Glass Labyrinth

Artist: Robert Morris
Location: The plaza between the Câmara dos Vereadores (City Council) and the Teatro Municipal, Cinelândia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Year of completion: 2011
Researcher: Carrie Christensen

Robert Morris created the Glass Labyrinth, temporarily installed in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 as part of an international exhibition of public art. Displayed for two months in Rio’s historic center district of Cinelândia, on Rio’s historic urban axis, Morris' Labyrinth compelled observers to participate in the work, finding their way through the glass maze. The triangular glass labyrinth was located in the plaza between the Câmara dos Vereadores(City Council) and the Teatro Municipal.

Morris, born in Kansas City in 1931, is one of America’s most eminent living artists, known for his use of industrial materials, including aluminum, steel and felt. In the 1960s and ’70s, he played a leading role in the development of process art, minimalism, and earth art.

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The installation was part of the Other Ideas for Rio (OiR) festival and was on display from September 2012–November 2012. The biennial project OiR, which began with Morris’s piece, runs through the 2016 Olympics and considers Rio de Janeiro an open air art gallery, promoting original interventions in locations around the city. Internationally prestigious artists who had never before created for the city were invited to propose major works for Rio de Janeiro’s urban landscape. The project aims to democratize access to culture.

The name OiR—“Rio” spelled backwards—refers precisely to the idea of thinking about the city in a different way. The six works in the first phase included British artists Andy Goldsworthy (Cais do Porto) and Brian Eno (Arcos da Lapa), Spanish artist Jaume Plensa (Enseada de Botafogo), American Robert Morris (Cinelândia), Japanese Ryoji Ikeda (Arpoador), and Brazilian Henrique Oliveira (Parque Madureira). The project was sponsored by HSBC bank, Oi, the Government of Rio de Janeiro State, and the City Government of Rio de Janeiro, with cultural support from Oi Futuro and the Ministry of Culture (MinC). Marcello Dantas is the curator.

The Glass Labyrinth pushed the boundaries of public art in that it made the observer into a participant—passing through the labyrinth one simultaneously observed and participated in it. Unlike a maze, this is a true labyrinth, with one way in and the same way out; there are no choices to make except following the path. The project was vandalized and part of the labyrinth was shattered for a period during its installation, but it was still deemed a success. The labyrinth was composed of transparent glass walls with a metal cap and base at the top and bottom edges of the glass. The ground plane was a light gray pea gravel on poured concrete that produced a sound underfoot for participants. Ongoing management of the sculpture was an important consideration to keep the glass from having marks and scratches.

Morris was recently commissioned to create a similar project in Kansas City, commissioned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum with funding from the Hall Family Foundation. Unlike the work in Rio, the Kansas City version will be permanent—the first permanent Morris labyrinth in the U.S.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency