Even if you’ve never heard of Harry Bertoia, you’ve probably seen at least some of the art that was created over the course of the last century by this Italian-born American designer.You may have seen one of his creations suspended and twinkling, like a stream of divine inspiration pouring through a skylight, in the Saarinen-designed chapel at MIT, or wrapped around a woman’s neck or pinned to her sweater.
Images: MIT Chapel, Silver Pin, Silver Pin 2, Gold Necklace
You might even have sat on one of them. The iconic Diamond chair won two international design awards, and is probably Bertoia’s most ubiquitous creation. It’s sensual, yet minimalist, and—having lounged on one or two of these back in the (cough!) Eighties, I can assure you—a lot more comfortable than it looks.
Images: Diamond Chair, Yellow chairs, Poster by Herbert Matter
Harry Bertoia was too versatile and playful to allow himself to be typecast as simply a prizewinning furniture designer. He experimented with a variety of materials, and produced work in two dimensions as well as three. He created sculptures on a variety of scales, ranging from the tiniest of earrings to public works of art that were over twenty feet tall.
Image: Bronze Split Gong
[Photo credit: 1stdibs]
He loved to work with industrial materials, such as rubber, iron and steel, and there is a sense of tension and starkness in all of his creations, which reflected the rather tough and pragmatic mid-century Zeitgeist. But Bertoia’s sculptures also contain the sense of hope that was another characteristic of the Modernist era. He balanced the rigidity of the materials by coaxing them into subtly suggestive shapes, which lends a sense of grace and fluidity.
[Photo credit: NYCxDESIGN]
Bertoia drew his inspiration from diverse sources, such as nature and mythology. There is something quite ethereal, and almost eerie, about them. He then began to experiment with sound, by making sculptures that respond to human touch, and even to the wind.
Images: Sound Sculpture Chicago, Sound Sculpture Basel
Check out the video to find out how a Bertoia artwork, made in the 1950s for a bank, has found new life in a New York City designer boutique. It just goes to show that true creative genius never goes out of style.
[Video credit: Joe Fresh]