Richard Hunt's massive steel sculpture stands before the Veterinary Medicine Building as a big dark abstract form that seems strangely and vaguely recognizable. A combination of natural, flamelike outcrops and sharp-edged chunky planes, the work reaches a height of fifteen feet. "The whole construction is like a large animal growing, developing from the earth," the artist explained. "The imagery is generalized from a variety of sources. Conceptually it draws its spirit from a dynamic of growth and movement. It is evocative of animal forms, not a particular animal." Workers in the building evidently do not see it in quite this way. Recently a photographer took aim and a lab technician passing by yelled excitedly, "No! No! Shoot it from here! Then you can see it's a dog!"
Cor-ten steel lends itself well to bending, welding, and shaping and acquires a gentle rusted patina from exposure to the outdoors. In this work, Hunt cut and welded the various pieces and then smoothed them with metal grinders or polishers before letting the sculpture weather to a dark, rich rust-brown color. "Metal is very flexible," he observed. "It allows for both permanence and spontaneity. Since the medium is not esoteric, you have access to material and information about the process. And there's a recognition factor that's built into it because people are familiar with it." (In 1958 the architect Eero Saarinen became the first to specify use of the unpainted, high-strength, low-alloy steel in structural design, at the John Deere Company Administration Building at Moline, Illinois, built in 1964.)
The sculpture, made specifically for the site, is one of a series the sculptor calls "hybrids": organic, imaginative creations such as his Wily (1975) at the University of Chicago, a tall bronze alive with curving protrusions, and the 1977 welded bronze Cartwrigllt Mound playground piece in an Evanston park, a spiky, sharp-finned artwork suggesting a prehistoric animal.
Chicago born and internationally known, Hunt lives and works in his native city. His striking welded bronze Slabs of tile Sunburnt West is located at the university's Chicago campus. Other works include those in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modem Art, New York City; Howard University and the Hirshhom Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna, Austria. In 1971 the Museum of Modem Art held a major retrospective exhibition of his sculptures.