Harry Bertoia – Untitled (Sound Sculpture), circa 1975

© 2003 Estate of Harry Bertoia/ Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York, New York. Photograph by R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer.

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Sound Sculpture), circa 1975

Born 1915, San Lorenzo, Udine, Italy; Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA) Student, Silver and Metalsmithing, 1937; CAA Manager and Instructor in the Metalcraft Shop, 1937–1943; CAA Instructor of Graphic Art, 1942–1943; died 1978, Barto, Pennsylvania
Metal with forty-one rods
96 x 16 x 16 inches
Gift of Raymond Zimmerman, from the Collection of Raymond and Kathleen Zimmerman
CAM 2001.13

Harry Bertoia, renowned artist and furniture designer, also achieved international success as a sculptor. In 1960, he began making sculptures that introduced movement. The sculptures resemble reeds or other organic forms that emit melodic sounds when affected by air currents or in response to the human touch. The reverberations created were similar to the layering of shapes and colors in Bertoia’s earlier monotypes (produced while he was at Cranbrook) where he visualized in two dimensions the production and radiation of sound waves. Bertoia used different metals in his sculptures to produce rich melodious tones, favoring bronze, beryllium copper, nickel alloys and Monel. While varying the material and proportion, the visual effect of the sculptures remains cohesive. In this sound piece, forty-one metal rods with drums on their tips are attached to a metal base. One of his taller variations, Sound Sculpture is a commanding presence. Bertoia intended his sound sculptures to be played as naturalistic/ mechanical instruments, and recorded several sound performances under the title Sonambient in the 1970s.

Sarah Schleuning
from Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2004)
Category(s): Sculpture

Decade(s): 1970s

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