Building 57; Mit Alumni Pool
Gary Wiley’s outdoor sculpture Invaders (1981) is composed of four distinct wall-mounted butterflies. The motif allowed Wiley to explore contradictions of form and content. He observed the butterfly to be “compelling and mysterious as an abstract image as well as a figurative one.” Each fabricated in wrought iron and soft steel, the forms are individually articulated with colored and mirrored plexiglass, colored marbles, and fluorescent paint. He chose to render them in wrought iron, due to the material’s historical abundance in Boston’s decorative architecture and for its apparent contrast with the motif. In his original project proposal, Wiley noted that the “rawness and massiveness” of the wrought iron “helps offset the frilly quality of the [butterfly] images themselves.” As industrial materials like iron and steel are the antithesis of the butterfly’s delicacy, likewise, the sculpture’s whimsical forms belie their true mass.
Invaders was conceived of as a reconfigurable installation. Since its completion in 1982, the work has been installed on multiple sites across campus, including the MIT Animal Care Facility (Building 45), the MIT Cyclotron building (Building 44), and most recently, the South exterior of the MIT Alumni Pool and Wang Fitness Center (Building 57). Thus, the individual sculptures that comprise Invaders possess an inherent mobility and a lively temporality, which collectively embody the migratory freedom of the butterfly.
As the work’s title implies, Wiley saw himself as a part of a new generation of sculptors that would move public sculpture beyond monumental, heroic, and commemorative themes to embrace humor, delight, and flux. He appreciated that the word “butterfly” is the only word that changes completely in every language and, moreover, that the sculpture could represent the complexities of the social. “I like that attitude, being [that] one thought is interchangeable” Wiley suggested. “We are all individuals, each with our own particular needs, but we are also part of the ‘human race,’ and must progress together.”
Wrought iron, soft steel, mirrored and colored Plexiglas, marbles, paint
Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds