Harry Bertoia : A Pioneer of Wire, Space and Sound

Thursday, February 24, 2011
Harry Bertoia was born on March 10, 1915. Aside from his passion in the world of sculpture, he was also into modernist furniture design. Despite being born in Italy, Bertoia decided to stay in Detroit during his teenage years, studying high school at Cass Technical. It was here where Bertoia developed his skills in design as well as handcrafting jewelry. He moved on to the College for Creative Studies (back then called by another name) in the late 1930's.

Bertoia taught jewelry design and metal-smithing in his new found workshop in 1939. During the war, he made use of hi time crafting rings for prestigious personalities like Edmund Bacon's wife and Ray Eames. Eventually he settled down with a woman named Brigitta Valentiner in the early 1940's. He had several moves during his life, including one to California and another one to Pennsylvania. He later started to design several wire pieces such as the famous "Diamond Chair".

Sculpture by Harry Bertoia - Photography author: N. Jeppson

Bertoia described his artistic chairs as artworks that are curiously present as a result of space passing through them. Many of his works, whether in wire sculpture or kinetic sculpture, revolve around the theme of air. Whether it be to produce sound, like those exhibited in his performance album "Sonambient" or to merely coexist within the chambers of his composition, Bertoia's pronouncement of air as an artistic element is as admirable as it is interesting.

Today, many of his works can be found at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Detroit Institute of Arts among others.


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