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Three Elements (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
1965, fabricated 1966–67
Artist
Ronald Bladen
Nationality
American (born Canada)
Birth/Death
1918-1988
Dimensions
Height, width, and depth of each structure:
120 3/8 × 48 3/8 × 21 1/2 inches (305.8 x 122.8 x 54.6 centimeters)

Credit

Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest) in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes

Object Number
88.6/1-3
Culture
American
Classification
Sculpture
Department
Modern

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • This is a modern, minimalist sculpture of three geometric shapes. 
  • Each element is made from painted aluminum over welded steel. This sculpture was originally made out of wood and later fabricated in steel so it could be installed outdoors.
  • American sculptor Ronald Bladen is considered to be one of the “fathers of minimalism.” 
  • Minimalist art reflects truth and simplicity by using only the basics to create different art pieces. This style of art often uses hard edges, repeating geometric shapes, blocks of color, precise lines, and limited color choices. 
  • Bladen also created many paintings that were associated with the abstract expressionist movement.

Learn More

Ronald Bladen’s three structures of painted and burnished aluminum over welded steel have been mainstays at the Museum since 1988. 

Bladen fabricated this sculpture in the mid-1960s, a time when the minimalist aesthetic was gaining in widespread appeal. Yet, while minimalism sought to distill art to its most essential forms and rid it of emotion and symbolism, Bladen’s tilted, precariously balanced trio is not entirely devoid of suggestion. The sculpture may bring to mind a band of walking or dramatically leaning figures, or a procession of majestic monoliths on the march, whose falling forward has been suspended at the last moment before collapse — an unsettling equilibrium.

Three Elements was originally in the Museum courtyard, where the sculpture Lunar Bird can be found today. While in the courtyard, the structures were popular among Museum visitors and Park-goers — and skateboarders loved them, too, less for their artistic value and more so for their smooth surfaces and ramp-like angles. The sculpture now resides in a decidedly less-skateboard-friendly area, where it can be appreciated by everyone.

Additional Resources

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Resources for Students

Images

  • An outdoor image of three identical silver structures. They are positioned at an angle, in a single row, in front of tall trees on a grassy lawn.

    Three Elements

  • An outdoor image of three identical silver structures. They are positioned at an angle, in a single row, in front of tall trees on a grassy lawn.

    Three Elements

  • An outdoor image of three identical silver structures. They are positioned at an angle, in a single row, in front of tall trees on a grassy lawn.

    Three Elements

  • An outdoor image of three identical silver structures. They are positioned at an angle, in a single row, in front of tall trees on a grassy lawn.

    Three Elements, in their previous location in the Museum courtyard.