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Seymour Lipton

(1903—1986)


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(1903–86).

Sculptor. Also a dentist. His welded sculptures of the late 1940s number among the earliest allied with abstract expressionism. Evolving from surrealist and constructivist precedents, they present vigorous, often menacing arrangements of generally biomorphic forms suggesting turmoil and psychological distress. In characteristic later works, he employed welded sheet metal to probe tensions between expansion and compression, solid and void, volume and line, weight and delicacy, and passion and serenity. His work often engages mythic themes, sometimes on a monumental scale. Born in New York, Lipton studied for a year at City College of New York before entering Columbia University. He graduated from its dental school in 1927 and continued to practice dentistry after he became committed to sculpture around 1932. Self-taught as an artist, at first he made expressionistic woodcarvings, often allied with the socially conscious sensibility of the period. This figurative approach yielded to increasingly abstract forms in the 1940s, and by the middle of the decade representation had almost entirely disappeared. Around 1950 he forged a personal style featuring fluid, generally organic forms fabricated from curving sheet-metal elements and textured with brazing and hammering. His innovative techniques for joining sheets of metal and for activating surface alloys facilitated original and varied effects of considerable power, seen at their best in such works as Ancestor (Phillips Collection, 1958). Intended by its maker to allude indirectly to a human figure, the bulky piece stands more than seven feet tall. Yet it suggests surprising lightness, as it balances on “tiptoe” above its four contact points with the base. Gracefully curved, yet strong shapes gather in dynamic interaction, loosely suggesting living form and exposing a mysterious core. At the time of his death in a hospital in Glen Cove, a New York suburb on the north shore of Long Island, he resided in nearby Locust Valley and in Manhattan.

Subjects: Art.


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