University Museums

Title: Janus Agri Altar
Name: Sculpture
Date: 1986
Medium: Patinated bronze with high content brass
Dimensions: 168 x 72 x 18 in., 5000 lb. (426.7 x 182.9 x 45.7 cm, 2268 kg)
Signed: none
Marks: Noneplaque on site
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Commissioned by the Iowa Art in State Buildings Program for the Agronomy Building with support from Sevde Transfer, Ames, Iowa. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University.
Location: Iowa State University, Agronomy Hall, South Courtyard
Object Number: U86.588
More Information
The title of the sculpture makes reference to the Roman god Janus, the protector of time portals or doorways through which humanity must pass. The month of January is derived from the word Janus, since it closes the old year and begins the new one.
While representations of Janus are typically horizontal, Pepper created the sculpture on a vertical plane, reminiscent of an image reflected in a pool of water. The sculpture is intended to be a peaceful symbol of self-reflection, looking both inward and outward, forward and back. The god Janus was often depicted with two heads, one viewing the future, and one viewing the past. Consequently the sculptural has a double form emblematic of the ancient god. The shape of Janus Agri Altar suggests the ancient digging tool, an adze. The massive shovel form commands a presence out of the simplicity of the ageless planting and cultivating tool.

The altar sculpture is placed within a ritual ring that suggests continuity and eternity through the ages. The ring also suggests religious and spiritual ties of agriculture and the homage which humanity must pay since we all depend upon agriculture.
Janus Agri Altar is emblematic of Beverly Pepper's enduring ability to create a sense of monumentality through concept, as opposed to scale alone. This work also expresses the artist’s sense of archaeological minimalism through simple forms and surfaces.

Beverly Pepper (American b. 1924) was born in New York City and began her education at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League of New York. She also studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, in Paris, under the advisement of Fernand Leger and André Lhote. From 1949 to 1960 she focused her art in the area of painting before moving to outdoor sculpture. Since 1951, she resided in both New York and Todi, Italy and presented her first solo exhibition in 1952 at the Galleria dello Zodiaco in Rome. Beginning in 1986, Beverly Pepper became the Artist-in-Residence for the American Academy in Rome. Her abstract sculptures and land art installations can be seen around the world from Barcelona to Phoenix, Arizona.