I am delighted to add Harry Bertoia to our community of artists by curating Harry Bertoia: Structure and Sound. Bertoia was a colleague to many of the craft and design artists in our collection so there is a great synergy between his work and our holdings.
Born in Italy, Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was a resident of Barto, Pennsylvania, where he created his well-known sonambient or tonal sounding sculptures and designed furniture for Knoll, Inc.
His early studies in printmaking and metalworking at the Cranbrook Academy of Art informed his work throughout his career. Drawing, too, was an important part of the artist’s creative process, and many of his compositions articulate his planning and experimentation for sculpture.
In 1950, at the invitation of the Knoll furniture design company, he moved to eastern Pennsylvania and designed, among other pieces, the Bertoia Diamond Chair series, which became part of the modern furniture movement.
The tonal is the sculpture that is most often associated with Harry Bertoia. Sizes vary from a few inches up to 19 feet. Steel, copper and brass were the common metals used for the rods, which are capped with cylinders or drops of metal. These features, by their weight, influence the swaying of the tonal rods and the tenor of sound they emit.
Bertoia’s home and studio, including a barn space installation of 75 tonals of varying heights, is still maintained by his son, artist Val Bertoia. He occasionally arranges symphonic musical performances. Album recordings made by Harry Bertoia will be included in the installation so that the visitor will leave with a sensory as well as aesthetic experience.
Bertoia also explored jewelry making, crafting organic forms of silver and copper. Many of these one-of-a-kind pieces were exhibited through the Nierendorf Gallery in New York which also supported the artist with a stipend so he could continue his printwork and jewelry.