Sculptures on the Square

Location: Sculptures on the Square at the intersection of Trade Street and Tryon Street

Artist: Raymond Kaskey

Date: 1994

Media: Bronze

Artist Info:

Story: Funded by private community group Queens Table, the “Sculptures on the Square” mark the trading post where Charlotte’s first buildings were erected in the mid-1700s. This crossing of two Native American trading paths marks the center of uptown and is the highest geographical point of the surrounding area.

Key Formal Elements:

  • Sculptural type - freestanding and site-specific sculptures that require the viewer to be engaged in all directions
  • Scale - contributes to the viewer experience because the sculptures are both larger than life and raised even higher on a pedestal.

Make the Connection:

The artist draws your attention to several factors that influenced Charlotte’s growth. Check out the plaque in the ground on the northeast corner for more information. The title of each sculpture is at eye level when you face the buildings. Which sculpture might be a fan of UNCC? How might the child peeking out from the woman’s skirt be connected to the region’s mill history? Charlotte is a banking town and there is a portrait of a former banking official included. Can you find it?


Architectural Frieze

Location: 112 South Tryon Street Architectural Frieze

Date: 1927

Media: Sandstone

Story: The First National Bank was built in 1927 and was the second tallest building in North Carolina when it was completed. Noted Charlotte architect Louis Asbury designed the building.

Key Formal Elements:

  • Sculptural type - relief sculpture
  • Notice the repetition of patterns and intricate decoration

Make the Connection:

The artists created a variety of designs for the ornamental carved sandstone. There are figures from nature and some references to classical figures or mythological figures. Three animals are central to the design. Can you find the beehive, the squirrel, and the owl? Can you relate the symbolic meanings of these animals to the original purpose of the building? 


"Il Grande Disco"

Location: “Il Grande Disco,” southeast corner of intersection on the Bank of America Plaza

Artist: Arnaldo Pomodoro

Date: 1974

Media: Bronze

Artist Info:

Story: This is one of the first public art installations in Charlotte. Created by Italian artist Pomodoro, the sculpture speaks to the growth and energy of the city.

Key Formal Elements:

  • Varied texture is used to engage the viewer
  • Bronze media made by the casting technique

Make the Connection:

When it was first installed, the sculpture physically rotated on an internal axis. Years later, changes were made to conform to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The sculpture is now raised on a platform and includes markers for the visually impaired. It is one of 6 “Il Grande Disco” sculptures installed across the world, from Milan, Italy to Chicago. 


Ben Long Frescos

Location: 100 North Tryon Street in the lobby of the Bank of America Corporate Center

Artist: Ben Long

Date: 1993

Media: Fresco

Artist Info:

Story: North Carolina native Ben Long was commissioned by NationsBank to create this work for the bank’s corporate headquarters. It is Long’s first non-religious artwork. Long works in the fresco painting method, which was known to the ancient Romans and prevalent during the Renaissance. Fresco painting involves painting into wet plaster directly onto the wall and is ideal for creating murals. It took Long and his assistant four months to complete these frescos.

Key Formal Elements:

  • Composition - Long’s work is a triptych or 3 separate but related artworks
  • Dynamic sense of space in each panel with strong foreground imagery and either floating imagery above or a second horizon line

Make the Connection:

Much has been written about the content of these artworks. The artist encourages viewers to find their own meanings in each of the panels. The three themes are “making/building,” “chaos/creativity,” and “mind/knowledge.” What features of each panel help to connect viewers to these themes?



Location: “Harmony” sculpture in plaza in front of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Artist: Julie Warren Conn

Date: 1996

Media: Polished granite

Artist Info:

Story: Artist Julie Warren Conn studied sculpture at the University of Tennessee. Her artwork is installed in museums and in public and corporate collections throughout the Southeast. The title “Harmony” perhaps refers to the music present in the Performing Arts Center.

Key Formal Elements:

  • Shape - use of negative space creates variety
  • Sculptural type - freestanding, abstract sculpture

Make the Connection:

While the upper part of the sculpture features abstract forms with a small suggestion of a nebulous animal form, the pedestal is different. Here the artist creates more representational images of animals in a relief format. How many animals can you find? 



Location: 105 East 5th Street wall mural

Artists: Matt Hooker, Matt Moore

Date: 2015

Media: Spray Paint

Artist Info: @hookermedia, @puckmcgruff

Story: In one of the first murals completed by the duo of Matt Moore and Matt Hooker, this mural explodes with pictorial imagery related to the city of Charlotte. 

Key Formal Elements:

  • Focal point on the far right with a bright yellow explosion
  • Asymmetrical balance

Make the Connection:

This mural is rife with symbols. For example, the crown surrounding the bright yellow explosion represents the city of Charlotte’s namesake Queen Charlotte. Can you find one symbol from Charlotte’s past and one from Charlotte’s present? 


"Helix/R" (Removed in 2018)

Location: “Helix/R,” 101 Independence Center

Artist: John Rietta

Date: 1983

Media: Polished stainless steel

Story: American artist John Rietta created this large, abstract sculpture for the plaza of the new twenty-story Independence Center. The site was the original location of the Independence Square, where Mecklenburg County was established in 1763, and the town of Charlotte was created in 1768. Independence Center replaced the historic skyscraper called the Independence Building that was erected in 1906 and demolished in 1981.

Key Formal Elements: 

  • Notice the highly polished texture of the steel
  • Shape - curved and delicate shapes of the sculpture contrast with the geometric solidity of the building

NOTE:  As of 9/7, the sculpture was removed by the development company completing renovations of the plaza.  It's location is unknown.

Make the Connection:

Abstract art of the 1970s and 80s sometimes is critically referred to as “plop art.” “Plop art” is a pejorative term used to describe art made for government or corporate plazas that lacks any connectivity to its site, therefore appearing to have been “plopped” down without context. Is there some way to connect this sculpture to its location by considering its potential meanings? 


Charlotte Shout Mural

Location: 101 N. Tryon Street

Artist: John Hairston, Jr.

Date: 2018

Media: Acrylic paint

Artist Info: @jagolactus

Story: Artist John Hairston, Jr.  grew up drawing superheroes, comics, and cartoons. His Instagram name is a combination of his name and Galactus, a Marvel supervillain. This mural was completed during a live painting competition at the end of Talking Walls, a city-wide mural festival held in 2018.  His mural won the competition and became the featured artwork for Charlotte Shout.  Charlotte Shout is a celebration of art, music, and ideas that coincided with the commemoration of Charlotte’s 250th anniversary and was held in May 2019.  

Key Formal Elements:

  • Asymmetrical balance
  • Lack of negative space

Make the Connection:

In this energetic and colorful composition, the artist gives us a larger than life superhero surrounded by symbols of Charlotte. For instance, can you find a sly reference to a hornet or the handlebar top of the Duke Energy building?  Notice the many dogwood blossoms dotting the canvas. The flowering blossom of the dogwood tree was designated as the North Carolina state flower in 1941. Look around the 4 corners of this intersection to find one more iconic symbol of Charlotte in the mural. Hint: It tells time.



Location: “Cascade,” 227 West Trade Street inside the Carillon Building

Artist: Jean Tinguely

Date: 1991

Media: Mixed media

Story: Internationally famous and critically acclaimed Swiss artist Jean Tinguely traveled to Charlotte three times to make sketches, plans, and to execute what would turn out to be his last creation before his death. This dynamic yet controlled sculpture made of machines, junk, chains, lights and most anything else you can think of, is constantly moving and changing. 

Key Formal Elements: 

  • Variety - Assemblage type of sculpture
  • Kinetic 

Make the Connection:

Tinguely uses place as an inspiration. Find the lion’s head plaque. It came from the historic Hotel Charlotte which was torn down to make way for the Carillion Building. Fun Fact: In 1988, magician David Copperfield filmed a television special in the building minutes before explosives were detonated and the building collapsed. What other elements in the sculpture do you see that connect to the city of Charlotte?


Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing

Location: “Wall Drawing 684,” 227 West Trade Street inside the Carillon Building (Hint: Look at the elevators)

Artist: Sol LeWitt

Date: 1991

Media: Acrylic Paint

Story: Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt was commissioned by the developers of the office building. LeWitt’s work features a floating cube on a gold background, which takes up most of the space at the end of the atrium above the elevators.

Key Formal Elements: 

  • Line - analytical use of line and the grid
  • Space - illusion of a three-dimensional cube using linear perspective

Make the Connection:

LeWitt works in a very unconventional way. Conceptual artists believe that the idea or concept is the art. LeWitt writes very detailed instructions for his work which is then executed by his assistants. What do you imagine his instructions looked like for this work?



Location: “Zygos,” sculpture at 333 West Trade Street

Artist: Sally Rodgers

Date: 2007

Media: Stainless steel and granite

Artist Info:

Story: The word zygos is Greek for joining together in balance and teamwork. This artwork is a joint commission of the Public Art Commission and Axiom Architecture.  Rodgers spent time as an artist-in-residence at the Penland School of Crafts, and currently lives in North Carolina. 

Key Formal Elements:

  • Line - multiple lines and angles create dynamic movement
  • Note the different actual textures of the steel and granite

Make the Connection:

This sculpture is a contrast of circular forms and straight lines. Think about the title of the artwork, “Zygos.” How do those forms influence the meaning of the artwork?