Sculpture Gracing Law School Grounds Featured in New York Times

Lady Liberty, Inspiring Even in Pieces
Hilarie M. Sheets
The New York Times
September 20, 2012

Over the past two years Danh Vo has been recasting a life-size Statue of Liberty from 30 tons of copper sheets the width of just two pennies — same as the original. Rather than assemble the hundreds of sections, Mr. Vo has shipped the giant elements — disorienting in their gleaming raw material and fragmentation — to some 15 sites around the world after they roll off the production line in China. Starting Sunday an ear, some hair, part of a heel and portions of drapery will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago while more pieces that echo both minimalist sculptures and remnants from antiquity are scattered around the campus of the University of Chicago.

“If you engage in building a monumental thing, you should also be able to treat it as water,” said Mr. Vo, who referred to his re-creation, titled “We the People,” as both a monster and a virus that can move fluidly and mutate as it is shuffled to new places. He said he hopes that after production is finished this fall, every piece will be visible somewhere at a certain moment.

This 37-year-old conceptual artist, who grew up in Copenhagen after his family fled Vietnam by boat in 1979 and was rescued by a Danish freighter, had never actually seen the statue when he began. But he was hooked by the discovery that its shell was so thin. “It’s such a strong icon, tracing back to so many histories, and then just discovering the fragility of it,” said Mr. Vo, a finalist for the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize this year. “I thought it would be interesting to make something that people felt so familiar with, in all the different ways that people project on the sculpture, and try to destabilize your own thinking of it.”