Spine Sculptural Installation in the Maguire Gardens, Los Angeles Public Library

NOTE:The information on this page comes from the book Spine; The Jud Fine Art Plan at the Maguire Gardens, Central Library, Los Angeles by Jud Fine and Harry Reese, published in 1993 by the Los Angeles Library Association. A copy of the book is in the Architecture and Fine Arts library at USC, and may also be purchased in the Los Angeles Public Library store. Do not reproduce information from this site without acknowledgement of the artists and their works, or of the authors of this site.


The sculptural installation by Jud Fine in the Maguire Gardens is called Spine (1993). "The "spine" is the fundamental unit of a body that gives it the strength and support to stand on its own. The spine begins where the brain leaves off. The electricity of the body flows through it .... structurally, the spine also refers to the anatomy of a book. A book is identified by the name running down its spine. The spine separates the front from the back, and at the same time it hinges them together. It is the central nervous system of the book." (Spine, p. 13) The installation conceptually connects the archaic world to contemporary culture, the "new world" to the "old world"

The site may be read as a book. "The two extreme scalloped entry points flank the entrance physically like endsheets and function for the work as a frontispiece, giving a premonition of what is to follow: graphically, conceptually, and materially. The "Well of Scribes" - which echoes the intellectual pattern established by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the architect of the original library which opened in 1926 - can be seen as the title page. The step risers, with their text composition, are like pages of the book. They reveal their particular information the way a book unfolds through time and space in a gradual sequence and chronology. The succession of three pools offers a kind of plot structure....Water circulates through the pools like the continuous narrative flow of time." (Spine, pp. 13-14)


The scallop on the north side is the archaic and represents "the urge to build and embellish the built." (Spine, p.18). Its image is derived from two architectural sources in the Western Hemisphere: the Mixtec site at Mitla (outside Oaxaca, Mexico) and Hatun Rumiyoc, a palace built by the Inca Roca in Cuzco. (Spine, pp. 20-21)

The scallop on the south side represent the post-literate culture. It contains physics equations by Niels Bohr (lowest panel), Erwin Schrodinger (middle panel), and Werner Heisenberg (upper panel). The two chunks of pink quarts "soften the cold formulaic recitation of stainless steel and black text. They establish a material tie to the opposite scallop, and they reinforce the fact that all theoretical explanation comes fro a close observation of the source." (Spine, p. 25)


There are four sections of steps, which present eighty selections from different approaches to written communication (Spine, chapter III).


The Well of Scribes

This well is a homage to Goodhue's original Well, which commemorated the scribes of all races (now lost). The Well of Scribes designed by Jud Fine is a geographical relief map of the world in bronze. The map includes location names and dates of 45 historic incidents of library destruction and book burnings from around the world, from 86 BC to 1986. (Spine, pp. 28-33)

Bright Fountain and Pool

Typeface on the fountain is Centaur. The water from this pool comes out of the opened mouth of the Osteolepiform Rhipidistian "Eusthenopteron", and ends up in the Well of Scribes (see description above). "Rhipidistians were a fresh water predator fish from the late Paleozoic that gave rise to the amphibians." (Spine, p. 101) In the pool itself lies a large green rock. Next to it, under water, is a skeleton of a Labyrinthodont, a representative of the first "fish" to develop both feet and lungs, i.e., the first amphibians. (Spine, p. 101)

Lucid Fountain and Pool

Typeface on the fountain is Cheltenham, designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, architect of the original library building. The texts on the well are composed from the texts on the adjacent steps, which represent the growth of print. In the pool lies a large white rock. Next to it rests a California Newt, a contemporary amphibian. (Spine, p. 101)

Clear Fountain and Pool

Typeface on the fountain is Optima. Its spout is a generic female head made out of stainless steel. The well features incised images which are drawn from the female head's collar and from pictographs which represent female signs drawn from around the world. The pool has a large red rock on top of which sits a female Peregrine falcon represented in the act of taking flight and heading toward Flower Street. The Peregrine falcon, only recently close to extinction, lives in the downtown area. (Spine, p. 102)

Back to public art in the Los Angeles Public Library and the Maguire Gardens

For comments contact Ruth Wallach, USC Libraries.