Curvae in Curvae, 2011–12
15 ¾ x 17 3/8 x 11 inches
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2014
By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions
With a career spanning over a half century, the artist Beverly Pepper creates forms derived from nature or antiquity using industrial materials, which are emblematic in their simplicity and visual eloquence. In the 1970s she began working with Cor-Ten steel, an especially weather-resistant industrial alloy used in bridges and other engineering constructs, to produce huge sculptures that resembled ancient totems. In recent years, she has moved from pillar forms to broken circles, spirals, and curves as reflected in this maquette of a monumental piece that measures almost nine feet in height. Pepper fabricates these pieces in her studio in Todi, Italy or in the nearby factory in Assisi working alongside metal workers. Like Auburn alumna, Jean Woodham, Pepper learned the physically arduous, industrial methods of cutting and welding heavy sheets of steel because she did not like delegating the actual work to fabricators.
Pepper’s career as a sculptor took off in 1962 when she participated in the groundbreaking project that partnered her and nine male sculptors such as Alexander Calder, David Smith, and Arnaldo Pomodoro with steel factories across Italy. Entitled Sculture nella città (Sculptures in the City), the exhibition opened to great acclaim in Spoleto. Since then she has shown regularly in Rome and New York, receiving public and private commissions from across the globe.
A native of Brooklyn, Pepper worked her way through school at Pratt Institute in New York planning for a career in commercial art. After World War II, she decided to focus on fine art and moved to Paris in 1949, to study painting with Fernand Léger, André Lhote, and sculpture with Ossip Zadkine at the Académie de la Grand Chaumière. In 1951 she moved permanently to Italy. It was there in the early 1960s that she decided to focus on sculpture, first carving wood and then fabricating in metal. Pepper won the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center.
In anticipation of Auburn’s celebration of 125 Years of Auburn Women, curators will campaign to acquire work by women artists, thus adding to the 54 females currently represented in the collection. Learn more.