Cork sculptor chosen to create monument that honours black activist who tackled segregation laws

The Cork sculptor who created the acclaimed artwork remembering the solidarity shown by the Native American Choctaw people is to create a new piece, honouring the Black activist who helped end racist segregation laws.
Cork sculptor chosen to create monument that honours black activist who tackled segregation laws
Alex Pentek has been commissioned to create a 16ft flower sculpture in Washington in honour of black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, who helped end segregation.
Alex Pentek has been commissioned to create a 16ft flower sculpture in Washington in honour of black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, who helped end segregation.

The Cork sculptor who created the acclaimed artwork remembering the solidarity shown by the Native American Choctaw people is to create a new piece, honouring the Black activist who helped end racist segregation laws.

Alex Pentek, a Bantry-born sculptor, has been commissioned to create a new public realm artwork in Washington DC, commemorating the work of Charles Hamilton Houston that celebrates his ideals of equality and justice.

Mr Pentek's work, entitled ‘Unity’, will see a 16ft Allium flower installed outside the Charles H.Houston elementary school by the end of 2020.

A prominent African-American lawyer and graduate of Harvard Law School, Houston is credited with playing a pivotal role in challenging and ending racist Jim Crow laws, that enforced racial segregation in the US until 1965.

The piece is inspired by Houston's experience as a soldier during World War One, according to Mr Pentek.

"As I learned more about his life researching for this brief, I came across this quote," he said.

He said: 'the hate and scorn showered on negro officers by our fellow Americans convinced me that there was no sense in dying for a world ruled by them. I made up my mind that if I got through the war, I would study law and spend my time fighting for men, who could not strike back'.

"That quote stuck with me. He must have seen untold horrors during the World War as a soldier and then to experience racist behaviour from his fellow soldiers, it must have been a very dark time for him.

"But he held on to his hopes of unity, equality, justice, of integration, and education for all. I wanted to try to capture that hope, as well as that uplifting strength of spirit that he had.

"Allium flowers symbolise unity, as well as remaining true to yourself.  The piece also connects the ideas of nature with mathematics, as each flower is based on the icosahedron, a 20-sided shape.

“Each petal of the flower is formed from interlocking circles, known as sacred geometry.”

The design work for the project will be created in Cork, while the finished fabrication will take place with a local company on-site in Washington.

Alex Pentek said the planned 16ft flower sculpture in Washington connects the ideas of nature with mathematics, as each flower is based on the icosagon, a 20-sided shape.
Alex Pentek said the planned 16ft flower sculpture in Washington connects the ideas of nature with mathematics, as each flower is based on the icosagon, a 20-sided shape.

Mr Pentek works often in the National Sculpture Factory on Albert Road, often working on commissions in the shared studio space. He works closely with fabricators, engineers, and architects to create many of his large-scale pieces.

His work 'Kindred Spirits', a steel tribute to the kindness shown by the Native American Choctaw Nation to Ireland during the Famine, received worldwide acclaim when it was unveiled.

The sculpture in Midleton commemorates how the Choctaw Nation sent relief aid from Oklahoma to the Irish while they themselves were living in poverty.

It consists of nine, 20ft-tall eagle feathers. 'Unity' was commissioned by the Department of General Services Government of the District of Columbia.

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