Self, Martin Puryear
Martin Puryear (born 1941) is an African American sculptor. He is considered one of the foremost sculptors of the present day, and the leading African American sculptor. He works in media such as wood, stone, tar, and wire, and his work is a union of minimalism and traditional crafts. The work shown above is called 'Self'. The Washington Times describes it as "a smooth, black monolith, [which] suggests the unknowable truth within a person."
For thousands of years black monoliths have been seen as sacred symbols of the mystery of the Self, from the black Shiva lingam stones of India to the black stone in the Kaaba at Mecca (MukteshwaraShiva).
Shiva Lingam from the Narmada River, India
In the 1968 Kubrick Science Fiction film 2001 A Space Odyssey, an apeman touches a black monolith that has mysteriously appeared in a prehistoric landscape, and this sparks human consciousness. Aeons later, Bowman, an astronaut, comes into contact with another monolith near the planet Jupiter, and receives a state of cosmic rebirth. Before he can reach it however he must overcome Hal, the spaceship's self-conscious computer. Hal represents the ego and the paranoia and fear that comes with it. "I'm afraid" it says just before Bowman finally shuts it down, after it kills the crew it's supposed to be looking after.
Each time a monolith appears it is accompanied by scenes of planetary alignments. The black screen at the beginning and end of the film is the viewer's own close encounter with the monolith of Self.