Sights Along Speedway Tour Mark di Suvero, Clock Knot

Mark di Suvero, Clock Knot, 2007. Painted Steel. Photo by Ben Aqua.

Press play to listen to the audio guide.

Who: Mark di Suvero

What: Clock Knot

Where: Dean Keeton and Speedway

When: 2008

Why: Clock Knot is the first work purchased by UT for the Landmarks collection. The artist, Mark di Suvero, creates sculptures in a tradition called Abstract Expressionism—an artistic movement in which color, shape, and content generate an emotional response from viewers.


Di Suvero wanted to change the way people interacted with sculptures. He took them of off pedestals and placed them in the midst of everyday surroundings, creating a unique and more intimate viewing experience. Di Suvero’s favorite view of the piece is from underneath looking up at the sky. Rather than name the work himself, di Suvero held a contest asking the public to submit suggestions. Poet Kurt Heinzelman won the contest with Clock Knot, and wrote a poem in its honor.


Clock Knot, encourages viewers to look at it from many angles and to discover new interpretations. Are those the hands of a clock? Is the tangle of metal in the middle a knot? Is it not a knot?


Audio Transcript

Linda Henderson LH: This is Linda Henderson, Professor of Art and History at the University of Texas, speaking about Mark di Suvero’s sculpture Clock Knot for Landmarks.

Mark di Suvero’s Clock Knot is an ideal sculpture for a university campus. It brings together his vast interests in a variety of fields, ranging from philosophy, poetry, music, dance to physics, engineering, a variety of kinds of concerns. He’s someone who believes deeply that the artist must be engaged with the world and aware of recent developments in all kinds of fields.

When di Suvero emerged on the scene in New York in the 1960s, it was in the context of Abstract Expressionism. He had been inspired by the paintings of Franz Kline with their bold, thrusting gestures, and in works, like Hank Champion of 1959, which was shown for the first time in a show in 1960, which received great critical acclaim.

Di Suvero invented basically a new kind of sculpture. Critic Sydney Geist said, “Sculpture will never be the same again,” and indeed these sculptures of wooden beams gathered from refuse in the demolition going on in downtown New York City, were chained together expressing thrusting forces out into space. Sculpture had come off the pedestal, was on the ground and was something that the viewer could experience in terms of its energy and dynamism.

Di Suvero and his friends in the Park Place Gallery group in the mid 1960s were deeply engaged with urban dynamism. His materials changed from refuse to steel I-beams, which he painted in bright colors and expressed equally the energy of the color of the city.

Behind Clock Knot lies a great deal of intellectual knowledge. At the same time, di Suvero feels deeply that his sculpture is meant to awaken us, awaken a sense of the child and our delight in play and he’s talked recently about his interest in play and viewers’ physiological response to sculpture in a conversation with Andrée Bober.

Mark di Suvero MdS: I struggle for…to make a work that is joyous with life, that aids people to be together, that can move people, not just emotionally, but physiologically. So far I’ve had beautiful responses and I don’t know what will happen.

LH: Experience of a di Suvero sculpture is one of space and one of time. Off the pedestal, the sculpture invites us to move around and under it, to experience from every point of view. Clock Knot does that for us. As we move around the sculpture, it may initially appear to be a clock with hands and yet from another point of view, will be a completely different configuration. The space is crucial to our experience. At the same time, we are moving through that space and, for di Suvero, space and time are tightly integrated in what Einstein called “the space-time continuum”. Di Suvero says, “I am a child of Einstein, we all are.” He also says, “I can not think about space without time,” and indeed our motion around that sculpture, creates a space-time experience for each of us.

MdS: I want people to understand my sculpture, I want them to live through it, I want them to be able to walk through it, and feel the sense of space all the way around them, so that you’re not looking at a piece of sculpture as an object, but you’re feeling it surrounding you as if it was more than just a cape, but that it was a piece of music that was all the way around you.

LH: When di Suvero builds a sculpture with a crane, he’s very conscious of the weight of the beams he’s manipulating. He’s used the analogy of a dancer, in terms of his having to be so sensitive to balance, and in Clock Knot we feel that balance. We’re aware that the sculpture weighs tons and yet, the way he configures this material, it gives us this exhilarating sense of lift as though this multi-ton dancer who has alit upon the knoll could spring off at any moment and float up among the buildings. Di Suvero has said that sculpture is a springboard for the spirit and the presence of Clock Knot on the University of Texas campus certainly will make this definition come true. Clock Knot adds to the history of sculpture as it is being represented on the campus, and will indeed provide an exhilarating stimulus for all of those who come in contact with it.