May 18, 2014


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Lot 131: Harry Bertoia

Lot 131: Harry Bertoia

Sonambient Sculpture

Bronze and beryllium copper
77.5" (base: 12" x 12")
Together with signed letter from the artist dated June 11, 1974
Provenance: Private Collection, California (acquired directly from the artist, 1974)
Literature: Harry Bertoia: An Exhibition of His Sculptures and Graphics. Exhibition Catalogue. Allentown: Allentown Art Museum, 1975. np for similar examples.
Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000
Price Realized: $62,500
Inventory Id: 12131

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With iconic contributions in sculpture, printmaking, jewelry, and furniture design, Italian-born artist Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) established himself as one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century. He was often inspired by nature and music, and in the early 1960s, he embarked on a sonic journey to join the two disciplines. While Bertoia was working on a sculpture that consisted of several standing rods, he accidentally broke a rod, causing it to crash into another rod, resulting in a sound that resonated deeply with the artist. According to Bertoia himself, this sound "initiated a deliberate gesture in search of understanding what a group of wires would do." Throughout the 1960s, Bertoia created over a hundred sound sculptures consisting of rows of flexible copper rods that sway when touched or blown, producing various tones depending on the length and mass of the rods. He referred to this sonorous atmosphere as Sonambient, the resulting environment created by the gentle clangor of the rods. In his rural Pennsylvania barn he renovated for optimal acoustics, Bertoia arranged over one hundred of these sculptures in a specific tonal order and recorded eleven Sonambient albums. Many of his sounding sculptures utilized several reverberating rods, while this unique example features only two. Surely this minimalist instrument played an equally essential role in the symphony of more elaborate sounding sculptures, and alone, it produces a pure, zen-inducing chime.

Schiffer, Nancy N., and Val O. Bertoia. The World of Bertoia. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, 2003. Print.
"Sonambient." Harry Bertoia. Harry Bertoia, 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.