I’ve wanted to write about Harry Bertoia’s sound sculpture work for quite some time now, but never got around to it. As New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is currently showcasing a retrospective on his work, it seems like fitting time.
Bertoia (1915-1978), originally from Italy, chose to move to America in the 1930’s. First starting his career as a painting student, he soon got to work with metal as he was asked to take over a metal workshop. After the war, he was quickly able to devote himself to sculptural work as he had made a wire-chair for Knoll, a furniture company, which was selling quite well.
Bertoia got interested in sound while bending wire. The thin strand of metal, when it snapped and struck another wire, vibrated and made sound. What would happen if he bundled these wires together, and turned this hitting of one wire to another into a symphony?
This led to several Sonambient sculptures, art pieces which resonate when touched and put into motion. Betroia believed and loved that these sculptures did not need any musical training or understanding. Bertoia didn’t see himself as a musician or a sculptor, but somewhere in between. The sound of these sculptures was released on several albums. These have been grouped in the amazing release Complete Sonambient Collection:
The exhibition Atmosphere for Enjoyment is on until the end of September at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.