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American Today

Arts and Culture

Sculpture Arrives at Katzen Arts Center

By Sally Acharya

The 3,000 pound sculpture that sits outside the Katzen Arts Center.

(Photo: Jeff Watts)

Jack Rasmussen is standing across the street from the Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Arts Center, talking on his cell phone as the newly installed bronze sculpture flashes in the sun, its polished surface shimmering and changing with every passing car and cloud.
“Just want to tell you it looks gorgeous. I’ve got to hand it to you, Cy. You pulled another rabbit out of the hat.”

He’s talking to Cyrus Katzen, who with his wife, Myrtle, is the patron of AU’s new 30,000-square-foot arts center and the donor of Iknhaten, the 3,000-pound sculpture that was hoisted by crane onto its new home by Ward Circle on Monday.

Rasmussen is director of the art gallery at the Katzen Arts Center, and over the next few months will oversee the arrival and installation of an enormous amount of art as the gallery begins to take its place as one of Washington’s most intriguing venues for the visual arts.

Iknhaten is a promise of things to come. The lawn that surrounds it is still bare sod. But inside the Center, the rooms swarm with workmen putting the finishing touches on the sprawling complex of exhibition spaces and classrooms. Iknhaten is only the first of many artworks to grace the center, but it is sure to be a landmark from its perch overlooking Ward Circle.

It has led an adventurous life already. Purchased two years ago by the Katzens, its journey from its birthplace in a Spanish foundry was complicated by a hurricane that buffeted it back and forth in its shipping container, so that by the time it reached the port in Florida where it would be offloaded, its joints had given way. Iknhaten turned around and went to Spain for some sculptural surgery before heading back to the United States again, where it was finally trucked to Ward Circle, lifted out of its blue shipping container, and installed at the Katzen Center this week.

Iknhaten is a conjoined trio of open discs with a circular motif that mirrors both the center and Ward Circle. It has an elegant simplicity, but the playfulness of its constantly shifting surface keeps it from being too formal or austere. It reflects its environment in a literal sense, but also in a metaphorical sense. After all, the Katzen Arts Center will be a place of constant change and experimentation.

There is also a subtle Washington connection, which it will share with many of the pieces exhibited at the gallery. Sculptor Fred Eversley is now California-based, but began his career in Washington and has been artist in residence at the Smithsonian. His work tends to focus on the visual effects of polished surfaces.

“It’s gorgeous,” Rasmussen says again, this time to curator Jonathon Bucci, who is examining the sculpture with him and discussing how to maintain its glimmering surface.

Bucci agrees. “And once you get your head in here with all the reflections,” he adds, “it’s really wild."

The arrival of Iknhaten is a sign that the Katzen Arts Center’s unofficial opening is almost here. Although the formal opening of the first exhibit won’t be until fall, the building will be occupied as soon as its occupancy permit is issued, hopefully within a matter of weeks, and “soft openings” for the university, the neighborhood, and the general public are expected to take place in June.