Phoenix Public Art: Air Apparent

An otherworldly sculpture and public art installation in Phoenix pushes viewers to ponder the color of the sky. Air Apparent is a Turrell Skyspace installation, located on the campus of the University of Arizona Tempe. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the work, from its inception to its impact on viewers today.

Artist James Turrell has been making Skyspaces since the 70s, earning international recognition for his innovative work. Air Apparent, installed in 2012, is no less impressive. The immersive art experience is a wondrous structure that frames the sky, using LED lights to “optimize color perception at sunrise and sunset.” Turrell himself describes the concrete and steel structure as “a specifically proportioned chamber with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky.” The experience for the viewer, then, becomes a surreal rumination on their own perception, grounded only by the work’s alien architecture. 

The ASU Skyspace is the third in the area, but the only one that’s open 24/7. Located at the intersection of Rural and Terrace roads, ASU President Michael Crow has declared the artworks’ proximity to “three of the most sophisticated science facilities on Earth” as anything but accidental. One of the nearby buildings, the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 (ISTB4), is renowned for designing instruments to enable scientific exploration of other worlds. The labspace includes public outreach areas to invite visitors into the scientific and engineering challenges that invigorate studies of Earth and the universe.

Air Apparent was designed by Turrell in collaboration with architect William P. Bruder, and is set in a desert garden designed by landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck. We’re wowed by the installation’s architectural feats and the deeply thoughtful way it relates back to the surrounding environment — you just have to see it to believe it. 

The Work of Paul Klee

Art plays a large role in our lives — from influencing our approach to Modernist design to transforming the spaces that we create. The repertoire of artists whose work hangs in Optima buildings is expansive, from Pablo Picasso to Joan Miro, and today, we’re spotlighting another one of our great featured artists: Paul Klee.

The Life of Paul Klee

Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland in 1879 to a German father, inheriting his father’s German citizenship at birth. Klee’s father was a talented music teacher who passed on his knowledge to Klee. By age eleven, Klee’s proficiency at violin was so impressive that he was invited to join the Bern Music Association.

Klee’s creative proficiency extended to the visual arts. And while he pursued music per his parents’ wishes, by his teenage years, a desire to rebel and to seek his true passion led him to studying art.

The Work of Paul Klee

Though Klee kept diaries in his early years that included many caricature drawings, he began art school struggling with color theory and painting. As he continued evolving his style, Klee’s humor heavily influenced his work, which began leaning towards the absurd and sarcastic. 

Over the years, Klee’s work has been categorized as Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and Absurdism. But his unique point of view, which incorporates geometric forms and a raw, childlike quality, set him apart from his peers. Klee taught at the Bauhaus school from 1921-1931, and the termination of his teaching role segued him into his most vivacious period of creation, where he created upwards of 500 works in one year.

Paul Klee’s Garden View at Optima Signature
Paul Klee’s Garden View at Optima Signature

From his extensive exploration of color theory to his pioneering and childlike style, Paul Klee is an influential artist whose influence spans far beyond his lifestyle.

The Work of Pablo Picasso

One of the world’s most iconic creators, Pablo Picasso is globally known as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His brightly-colored work adorns the walls of our Optima buildings, and today we dive into his life and work.

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, 1912. Photo in Public Domain

A Promising Start

Born in Spain in 1881, Picasso was a gifted artist from a young age, receiving lessons early on from his father, who was also a painter. While trained and mentored in academic realism, by the time Picasso was sixteen, his interpretation of Modernism began to attract attention within the art world. Picasso struggled with the close influence of his father, who he fought with frequently, and eventually bounced back and forth between Spain and France to pursue his own distinguished style.

An Expansive Body of Work

Throughout his life, Picasso became known for his range of distinctive styles and contributions to various art movements. His work covered Cubism, Surrealism, Neoclassicism, as well as his famous Blue Period and Rose Period. Having lived in Europe through both World Wars, Picasso’s work is reflective of a world changing rapidly and drastically. While living in a German-occupied Paris during World War II, Picasso continued to create paintings and sculptures, despite the fact that his work did not fit the Nazi ideal of art. By the time Paris was liberated, he was already an international celebrity within the art world, a reputation that continued to grow.

Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, 1967. Credit: Dan DeLuca on Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0 Deed

A Lasting Legacy

Throughout his life, Picasso refined his mastery of painting, sculpting, printmaking, ceramics and stage design, while also dabbling in poetry and film. His art came with a turbulent personal life, including a web of muses, mistresses, wives and grandchildren, which proved complicated when it came to his estate after he passed away in 1973. His legacy was one of rigorous exploration and zealous creativity, solidifying his name as one of the world’s greatest artists.


Forms in Bronze: The Work of Henry Moore

As one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, Henry Moore often used his sculptural work to explore landscape and the human form. With our design deeply rooted in a respect for nature, Moore’s art is an innate fit to our beliefs and passions at Optima.

To honor this connection, we look back on his life and its work.

The Life of Henry Moore

Henry Moore was born July 30, 1898 in Castleford, Yorkshire, lucky number seven to a household of eight children. Moore’s father was a miner, looking to help his children escape poverty by seeking advanced education — he believed that pursuing art and sculpture was just another form of manual labor with few career prospects. And while Moore displayed an affinity for and interest in the arts at school, he was nonetheless pushed in the direction of a teaching career. 

On his eighteenth birthday, Moore enlisted in the British Army during World War I. A gas attack injury forced his honorable discharge, and led to an ex-serviceman’s grant that allowed him to pursue an education in the arts. In 1919 he became a student at Leeds College of Art and in 1921 continued his education at the Royal College of Art in London. 

Ironically, Moore did end up teaching at the college, and it was there that he met his wife. Eventually, the two moved to a farmhouse in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, where Moore was able to further explore landscape, nature and the female form in his sculpture.

Two Forms by Henry Moore. Credit: M. Readey on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Art of Henry Moore

Moore was a driving force in the English Surrealist movement, although he was also inspired by the primitive forms that he saw as a schoolboy at the British Museum, citing Mexican, Egyptian and African sculptural influences. 

His work was also undeniably influenced by nature, landscape and the female form — the softly undulating curves found within his sculptures are reminiscent of the lulling hillside of his birthplace, Castlefor, and his sculptures are always abstractions of the human figure that typically depict mother-and-child relationships or reclining bodies.

One of Moore’s most famous works, Recumbent Figure 1938, was commissioned for the terrace of a modernist house in the Sussex countryside. Moore said of the sculpture, “My figure… became a mediator between modern house and ageless land.” His wood and bronze sculptures set apart by their curves, hollows and piercings, evoking the feeling of objects that were both ancient and modern all at once in their influence and form. 

Because of his connection to nature and to Modern abstraction, Moore is indeed a beautiful mediator between natural and built environments, something we too strive to achieve through our projects.

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