PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas January February 2022

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contributors Dr. Glenn Adamson, known for his incisive insights into the history of craft, and Dr. Sydney Skelton Simon, whose dissertation at Stanford probed the confluence of art, design, science, and corporate culture in Cold War America through the lens of Bertoia. Then there's melodic accompanying programming that marks a milestone in terms of musical connoisseurship in dialogue with Bertoia. Throughout the final week of February, the museum has commissioned nightly pairings of musicians playing Bertoia's sounding sculptures, a series of Sonambient happenings, "Sculpting Sound," that promise to be extraordinary. A CONCISE BERTOIA BIOGRAPHY The Italian-born Bertoia, a naturalized American citizen who never lost the cadence of his native language, immigrated as a teenager to Detroit during the early Depression to join his older brother. He spoke years later of a boyhood encounter with Hungarian gypsies in his hometown of San Lorenzo; the gypsies made a living repairing pots and pans, and their clanging upon metal household goods made an impression that stayed with the artist for life. At a technical high school in Detroit and later at Cranbrook, Bertoia stood out for his gifts with the medium, and he was made the director of the metal lab at Cranbrook — a rare responsibility for a student. During the height of the war, he left Michigan to join his classmate Charles Eames in California and work on mass production of the destined-to-be iconic molded plywood chair. When his engineering solutions Clockwise from top left: Harry Bertoia's Hand Made Chair Prototype (Asymmetric Chaise Longue), circa 1952; Untitled, circa 1960; Ornamental Centipede, circa 1942; Untitled (Sunburst), 1960. made the chair possible (but were solely credited to Eames), Bertoia moved on to other endeavors. His life changed when Hans and Florence Knoll recruited him to come to design for them in Knoll's production HQ in eastern Pennsylvania — and the rest if only a small part of Bertoia's history, as "Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life" demonstrates. As Morse underscores in the catalog, "It is Bertoia's success in such disparate arenas — from the intimate and personal space of jewelry to the domestic sphere of furniture, and the corporate, governmental, and public realm of commissions — that places him at the forefront of shaping the experience of life in the United States at mid-century." This life possessed utopian elements, as the curator notes: "Bertoia's sculptural output reflected a moment when the possibilities wrought by scientific discoveries and technological innovation seemed endless." Morse also emphasizes the artist/designer's embrace of Emersonian nature: "That abstract compositions of metal squares and wires could evoke such powerful experiences outside of themselves is the manna of Abstract Expressionism and highlights a transcendentalist streak running throughout Bertoia's work." "Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid- Century Modern Life," January 29 – April 23, at Nasher Sculpture Center, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COLLECTION WILBUR AND JOAN SPRINGER; WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART; CRANBROOK ART MUSEUM; COLLECTION NANCY A. NASHER AND DAVID J. HAEMISEGGER, PHOTO KEVIN TODORA, COURTESY NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER. ALL IMAGES HARRY BERTOIA, © 2021 ESTATE OF HARRY BERTOIA / ARS, NYC. 33

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