Life + Arts

Art across campus: ‘A Comma, A’



The bronze sculpture outside the library is easily one of the University of Houston’s most recognized pieces of public art. The work earns its name “A Comma, A” both in practicality and shape as the spiral piece is located in the walkway in front of the Honors College, interrupting the sidewalk much like a comma punctuates a sentence.

The sculpture has writing cut out of it and is illuminated from its center and at night its multi-lingual phrases shine on its nearby surroundings. What did artist Jim Sanborn actually scribe onto the sculpture?
“It’s kind of like a collection, snippets from different stories,” Curator of the University Public Art Collection Michael Guidry said. “(Sanborn) actually pulled things from our library and strung together this disjointed narrative. It’s everything from lines from Madame Bovary to Arabic texts and Native American texts. So that’s what wraps around that piece. And it is actually in the shape of a comma.”
Sanborn may sound vaguely familiar to those who have caught news clips that surface every now and then surrounding the mystery of a piece he did for the CIA in 1990. “Kryptos” is a similar-looking sculpture that has been in a courtyard of the agency’s Virginia headquarters.
”He did a piece at the CIA that supposedly has all these inscriptions — all these cryptic messages,” Guidry said.

“They’ve been trying to decipher it ever since it was installed and they still haven’t. So I get calls sometimes from people thinking that ours is the same kind of thing, and they’re trying to figure out the secrets that are embedded in it.”

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