José De Rivera


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American abstract sculptor, born at West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Before taking up art he worked in industry as a machinist, blacksmith, and tool and die maker, and he brought to his sculpture consummate skills in metalworking. He studied at night classes at the Studio School, Chicago, 1929–30, and began making sculpture in 1930. In 1931–2 he travelled in Europe (where he was impressed by the work of Brancusi) and Egypt, then settled in New York. He worked for the Federal Art Project, 1937–8, his work under its auspices including a sculpture entitled Flight (1938) for Newark Airport, New York. In 1938 he began making completely abstract sculpture using curved metal sheets, which he sometimes painted. His first one-man show was at the Mortimer Levitt Gallery, New York, in 1946. From the mid-1950s his most characteristic works featured very elegant flowing linear forms in highly polished metal. Some of them were designed to be exhibited on slowly rotating turntables, for example Construction No. 67 (1959, Tate). In 1961 he said: ‘What I make represents nothing but itself. My work is really an attempt to describe the maximum space with the minimum of material.’

Subjects: Art.

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