Harry Bertoia at MAD
New York’s MAD pays homage to modern master Harry Bertoia by looking past his furniture design to reveal the renaissance man’s workings in jewellery and sound sculpture.
Often typecast as a furniture designer – with Knoll-produced biomorphic chairs to his name – Harry Bertoia is perhaps better defined as an experimental artist, who blurred traditional boundaries. This week, New York’s Museum of Arts and Design opened two simultaneous retrospectives celebrating the Italian-born modern master’s Sonambient sculptures and Cranbrook Academy-crafted jewellery. Both exhibits run till 25 September. ”Harry Bertoia is a perfect subject for the [MAD]” William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Cuartor Shannon R. Stratton explains. “Whether it was kinetics in jewellery, the monotype as drawing, or the creation of a sound environment as an artwork. Bertoia worked across disciplines and scales fluidly and with inventiveness.”
Mounted in adjacent galleries, The Bent, Cast & Forged showcase of metalwork adornment transitions perfectly into the histographic yet dynamic Atmosphere for Enjoyment exhibition. Leading up to a stage of different metal rod and wire Sounding Sculpture, accompanying preliminary drawings, films and full wall images help to contextualise the artist practice. However Stratton propagates no hierarchy in what elements might have more importance than others.
Bertoia’s jewellery offers evidence for early shape explorations that would latter inform his furniture design and audible installations; not to mention larger brass and coper screens for corporate interiors. Such an application provided the young Cranbrook Academy studied to possibility to play with different materials on a manageable scale.
Bertoia spent the last 10-years of his life turning a Pennsylvania barn intoan ever-growing installation and recording studio. He constructed endless iterations of his Sound Sculpture through different combinations – the acoustic sound derived from striking extruded rods together. Each experiment was recorded on a wapping 360 tapes, later edited into eleven thematic Sonambient LPs. The exhibition will uphold this methodology buy inviting musical in for impromptu ‘jam sessions’ with the work.
Harry Bertoia: Atmosphere for Enjoyment & Bent, Cast & Forged run till 25 September.
MAD Museum: 2 Columbus Circle, New York