A giant arm in downtown Miami is wishing everybody peace. Or victory. Or it’s just counting to the number two.
“Duality,” a 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture of an outstretched arm holding up two fingers, can mean anything. It depends on how you look at it.
The sculpture was unveiled last week as part of the growing public art collection at The Underline, a $140 million linear park and urban walking trail that stretches beneath Miami’s Metrorail. “Duality” was created by Hank Willis Thomas, a renowned conceptual artist known for tackling themes of race, identity and popular culture. His most famed works include giant afro hair picks and “The Embrace,” a 20-foot tall monument of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King’s arms hugging that sparked controversy and intrigue online.
Thomas’ sculpture, which is modeled after his own arm, is located in the park’s completed Brickell Backyard section on the corner of SW 7th Street and SW 1st Court. The installation was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Friends of The Underline board member Debi Braman Wechsler and The Braman Family Foundation.
Meg Daly, the founder of Friends of The Underline who came up with the idea for the linear park, said she especially loves how “Duality” can be interpreted in many ways by anyone who sees it. For her, it’s a ‘70s peace sign. For Gen Z, it’s a pose from Instagram.
“We’re just so appreciative that we found this art for this place,” Daly said. “Believe me, we looked at so many options. When you know you’ve found the magic, it’s irrefutable. It’s a winner.”
“Duality” is the second permanent artwork at The Underline along with Cara Despain’s “Water/Tables,” a sculpture that doubles as a playable ping pong table. Other temporary works include a funky sculpture garden by Typoe, a Plato’s Cave-inspired mural by Edny Jean Joseph and spray painted birds and coral by Jennifer Basile.
Thomas made the sculpture last year for an exhibition that explored multifaceted ways of viewing reality, he said. Instead of sticking to one specific meaning, “Duality” invites multiple meanings. It reflects how people can view the same symbol from different perspectives.
At the unveiling, Thomas said he was excited to see his artwork at the start of The Underline’s 10-mile journey.
“I hope [viewers] take away the importance of creating and exhibiting art in public space,” he said. “The power of The Underline is that this space that’s existed for so long in public, because of the introduction of art and cultural programming and landscaping, is now beautiful, inviting, exciting and cool.”
Just a few years ago, there was practically nothing underneath the shadow of the Metrorail. Now, The Underline boasts artwork, walking paths, outdoor gyms, native plants and tables to play domino. The whole project will stretch a total of 10 miles once construction is completed.
Finding the right sculpture for the part of The Underline that meets the Miami River was like watching “the stars align,” Daly said. For three years, The Underline team looked for a unifying artwork that symbolized connecting communities. “Duality” was perfect, she said.
Daly said she hopes artwork like “Duality” encourages people to keep coming back to The Underline for more.
“When you’re in a public space, there’s a sense of passing through,” Daly said. “I think art is a moment for pause.”
This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.