Mark di Suvero has long been lauded as one of the most significant sculptors of the past 60 years, renowned for monumental, abstract, steel constructions that grace urban plazas, bucolic sculpture parks, and public spaces throughout the world. Industrial studios in Long Island City, New York and Petaluma, California support the creation of these large-scale works, as well as nurture his practice on a more intimate scale. The exhibition at the Nasher focuses on the artist’s studio practice over the course of his more than six-decade career, surveying the more intimately and modestly scaled sculptures in parallel with his energetic and rarely seen drawings. Featuring 30 sculptures ranging in size from hand-held to monumental and more than 40 drawings and paintings spanning the artist’s career, Mark di Suvero: Steel Like Paper reveals the artist’s intimate studio practice that yields the power of his monumental vision.
In reference to the monumental works and his studio practice, di Suvero notes that, for him, plates of steel are like sheets of white paper, suggesting a facility, intimacy, malleability, and limitless potential rarely associated with his obdurate materials. The artist has pursued a largely improvisatory process throughout his career, working on multiple objects at once, occasionally allowing compositions to develop slowly over many years, and embracing chance and surprise discoveries, even when working with massive materials, large equipment, and crews of assistants. Drawing, painting, and making smaller sculptures provide opportunities to explore ideas on his own. The drawings frequently capture an initial blast of inspiration and often exhibit the freedom and dynamism also apparent in his larger sculptures. Smaller constructions perch, balance, twirl, and unfold, evincing whimsy and wonder, which also energize the monumental assemblages. The sense of play apparent in the smaller works is a constant in di Suvero’s practice and harkens back to the artist’s first forays into public sculpture, making swings and play sculptures for friends, art patrons, and neighborhood children alike. Such egalitarianism serves as a core personal foundation for the artist and finds expression in his public sculptures as well as his lifelong dedication to social justice.
Organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, the exhibition is the most extensive survey of his work in over 30 years and the largest US museum exhibition since his first at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1975. In recognition of the long friendship the artist shared with Nasher Sculpture Center founders Raymond and Patsy Nasher, the exhibition takes place as part of the museum’s celebration of its 20th year.