There are so many varieties of Bertoia sculpture that it is perhaps too broad to plunk them all in one category. But, just as Bertoia rarely signed his work, feeling that his gift to the universe needed no man’s mark on it to be appreciated or interpreted, the sculpture speaks for itself and needs no definition or classification. An estimate of total Bertoia sculptures surpasses 50,000 – a phenomenal number of works for a man who passed at age 63. An in-progress Catalogue Raisonne’ is being compiled by Mary Thorp (see www.hbrp.net).
Bertoia learned welding at Santa Monica City College in California in the late 1940s, and immediately began to experiment in his personal evening time. Wire and platform sculptures were his first attempts. These evolved into panels and screens, which led to his early public pieces. He discovered that light would perform wonderful dances if enough space was left between the metal shapes.
The curvy fountain-type pieces were lovingly welded one rod at a time, shifting each new rod enough to give the desired shape. Bertoia never balked at technical difficulties, but rather managed to invent new techniques if needed. He had a remarkable skill of envisioning the result, and then progressing backward to plan and build the work.
The bushes and subsequent dandelions are a marvel of modern welding. “Knock offs” can be easily spotted simply by sloppy welding work. Bertoia was meticulous and demanding, and expected no less from his workers than himself, which was sometimes tough on mere mortals. Sculptures are available from auction houses and galleries listed under “store”.
I like to think of my work in this way: There are several kinds, and I like to think that each kind occupies a certain region in the cosmos, maybe the cosmos of my mind, but each work finds its proper environment in a region. And if you go far enough you could expand this region, cultivate it and it would become fruitful and do more… I regard nature as being the strongest influence.