“The urge for good design,” said the acclaimed sculptor, jeweler, and artist Harry Bertoia, “is the same as the urge to go on living.” Bertoia (1915–1978) studied with Walter Gropius at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a crucible of creativity. There he met Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Florence Schust (Knoll). After working with Eames in California, Bertoia, in 1950, moved to eastern Pennsylvania to work for Knoll. In 1952 he created the firm’s renowned “Diamond Chair”—Euclidean in its subtly faceted curves. Bertoia wanted to focus on his own work, however, and left Knoll in 1960 to begin making “tonal sculptures” in wood and metal—these pieces emitted noises when touched. Bertoia’s “Dandelion” sculptures, spherical seed heads made of wire and tubular steel, first appeared in 1957, were refined during the 60s, and are spectacularly symbolic of that mind-expanding decade. The first U.S. museum retrospective of Bertoia’s career, this exhibition presents nearly 100 works that explore the sculptor’s sensibility as it moves from jewelry to furniture to objects to images on paper. —E.C.
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