Fringe: Quick Bite

Dear Readers — We’re getting our fringe on today at Museum Quick Bites with a whimsical piece created by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978). On display at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Bertoia’s untitled sculpture (1970) is a shimmery delight.

Untitled (1970) Harry Bertoia, Milwaukee Art Museum, Photo by cjverb (2017)-400px
Untitled (1970) Harry Bertoia, Milwaukee Art Museum, Photo by cjverb (2017)

Attached to a center pole, hundreds of thin strips of stainless steel cascade to the floor. The ends of this metal mane trimmed in a blunt cut. Notice how the play of light from a strategically placed lamp creates a bonus display on the dais. The intricate design emphasizes the fringe-y features of this piece.

When I stumbled upon this sculpture, my first impression was of Cousin Itt from The Adaams Family. What do you see? A willow tree? A hula skirt? Or something completely different?

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was born in San Lorenzo, Italy. In 1930, at age 15, he moved to Detroit to live with his older brother, Oreste. Within six years, he won a scholarship to study painting and drawing at the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. A year later, he won another scholarship to study painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Once his scholarship was complete, Bertoia remained at Cranbrook to manage the metals department and also establish his own jewelry design workshop.

Monotype on Paper #1260 (c1940s) by Harry Bertoia, Smithsonian American Art Museum

During World War II, Bertoia helped craft airplane parts for the war effort. In 1943, he joined fellow Cranbrook colleagues, Charles and Ray Eames in Los Angeles to work on the design of the Eames chair (click on Museum Bites: Mod Façade to learn more). However, Bertoia received no credit for his input on the iconic chair so he left the company.

In the 1950s, Bertoia and his family moved to Pennsylvania where he worked on designing chairs for Knoll, Inc. During the 1960s, Bertoia began making and recording his sonambient sculptures. These sound sculptures are comprised of metal rods varying in size and composition. Click on this Harry Bertoia Sonambient Sculpture link, courtesy of New Brunette for an entertaining demo.

Harry Bertoia died of lung cancer in 1978. In addition to sculpture and furniture design, Bertoia was a painter, printmaker, and jewelry designer. Eclectic and cutting edge (fringe-y!), Bertoia’s stunning work is on display around the world in airports, embassies, museums, universities, and even a high school. If you’d like to learn more about his life and art, click on this Harry Bertoia link, courtesy of the Harry Bertoia Foundation.

That wraps up our look at fringe. Next week I’ll be back with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind and take care.

Fringe Shoes by Ri Butov, Pixabay-100px Cover photo by Ri Butov, courtesy of Pixabay.


Art Institute of Chicago: Armchair (1967) by Harry Bertoia

Britannica: Harry Bertoia

Copper Video on YouTube: Harry Bertoia Sonambient Sculpture

Google Arts & Culture: Harry Bertoia

Google: Cousin Itt from The Adaams Family Sitcom (1964)

Guggenheim: Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia Foundation

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum: Harry Bertoia Collection

Milwaukee Art Museum: Untitled (1970) Sculpture by Harry Bertoia

Museum Bites: Mod Façade

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Monoprint #1260 (c1940s) by Harry Bertoia

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Sculpture Group Symbolizing World’s Communication in the Atomic Age (1959) by Harry Bertoia

Wikimedia Commons: Harry Bertoia

YouTube: Harry Bertoia Sonambient Barn by New Brunette

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