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Spiral Fountain

Spiral Fountain

Judith Schwarz
b.1944

Spiral Fountain
  • Bronze
  • 1989
  • 6m x 3m (ground), 4.25m (spiral)
  • 45 Peter Street, Rogers Centre, Toronto

About the artwork

At the north entrance of the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel is Spiral Fountain by Judith Schwarz, a modern abstract sculpture set in the middle of a tight circular driveway. The focal element is a compact, prominently channeled bronze spiral column, with a broad disk affixed obliquely half-way down from the top. At the base a large basin is placed amidst low shrubs. The column is about 4.25 m high, and the component on the ground occupies a space about 6 m long and 3 m wide. From the top water cascades down the spiral column, deflecting across the disk, and continues downward into the large gently tilted basin on the ground, thus connecting the three elements of sky, water, and earth. The disk adds an unexpected, disruptive dimension to the spiral and flow of water, showing that the relations of natural elements are not simple.

About the artist

Schwarz is an Associate Professor at York University in Toronto, where she teaches sculpture and drawing at both graduate and undergraduate levels. She began her career at York University in 1978 and in 1995 she received a full-time appointment to the Faculty of Fine Arts. Schwarz is known for her outdoor abstract sculptures, integrating art with the environment.

Schwarz’s earliest sculpture exhibit, entitled Parallel Language (1987), was a three-part work juxtaposing a circular die-cut steel sheet wall mounted, angling out from it onto the floor – a steel beam, and a leaf shaped steel stencil next to a beautiful slab of oak. In a review written by Linda Genereux in Artforum, Genereux states “The strength of Judith Schwarz’s work depends upon her dexterous handling of material and a growing vocabulary of forms”.

Her work can be found in many public collections across Canada and in the US, including the Canada Council Art Bank, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank of Canada, the University of Oregon and  York University. The National Gallery purchased two of her drawings in 1983: Low Light Drawing, Series A, #10 (1981) and Head Stand (1982); and then in 1987 purchased a set of four videotapes: I am an artist, My name is… which is a collaboration between Schwarz and Elizabeth MacKenzie.

Schwarz has created public commissions in both Vancouver and Toronto. Among her commissions in Toronto are the Nautilus Gateway (1992), a stainless steel and bronze sculpture in Waterpark Place, Bay Street and Queen’s Quay, and Spiral Fountain (1990), a bronze fountain for the Hotel at Skydome. Schwarz’s sculpture Pacific Spiral (2003) was among 350 outdoor artworks celebrated in Vancouver during the 2014 Culture Days Celebration, as part of a national Culture Days campaign designed to promote artistic activities across Canada.

In Francois-Marc Gagnon’s description of Schwarz’s sculptures in The Canadian Encyclopedia, Gagnon states “…the elegant, flame-cut steel cosmological configurations of Judith Schwarz invent rather than transform cultural signs and devices whose mysteries are embedded as much in the juxtaposition of the materials, glass, steel, and wood as in their form”.

Fun facts

  • In the 1960s, Judith Schwarz was a performer with the Vancouver-based and experimental WECO dance troupe. Propelled by a desire to collapse the divide between audience and performers, and between art and life, the troupe took over The Motion Studio, transforming an old office complex into a creative gallery/art warehouse.

Engagement questions

  • Do you think public art has to be functional?
  • Is aesthetic playing an important role in this installation?