Item: Untitled Sculpture
Designer/Maker: Erik Gronborg – The Danish artist came to the states in 1959 and to UC Berkeley in 1960. There, he was instrumental in developing the artist-foundry movement begun at Peter Voulkos and Donald Haskin’s ‘Garbanzo Works,’ described by Joe Pugliese in 1963 as “ the most cooperative, most confused, most productive, and most slap stick do it yourself foundry operation ever on record.”
Gronborg’s style was utterly unique, he worked in both wood and cast metals and received the prestigious City of Paris Award at the 1963 Paris Bienale. As part of the landmark Onze Sculpteurs Americains, comprised of artists involved with the Berkeley art department, who received a special group prize, Gronborg was singled out for the Paris Bienale’s highest honor and had a solo show at the Musee d’Art Moderne inParis.
This early stage in Gronborg’s career is well documented in Artforum Magazine and the Creative Casting exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in NYC (Gronborg and Harold Paris shown working in the Berkeley foundry throughout the catalog), but it was only the beginning. He went on to national recognition as a ceramist often associated with the funk movement, and was included in major exhibitions like Objects:USA in 1969. After settling in San Diego in the mid 1970s, he began to make studio furniture that also won national acclaim and was featured in Dona Meilach’s important survey, Woodworking: the New Wave. Always an innovative and singular artist, Gronborg was central to some of the most significant American art and craft developments of the mid 20th century.
Description: Carved and lacquered wood in three segments, c. 1966. Made during Gronborg’s highly productive Portland period, while teaching at Reed College, this sculpture combines his interest in architecture and the human figure. In 1965 he is quoted as saying “…only through tangible objects have artists of all times been able to express concepts of human existence. However spiritual the idea, only the artist’s imagination and sensitivity can successfully transform it into a meaningful visual experience. And in the center of this experience will always be the image of man.”
Involving more realistic carving than was typical for Gronborg, and contrasting the exposed wood structure of the sides with smooth, off-white lacquer on the front, this sculpture was influenced by the artist’s work in Egypt. Assigned to the American Research Center in Cairo as a photographer on an archaeological excavation in 1964, Gronborg saw ancient stone monuments and temple complexes being cut up into huge blocks and reassembled elsewhere, moved from their sites to save them from flooding caused by the Aswan Dam project.
Dimensions: 23-3/4″ x 3-1/8″ x 21-3/4″ h
Condition: Some wear to the overall surface and a couple of scuffs on the lacquered part, but otherwise very good condition.
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