Allentown Art Museum

Allentown, PA



Harry Bertoia's Monographics


The Allentown Art Museum presents the exhibition Harry Bertoia's Monographics, on view in the Payne Hurd Gallery from December 19, 1999 through March 19, 2000.

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) is among the artists whose ingenious chairs are included in the 100 Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection exhibition opening in the Kress Gallery on January 16, 2000 and on view through April 9, 2000. Bertoia's drawing style, a unique synthesis of a monoprint and drawing, was as inventive as his famous chair constructed out of wires. Bertoia, who made his home in Barto, Pennsylvania, is among the many distinguished artists who have lived in this part of eastern Pennsylvania. The thirteen prints in this exhibition were made between the late 1940s through the late 1970s just prior to the artist's untimely death. They are selected from a collection of twenty-nine Bertoia monographics owned by the Museum, many acquired with funds from the SOTA Print Fund. The exhibition also includes a recent gift from John Willenbecher and Nancy Willenbecher Dickinson in memory of their mother, Geneva Willenbecher. (upper left: Untitled, 1970s, black ink on rice paper, purchase SOTA Print Fund, 1992.5.17; lower left: Untitled, 1940s, colored inks on tissue rice paper, purchase SOTA Print Fund, 1992.5.8; right: Untitled, early 1940s, colored inks and oils on paper, purchase SOTA Print Fund, 1992.5.10)

More on the artist: After two years of study at Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, Bertoia set up a metals workshop and taught there during the latter half of the 1930's. Harry Bertoia is renowned as a sculptor, printmaker, furniture and jewelry designer. He settled near Allentown in Bally, PA in 1950. · In 1952 he designed his famous wire construction chair for Knell Associates. The chair design became a classic with its timeless appeal. You can enjoy sitting on the Bertoia chair throughout the museum galleries. Bertoia's fame brought commissions nationally and internationally for large-scale metal wall, mobile, free-standing and fountain sculptures.

Harry Bertoia is best known for his innovative kinetic sounding pieces which he began making primarily from beryllium copper in 1960. Of this metal sound revelation, Bertoia said " I accidentally struck one rod when I wanted to bend it. The sound echoed in my mind." Bertoia produced hundreds of metal rod tonal pieces.He strove for marked varieties in the sounds through the width, height and number of rods, ranging from less than a foot to twelve feet high. Most of the sounding pieces form rectangular shapes with the rods welded to a base. A legacy to this production remains intact in a barn at his Bally homestead -- a setting where two record albums of the musical tones played in concert were recorded. The Allentown Art Museum collection features three sounding pieces. Sounds reverberate through gentle stroking and indirectly by air currents or floor vibrations.

Another type of sounding piece made by Bertoia is the gong. A conical shaped base with two discs projecting from its arms, the largest being 72" wide, rises to 103" in front of the museum. A variety of sounds can be called from this bronze sheet and welded bronze gong, ranging from extremely deep and full bodied to a rather thin rattle, depending on how it is struck.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Allentown Art Museum.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/23/10

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