed his configurations of geometric shapes – rhomboids, tetrahedrons and octahedrons – could generate an infinity of associations which would vary with the experiences of the viewer. Smith believed his sculpture to be “speculations in pure form,” but of greater importance to him was an interest in myth and the creative powers of the subconscious mind. Gracehoper’s black steel sheathing and triangular limbs suggest the greatest feats of contemporary engineering, but at the same time evoke a lumbering prehistoric being. Gracehoper changes dramatically from every angle of viewing: because of its great scale and complexity, it seems animated and static at the same time, particularly as the viewer walks around it.”