tag archives: sculpture

when i first walked through joe, the torqued spiral richard serra sculpture in the courtyard of the pulitzer foundation for the arts in st. louis, MO, where i grew up, i immediately envisioned the sculpture as an event venue, with guests walking through the ribbon of steel on their way to a party in the center.

it seems that i am not unique, because people have told richard serra about practicing yoga, or holding weddings inside his sculptures.

richard serra | joe | weathering steel | 2000 | pulitzer foundation for the arts | st. louis, MO

photo credit pulitzer foundation for the arts

serra’s sculptures explore the phenomenological experience of space.  the somatic, emotional, and intellectual feelings that you get when you are walking around, through, or beneath his massive sculptures.

while i was working in new york last week, i was visiting art galleries in chelsea.  so, i also visited the gagosian gallery, which is showing richard serra:  new sculpture from 26 october 2013-15 march 2014.  the exhibition features four monumental sculptures, which represent a new stylistic direction for richard serra.  even though the new sculptures are rectilinear, instead of curvilinear, some of the new pieces have precedents in previous pieces.

‘as sequences unfold, new forms come out of old pieces.’

-richard serra

richard serra | hours of the day | 1990 | bonnefanten museum | maastricht, netherlands

photo credit wikimedia

 richard serra | intervals | weatherproof steel | 24 plates | 2013

richard serra:  new sculpture | gagosian gallery | 555 west 24th street | new york NY | 26 october 2013-15 march 2014

photo credit rob mckeever

 like hours of the day, intervals is an installation of freestanding rectangular steel plates.  serra describes the components of intervals with mathematical precision:

‘there are 24 steel plates.

each plate is 9 inches thick.

the plates are positioned 42 inches apart.

there are 3 elevations-4, 5, and 6 feet high.

and, there are 4 lengths-5, 7, 9, and 11 feet long.’

-richard serra

the structure feels logical as you walk through the space.  yet, walking through the labyrinth is a dynamic experience.  you can enter or exit anywhere.  and, the elevations rise and fall as you weave in and out.

 richard serra | intervals | weatherproof steel | 24 plates | 2013

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

some journalists have compared the 24 steel plates in the installation to the tombstones in a cemetery, a comparison that went viral after charlie rose interviewed richard serra on the 27 december 2013 episode of charlie rose: the week.

serra disagrees with this comparison.  he considers his sculptures as dynamic, instead of static structures.  he thinks that walking through a rectilinear space, like intervals, makes you feel more grounded than walking through a curvilinear space.

intervals is serra’s expression of that experience.

i love living in san francisco.  but, sometimes i miss living in a larger city, like london.  i especially miss the auction previews in mayfair and st. james’s.  they seem like pop-up museums.

i missed the harry bertoia selling exhibition at wright in their new york auction gallery from 1/22/14-2/15/14.  so, while i was working in new york last week, i popped in to see bertoia: a celebration of sound and motion, a selling exhibition at sotheby’s from 11 february-9 march 2014.

harry bertoia may be best known for his sound sculptures, called sonambients.

‘…a sculptural element breaking silence,

it has a voice,

hence, we listen to it,

maybe there is something to say.’

-harry bertoia, 1972

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | eleven monumental sound sculptures, commissioned for the standard oil building plaza | chicago, IL | 1975

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | monumental sound sculpture from the standard oil commission | beryllium copper and brass | 1975

photo credits wright 20 and lisa walsh | innerspace

and, for his other welded wire constructions.

 harry bertoia (1915-1978) | large spray | stainless steel and steel wire | circa 1965

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | pine tree | stainless steel and steel | circa 1955

photo credits sotheby’s

‘wire forms have a great range of expressions.

their constructions pertain to space rather than ground,

and their configurations can be light, airy, almost floating.’

-harry bertoia

the sotheby’s installation reminded me of the ruth asawa sculpture gallery at the de young museum in san francisco.  asawa’s looped and tied wire sculptures explore the relationships between light, shadow, transparency, and form.  bertoia’s sculptures also incorporate sound and motion.

click here to read my previous post about ruth asawa.

ruth asawa sculpture gallery | lobby | hamon tower | de young museum | san francisco, CA

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | dandelion | gilt stainless steel, brass and slate | 1960

photo credits joseph mcdonald, lisa walsh | innerspace, and sotheby’s

like bertoia’s wire constructions, his bush sculptures are radiant and organic.  almost like they could continue to grow naturally.

‘i regard nature as being the strongest influence.’

-harry bertoia, 1957

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | bush | patinated bronze | 1965

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | bush | patinated bronze | 1965

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | bush | patinated bronze | 1965

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

i have an asian art background.  so, some of bertoia’s naturalistic sculptures remind me of chinese antiquities.  the patina of ancient chinese bronzes.  the textures, forms, and perforations of antique chinese scholar’s rocks.

money tree | bronze with glazed earthenware base | eastern han dynasty (25-220)

asian art museum (aamsf) | san francisco, CA

black lingbi y-shaped scholar’s rock | 18th/19th century

christie’s new york | 16-17 september 2010 | sale 2339 | lot 1227

photo credits aamsf and christie’s


harry bertoia (1915-1978) | untitled | patinated bronze | circa 1965

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | untitled | patinated bronze | circa 1965

harry bertoia (1915-1978) | untitled | welded and patinated bronze | circa 1960

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

other bertoia sculptures are more metaphysical.

‘…my mind would think in terms of cosmic relationships,

such as planetary systems and galaxies…’

-harry bertoia, 1972

don’t you think that bertoia’s comet sculpture is spectacular?

 harry bertoia (1915-1978) | maquette for the comet sculpture, designed for the w. hawkins ferry residence | grosse pointe shores, MI | brass coated metal wire and bronze | 1964

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

‘the work of harry bertoia defies categorization.

its singular, aggressively personal expression,

sits on the borders between art, design, sculpture, and instrument.’

-reed krakoff, designer and bertoia collector, 2014

ruth asawa: objects & apparitions, a solo exhibition at christie’s in new york from 6-31 may 2013, features 34 sculptures and 14 works on paper by the san francisco artist, who is best known for her modernist wire sculptures.

ruth asawa:  objects & apparitions

solo exhibition of 48 works of art | on loan or available for private sale
christie’s | new york | 6-31 may 2013

photo credit christie’s

ruth asawa studied color, design, drawing, and painting with josef albers from 1946-1949 at black mountain college, a progressive liberal arts school in north carolina.  albers taught the fundamental courses at the bauhaus before emigrating from germany to the united states in 1933.  so, asawa’s experimentation with the interrelationship between material, process, form, and light, could be directly and indirectly attributed to bauhaus design principles and modernist aesthetics.

josef albers | homage to the square (A) | 1950

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | looped wire | circa 1950’s

photo credits (c) 2013 the josef and anni albers foundation/artist’s rights society (ARS) | new york and (c) the imogen cunningham trust, 2013

asawa originally wanted to become a painter.  at black mountain college, her paintings assimilated the aesthetic principles that albers taught in his color, design, drawing, and painting classes.  her black mountain paintings also interpreted the motifs that albers taught in his design class.

don’t the dancer motifs in asawa’s abstract paintings anticipate her ‘form within a form’ wire sculptures?

ruth asawa | dancers | oil on paper | 1946-1947

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | oxidized copper looped wire | 1996

photo credits christie’s and christie’s

in his design class, albers used the meander pattern, which could be mirrored, reversed, enlarged, condensed, or connected, to teach mathematical relationships and foreshortening.

don’t the textures of asawa’s looped wire sculptures recall these meander pattern studies?

imogen cunningham (1883-1976) | ruth asawa holding a ‘form within a form’ sculpture | photograph | 1952

ruth asawa | meander curved lines | ink on paper | 1948

photo credits (c) the imogen cunningham trust, 2013 and christie’s

like his classes at the bauhaus, albers’ classes at black mountain college also emphasized the experience of exploration. asawa began experimenting with wire as a sculptural material after spending the summer of 1947 as a volunteer art teacher in toluca, mexico, where she learned how to crochet wire baskets from the villagers, who used the baskets in the farmer’s market.  according to albers, every material has inherent qualities that can be accentuated through combination,
juxtaposition, or manipulation.  to asawa, drawing became sculpture through the crocheting process.  a two dimensional line could be manipulated into a three dimensional form.

‘its like drawing in space!’

-ruth asawa

ruth asawa | untitled | basket | brass looped wire | 1955

photo credit christie’s

she found both the linear and transparent qualities of the looped wire sculpture appealing.

‘[transparencey] it was albers’ word…

…my sculpture is like that.  

you can see through it.  

the piece does not hide anything.  

you can show inside and outside, 

and inside and outside are connected. 

everything is connected, continuous.’

-ruth asawa

the interior and exterior of asawa’s tied wire sculpture is also connected.  asawa began making tied wire sculpture in 1962, after friends brought back a desert plant from their vacation in death valley, CA for her to draw.  instead, she began experimenting with wire, which she bundled, divided, subdivided, and tied into trunks, branches, and roots.  the diameter of the core determined the number of divisions.

ruth asawa | desert flower | lithograph in colors | 1965

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | oxidized copper tied wire | 1962

photo credits christie’s and christie’s

if you live in san francisco, you may have visited the installation of ruth asawa’s tied wire and looped wire sculpture in the lobby of the hamon tower at the de young museum in golden gate park.  asawa donated 15 sculptures to the de young museum, and designed the installation along with the museum director and the curator.  she envisioned a juxtaposed installation, similar to the installation of sculptures in her home and studio.

living room of the asawa-lanier home | san francisco, CA | 1995

photo credit laurence cuneo

she also envisioned an installation that explored the relationship between light, shadow, transparency, and form.  the lighting design of the de young installation creates unexpected transformations that manipulate the form of asawa’s wire sculptures.  spotlights project highlights onto the sculptures, and shadows onto the walls, floor, and ceiling.  the highlights and shadows define, expand, and dematerialize the forms.

ruth asawa sculpture installation | lobby | hamon tower | de young museum | san francisco, CA

photo credit joseph mcdonald

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | copper and brass looped wire | 1960-1965 | 2005.90.8

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | copper and brass looped wire | 1960-1969 | 2005.90.7

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | copper and brass looped wire | 1960-1965 | 2005.90.6

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | monel (copper & nickel alloy) looped wire | 1959 | 2005.90.5

photo credits joseph mcdonald and lisa walsh | innerspace

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | brass looped wire | 1958 | 2005.90.15

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | copper looped wire | 1955-1959 | 2005.90.2

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | galvanized steel and copper looped wire | 1955-1959 | 2005.90.3

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | iron looped wire | 1950-1955 | 2005.90.1

photo credits joseph mcdonald and lisa walsh | innerspace

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | galvanized iron tied wire | 1963 | 2005.90.11

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | iron looped wire | 1955-1959 | 2005.90.4

ruth asawa | untitled | wall mounted sculpture | bronze tied wire | 1965-1969 | 1005.90.12

photo credits joseph mcdonald and lisa walsh | innerspace

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | galvanized steel tied wire | 1960-1965 | 2005.90.9

ruth asawa | untitled | hanging sculpture | copper looped wire | 1996 | 2005.90.14

photo credits  lisa walsh | innerspace and  joseph mcdonald

how do you define modernist aesthetics?

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