AMERICAN, BORN CHINA, 1933
Mark di Suvero often works on an architectural, monumental scale, creating spatially dynamic sculptures largely from industrial steel I-beams, each weighing many tons. His primary tools are the crane, the cherry picker, and cutting and welding torches. Di Suvero’s bold, open, steel sculptures and the broad expanses of Storm King seem made for each other—together they create a unique environment in which the dynamism of art and nature reinforce one another. Storm King has presented four landmark exhibitions of di Suvero’s work: the first, a twenty-five year retrospective of sculptures and drawings in 1985; the second, a ten-year retrospective in 1995 and 1996 that included a group of di Suvero’s paintings shown in the United States for the first time; a unique exhibition highlighting di Suvero’s relationship with his longtime gallerist and friend Richard Bellamy in 2005 and 2006; and most recently, a major exhibition of twelve monumental outdoor works sited on Governors Island in New York in 2011 and 2012.
Di Suvero came to public prominence in 1975 with a display of his work in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris—the first for any living artist—and a major retrospective that same year at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which featured his large-scale sculpture in public sites through all five boroughs of the city. It was after the Whitney retrospective that a group of di Suvero’s outdoor works were first brought to Storm King, at the invitation of its co-founder and president, H. Peter Stern. Since then, Storm King has presented more than ninety sculptures by di Suvero, and currently owns an unrivaled group of five of his large-scale sculptures—Mother Peace, Mon Père Mon Père, Pyramidian, Mozart’s Birthday, and Mahatma. These were the first works to be sited in the South Fields at Storm King, when the first group of his sculpture arrived in 1976.
Di Suvero is a politically committed artist. In 1966 he designed the fifty-five-foot-high Peace Tower (now destroyed) in Los Angeles as a protest against the war in Vietnam. Soon after, he left the United States for several years, in voluntary exile as an antiwar protest. Leaving North America in 1971, he traveled first to Eindhoven, Holland, working in a factory there. In 1972 he moved to Venice, his father’s ancestral home. There, he established a small painting and drawing studio, taught at the Università Internazionale dell’Arte, and collaborated with engineers to design a system of locks to prevent canal flooding. Shortly thereafter di Suvero relocated to the industrial French town of Chalon-sur-Saône, living until 1974 on a houseboat anchored next to a waterfront shipyard, where he used cranes and cherry pickers to create a series of large-scale sculptures, including Mon Père, Mon Père.
In 1985 di Suvero turned an abandoned warehouse into a studio on the waterfront in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan. Since that time he has created many works that are more visually complex, comprising a varied repertoire of flat circular shapes and acute angles. Recently the artist has experimented with incorporating different materials into his compositions, including burnished stainless steel and titanium. Di Suvero’s smaller works explore balance, movement, and intricate design on an intimate scale. A series of puzzle sculptures made in the early 1980s, for example, invites viewers to rearrange calligraphic cut steel shapes into new compositions. Foregoing preparatory drawings and improvising as he constructs, di Suvero continues to invent new shapes, new forms, and material combinations that enliven space, enrich experience, and convey poignant human emotion.