Kayne Griffin Corcoran is pleased to present a solo booth of unique, early work by Beverly Pepper, 96 year-old American born, Italy based sculptor. The presentation highlights the work this great artist created early on in her career between 1958 – 1967. During this period, Pepper carved out, both literally and figuratively, a niche in her own particular sculptural language.
In 1962 Pepper was one of ten sculptors invited to participate in the momentous exhibition Sculture nella citta for the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoletto. This moment set her career on an advanced track. In Pepper’s conversation with Judith Olch Richards, as part of her oral history for the Archives of American Art, Pepper said “it was an absolute, seminal period of my life. It formed me. Remember, I was the only woman working in these factories as an artist for Spoletto. This was an extraordinary group of artists. I was getting another education. Because remember, I didn’t study sculpture. I didn’t’ study welding.”
While in Spoletto, and working at factories throughout Italy, Pepper worked closely alongside Lynn Chadwick, Alexander Calder, as well as David Smith. She worked long hours in the studio and factories, learning how to manipulate different metals and weld. Her time appretenticing in mills was enough of an education that Pepper was in control of stainless steel to “draw” with it in space; to treat ribbons of metal as though they were weightless strokes of brush but nonetheless to leave within the work of a trace of the technics of construction. She became a sculptor who was on her own and speaking in her own voice.
Her intuitive and fresh take on metal can be seen in this curated selection of work. She bends and splices the hard material as if it were something much more pliable. Through her self-taught, problem solving approach to making the work Pepper invented new forms and textures. The ribbon works and sheaths and bundles of bent steel developed between 1958 - 1962. Then came a far more geometrical series of open-faced stainless boxes, their edges violated by the abusive fire of torch cutting. The destructive mark of the torch on these 1965 works by Pepper partake in an instinct of pleasure at the idea of undermining the strength of steel: construction open to the terms of its own destruction. She also added colored enamel in some instances, bringing new life to the hard material.
Our presentation focuses on this timeline of works both for their rarity and their significance to the narrative of American sculpture. Beverly Pepper’s work in metal, especially steel, places her in the rightful legacy of the pioneering and revolutionary sculptors celebrated throughout art history.
Beverly Pepper was born in Brooklyn in 1922. She has spent most of her adult life working in central Italy. Her works have been exhibited and collected by major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the White House Sculpture Garden, the Hirschhorn Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Les Jardins du Palais Royal in Paris, the Palazzo degli Uffizi in Florence, and numerous other national museums in Europe and Asia. She is a recipient of The Alexander Calder Prize, the International Sculpture Center’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award and Chevalier de l’Ordre des arts et des lettres in France.