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Enjoy a Bertoia: Nasher announces exhibition on midcentury modern designer Harry Bertoia

While he’s known today for those Knoll metal-frame chairs, Bertoia also produced paintings, drawings, sculpture and jewelry. More than 100 of these objects will be on display, along with musical ‘sounding sculptures.’

In June of 1955, when Harry Bertoia’s first sculpture in Dallas was unveiled, the reception was less than welcoming. “It looks to me like a bunch of junk painted up,” declared Mayor R.L. Thornton, not to mention a “cheap welding job.” The piece in question was a gold-painted screen installed at what was then the new Dallas Public Library (the building is now home to The Dallas Morning News) on Commerce Street. You can still see it today, hovering over the entry to the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, across the street from City Hall.

This January, after well more than half a century, the city will go some way toward making amends for that ill-mannered introduction, when the Nasher Sculpture Center opens “Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life,” the first museum retrospective on the work of the Italian-born artist and designer. Although he is best known today for the eponymous line of metal-frame chairs he designed in the 1950s for the modern furniture firm Knoll, Bertoia also produced paintings, drawings, sculpture and jewelry in a variety of scales, but always of great delicacy and craftsmanship (never mind the ill-informed musings of Dallas politicos). More than 100 of these objects will be on display at the Nasher exhibition, which will include a week of musical performances that respond to several of Bertoia’s “sounding sculptures,” which activate the aural senses in addition to the visual and tactile ones.

Details

Jan. 29-April 23, nashersculpturecenter.org

Harry Bertoia, c. 1970s. Photo: courtesy Harry Bertoia Foundation and the Nasher Sculpture Center
Harry Bertoia, c. 1970s. Photo: courtesy Harry Bertoia Foundation and the Nasher Sculpture Center

Mark Lamster, Architecture Critic. Mark Lamster is the architectural critic of the Dallas Morning News, a professor in the architecture school at the University of Texas at Arlington, and a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His acclaimed biography of the late architect Philip Johnson, The Man in the Glass House, was published in 2018 by Little, Brown.

mlamster@dallasnews.com /marklamster @marklamster @marklamster
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