Sculptor brings protein-inspired artwork to Rutgers

Sculptor Julian Voss-Andreae has long been melding the fields of art and science, drawing from his background in mathematics and quantum physics. For his latest project, he created a 20-ft glass and metal sculpture based on a collagen molecule, which was installed on September 20 at Rutgers’ Center for Integrative Proteomics Research.

The twisting, 3,200-lb sculpture, which consists of more than 200 windows and three large “strands” of steel, will be officially dedicated on September 26.

Synergy art science sculpture

“Synergy” created for the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research. All images courtesy of Julian Voss-Andreae.

Synergy detail art science sculpture

Detail of “Synergy.”

The new 75,000-sq-ft Rutgers center in Piscataway, NJ, is designed to pull together multidisciplinary teams to investigate a range of biomolecular issues. The goal of Voss-Andreae’s commissioned sculpture is to reflect this synergy (hence the title of the work), explains an article on Oregon Live.

“Collagen seems to be the perfect metaphor, because collagen is meaningless alone,” he said. “It can only make sense together.”

Though he currently lives in Portland, OR, Voss-Andreae is originally from Germany and studied physics, mathematics, and philosophy at the Universities of Berlin, Edinburgh, and Vienna, according to his biography. In the art realm, he began with painting but eventually studied sculpture at Pacific Northwest College of Art.

Quantum man

“Quantum Man,” 2011, bronze, from a private collection in Portland.

Given his background, it’s perhaps not surprising that Voss-Andreae sees art and science as overlapping fields.

“It’s really too bad that often in art science is considered something cold and boring, as opposed to a way of really seeing the [beauty] in nature,” he said in an Oregon Art Beat segment.

Some people wish to stay only within the art world and are resistant to science, which is unfortunate because they “fail to see the sublime, just because it happens to be found scientifically,” he said.

Voss-Andreae has produced several series of works over the years combining the two worlds, including sculptures of the male and female form, as well as buckyballs (a spherical molecule named in honor of Buckminster Fuller) and various protein sculptures.

Quantum buckyball

“Quantum Buckyball,” 2004, bronze, from a private collection in Portland.

In 2008, he created a piece titled “Angel of the West” (below) for the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL. The large stainless-steel sculpture was inspired by the structure of antibodies — proteins produced by the immune system to defend us from infection, like small “guardian angels,” according to the project description. In the sculpture, the antibody is placed within a larger ring, evoking Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.”

"Angel of the West," 2008, stainless steel.

“Angel of the West,” 2008.

While much of his work is located outdoors, Voss-Andreae has also created indoor installations. As part of the 2009-2010 “Worlds Within Worlds” exhibit at the American Center for Physics in Washington, DC, he contributed approximately 30 sculptures inspired by quantum physics.

In 2007, Voss-Andreae created an indoor sculpture made of steel, glass, and wood titled “Birth of an Idea.” The piece was commissioned by chemist Roderick MacKinnon and inspired by his Nobel-Prize-winning research on ion channels. (In related reading, MacKinnon has been involved in other artwork discussed on Sparked.)

Quantum Corral

“The Well (Quantum Corral),” 2009, gilded wood. Part of the American Center for Physics installation.

Birth of an Idea

“Birth of an Idea,” 2007, at Rockefeller University in New York City.

For more information on Voss-Andreae and his work, visit julianvossandreae.com.


Nicole is an editor and writer living in San Francisco.

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