Mark di Suvero at the Morgan
June 16 through September 12, 2010
Left: Homebody, 2004, stainless steel, steel, 13' 10" x 15' 3" x 8'
Right: Heraldic Bourgogne, 1995, steel, 78" x 85 3/4" x 89 3/4"
The temporary installation of three sculptures by Mark di Suvero in the Gilbert Court was prompted by the friendship and mutual admiration
between di Suvero and Renzo Piano, the architect who designed
the court. The geometric rigor and simple elegance of the soaring
space provide a counterpoint to di Suvero's expressionist
sculptures, which Piano has compared to "wild guys" who have
come to disrupt the serenity of the place.
Because of their scale, materials, and techniques,
di Suvero's sculptures have always had a special relationship to
architecture. His early works, from the late 1950s and 1960s, were
made of rough timbers salvaged from demolished buildings. In his
more recent sculptures, fragments of I beams evoke industrial
construction and, at the Morgan, directly echo the steel columns
of Piano's architecture. But while Piano's columns are polished,
painted, and most of all, functional, di Suvero's beams are cut,
twisted, and raw—and their function is purely expressive and
poetic. Piano once described di Suvero's method: "Well, Mark just
picks 'em all up and moves them around with a crane, and then
when he likes it, he just welds it, and turns it over sometimes."
Di Suvero may begin a piece with drawings—"it's easier to
make your mistakes on paper than it is in steel," he said—but the
works are, for the most part, constructed intuitively, "following the way the material wants to go." The sculptures in the exhibition
were made during the last fifteen years. The elegantly curved lines
of Heraldic Bourgogne contrast with the aggressiveness of
its clawlike elements. In the dramatic Homebody, the artist
set up a dialogue of shapes, colors, and textures between the
large, dominant circle and the tangled forms of the lower part. The
smaller Sandwich I playfully balances two I-beam sections,
endowing these heavy construction pieces with a beautiful sense
of lightness. Although different in size, the three sculptures are
all of an imposing scale, which interacts with the monumentality
of the ambient architecture. They transform and animate the space
with their projecting elements. Like Renzo Piano's architecture, di
Suvero's sculptures are at once powerful and lyrical. They transcend
their materiality to arouse the emotions and stir the imagination.
Born to Italian parents in Shanghai in 1933, Mark di Suvero emigrated
with his family to San Francisco in 1941. After earning a B.A. in
philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley, he moved
to New York in 1957. His first, highly successful exhibition in 1960
included sculptures made of rough timbers, the shapes of which
echoed the gestural brushstrokes of the dominant abstract expressionist
movement. After a near-fatal accident left him paralyzed,
di Suvero learned to operate a crane and use an electric arc welder
and began creating the monumental steel sculptures for which he
has achieved international fame. In 1975 he became the first living
artist to have his work shown in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
An idealist with a strong belief in art's ability to improve the
world and an equally strong commitment to aspiring artists, di
Suvero converted an abandoned landfill adjacent to the East River
in Queens into the Socrates Sculpture Park, which, since 1986,
has offered young sculptors a place to exhibit large-scale works.
The recipient of numerous awards, di Suvero maintains three studios:
one on the site of a former brickyard on the edge of the East
River in Long Island; another in Petaluma, California; and a third
on the banks of the Saône, in Chalon-sur-Saône, France.
This installation is made possible through the generosity of Richard and Ronay Menschel.
North Star: Mark di Suvero followed by Mark di Suvero: Storm King
Friday, June 18, 2010, 7 p.m. and Friday, July 30, 2010, 7 p.m.
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