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.
Jan. 29-April 23, nashersculpturecenter.org