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date: 14 November 2019

Bertoia, Harry locked

  • Hugh Davies


(b San Lorenzo, nr Reggio di Calabria, Italy, March 10, 1915; d Barto, PA, Nov 6, 1978). American sculptor and designer, of Italian birth. After migrating to the USA in 1930, he studied at the Society of Arts and Crafts in Detroit (1936) and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1937–9). In 1951 he moved to Pennsylvania, where he designed the Bertoia chair (1952) and worked on small sculptures (he had produced his first pieces in the late 1940s). The first of his many large architectural sculptures, which include fountains, was commissioned in 1953, and from 1960 he increasingly involved sound in his constructions. All Bertoia’s work, both graphic and sculptural, shows a combination of strength and delicacy in organic, flowing shapes with intricately textured details. The sound sculptures (which were not individually named but have the generic title Sonambient) consist mostly of bunches of long metal rods mounted vertically on a flat base; in another type, which Bertoia called ‘swinging bars’, a pair of metal bars approximately 60 cm long are suspended horizontally at right angles to each other and, when gently pushed or blown by the wind, function as chimes. Bertoia also constructed circular and rectangular ‘gongs’, the smallest of which has a diameter of 25 cm; the largest, which now stands over his grave, is more than 2.5 metres across and approximately 1.25 cm thick, and is played with a padded sledgehammer....

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