Alexander Archipenko

(1887—1964) Russian-born American sculptor

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Sculptor. The most prominent sculptor of the cubist movement, he is known for semi-abstract, often colorful works. He contributed significantly during his American years to wider knowledge of European modernist ideas and forms. Born Aleksandr Porfirevich Arkhipenko in Kiev, he studied painting and sculpture at the art school there before going to Moscow in 1906. Two years later, he departed for Paris. Except for the war years, 1914–18, which he spent in Nice, Paris remained his home until 1921. He then moved to Berlin for two years before continuing on to New York. In 1929 he became an American citizen and subsequently taught and lectured widely throughout the country. He lived for short periods in several cities, including Chicago, where he taught at the New Bauhaus (now the Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute of Design), as well as Kansas City and West Coast locations. He died in New York. Archipenko reached his creative peak during the Paris years. Emphasizing vigorous, reductive shapes, his approach often incorporated holes or concavities that activate adjacent space. In the bronze Woman Combing Her Hair (Museum of Modern Art, 1915), a void cleverly represents the woman's head, which is defined by hair and a raised arm. During the same years, Archipenko also developed an innovative form of constructed relief sculpture in which simplified forms, usually painted, appear against a flat background. Sometimes called sculpto-paintings, these frequently incorporate commonplace, non-art materials. Following his move to the United States, he concentrated on evocations of the standing figure. These sometimes approach pure abstraction, and color often contributes to the variety of novel effects he achieved. A versatile technician, Archipenko produced carved, modeled, and assembled sculpture and occasionally worked with collage. The innovations of his later career include plastic sculptures lit from within.

Subjects: Art.

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