Mark Di Suvero
Biography of American Monumental Steel Sculptor.

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Arikidea (1977-82)
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
A good example of Di Suvero's
idiosynchratic metal sculpture.

Mark Di Suvero (b.1933)

One of the foremost 20th century American abstract sculptors involved in monumental works, Mark Di Suvero is known for his gigantic sculptures constructed primarily from industrial I-beams. Born in China and trained at the California School of Fine Arts, he started his career in plastic art by making three dimensional junk art from scraps, before constructing his 1966 LA Peace Tower. During the early 1970s, he stayed in Europe, where he began creating the monumental outdoor abstract sculpture for which he is now best known.

One of the most prolific American sculptors, Di Suvero is responsible for a massive amount of public art throughout America, his best known works include Storm Angel (1973-4, Square Chabas, Chalon-sur-Saone); and Arikidea (1977, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden).

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John De Andrea (b.1941)

BEST ARTISTS
See: Greatest Sculptors.

MODERN PLASTIC ARTISTS
For a list of sculptors like
Mark Di Suvero, see:
Modern Artists.

EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
See: History of Sculpture.

BEST SCULPTURE
See: Greatest Sculptures Ever.

Early Life

Di Suvero was born in Shanghai to parents of Italian heritage. In 1941 he moved to California with his parents, and between 1953 and 1957 he studied Fine Arts at the University of California. In 1957 he moved to New York, where he came into contact with Abstract Expressionists like Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Clyfford Still, Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.

He joined the 10th Street Cooperative, which was formed as an alternative to the Madison Avenue and 57th Street galleries, which were both conservative and highly selective. The 10th Street Cooperative was avant-garde and operated on a low budget. Di Suvero was working on welded metal sculpture at the time, and, along with other sculptors, he founded the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, for artists to install outdoor work. The park is still in operation today and regularly holds outdoor exhibitions. In 1960 he had his first solo exhibition at the Green Gallery New York.

 

 

Early Sculptures

During the 1960s Di Suvero began experimenting with found objects, such as steel beams, chairs, tyres and chains - materials he found from derelict buildings. After experimenting with this type of junk art for a while, he came to focus on I-beams - these beams were welded into a sculpture which could swing and rotate, with a considerable degree of motion. A later example is Arikidea (1977, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden). Here, the artist selected I-beams from demolished New York skyscrapers, and assembled them into this massive, spider-like structure. It is 26 feet wide and 42 feet high. A wooden seat swings playfully in the middle of the structure, and it is based on an arachnid (spider), a creature Di Suvero admired for its movement.

Creative Process

Although the start of the creative process remains the drawing, creating large-scale sculpture requires a high degree of organisation and creativity. As Di Suvero explained: "I needed a set of tools - essentially a crane, a cherry-picker (they call it a 'man-lift' sometimes), a torch, a welder, accessory hammers, wire brushes, and small hand tools. I just pick up pieces of metal, move them around with a crane and then, when I'm satisfied with their position, weld them." His sculptures are viewed openly and allow interactivity. The viewer is invited to experience the scale of his art, and even to ride some of his works. His geometric steel structures connect the elements of sky and earth, time and space. It is as if Di Suvero tries to humanise a material - steel - that is totally non-human.

Abstract Expressionism

Although most famous Abstract Expressionists are painters, sculptors were also an integral part of the movement. Along with Di Suvero, these included David Smith (1906-65), Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), Richard Stankiewicz (1923-83), Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), Theodore Roszak (1907-81), and Louise Nevelson (1899-1988). Many of these sculptors exhibited together in the famous Ninth Street Show of 1951 in New York, curated by Leo Castelli (1907-99).

Note About Sculpture Appreciation
To learn how to evaluate contemporary abstract sculptors like Mark Di Suvero, see: How to Appreciate Modern Sculpture. For earlier works, please see: How to Appreciate Sculpture.

Assemblage Art

Di Suvero was also an important contributor to the development of Assemblage Art. Assemblage is the process of selecting found objects and creating a 3-D sculpture from the selection. Its origin can be traced back to the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp and work by Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985). The female artist Louise Nevelson was also creating sculptures from found pieces of wood in the late 1930s. In 1961 the movement received official recognition when the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York held an exhibition entitled The Art of Assemblage. It showcased the work of early 20th century European artists like Braque, Duchamp, Dubuffet, Picasso and the great Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). They placed the European art works alongside those of American contemporary artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray and Joseph Cornell. The curator of the exhibition described the exhibition as 'assemblages as being made up of preformed natural or manufactured materials, objects, or fragments not intended as art materials'.

Di Suvero continues to live and work from his studio in New York. Not only is he a politically aware artist, he is also committed to helping other emerging artists through his association with the Socrates Sculpture Park and the Athena Foundation. In 2005 he received a Lifetime Achievement award in Contemporary Sculpture from the International Sculpture Centre.

Collections

Di Suvero's work can be found in some of the best art museums around the world, including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Contemporary Art, LA; Denver Art Museum; Yale University Art Gallery; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Speed Art Museum, Louisville; Detroit Institute of Arts; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Storm King Art Center, Mountainville; Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England; Daimler-Chrysler Collection, Potsdamer Platz; Kroller-Muller Museum, Germany; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

• For more about the history and styles of plastic art, see: Homepage.
• For more about contemporary sculpture, see: Contemporary Art.


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