Bronze Sculptures 1975-2012
Alan Sonfist Bronzes
Fallen Limbs Rising 4 x 6 x 5 ft. Bronze, 1975 Currently on loan to Lehigh University Art Galleries
Limbs Rising 5 x 6 x 5 ft. Bronze, 1975 Currently on loan to Lehigh University Art Galleries
Bronze Embracing 6 x 5 x 3 ft. Bronze, 1983-84 Private Collection, Florence, Italy
Bronze Protector 7 x 6 x 3 ft. Bronze, 1983-84 Private Collection, Florence, Italy
Bronze Protector 4 x 6 x 5 ft. Bronze, 1983-84 Private Collection, Florence, Italy
(previous page) Walking Limbs of the Forest 100 x 100 x 100 in. Bronze, 1986 Private Collection
Endangered Trees of New York II 10 x 3 x 3 ft. Bronze, 2007
Bronze Protector 5 x 5 x 3 ft. Bronze, 1983-84 Private Collection, Florence, Italy
(previous page) Phoenix Rising 4 ft. x 12 ft. x 6 in. Bronze, 1982 Private Collection
Bronze Protector 5 x 5 x 3 ft. Bronze, 1983-84 Private Collection, Florence, Italy
MARK ROSENTHAL M. In recent years you have spoken of your work in relation to the environmental movement. Is this how you would qualify your work? A. I do associate my art with the environmental movement. Above all, I have always been committed to the idea that art should have a contemporary connection to society and not isolate itself from the relevant issues of the modern day. This is why my art may be considered environmentalist. Just as Michaelangelo’s David became an allegorical symbol of Florentine government and took on a social relevance, I believe that art such as my Time Landscape have resulted in socially significant events. These events include the inspiration to create the New York Urban Forestry Department. M. So do you think your aspirations in terms of art have always had a kind of quasi-political relevance? A. When I first began working on my art, it was impulsive. It was rooted in living in the urban slum of the Bronx. By retreating to this beautiful paradise of the forest, it was more about me observing trees and animals and them observing me. Political and social awareness developed as I grew into adulthood, and I came to see how my art was significant in those ways M. With the constant recurrence of your childhood, were you aware of Freud’s ideas; and Beuys’ as well? A. My earliest works were completely independent of the art world as well as Freudian theory, though I was aware of Beuys’ work when I was doing projects in the seventies. The similarity
between my art and Beuys’ Freudian streak is in that each of us searched our past to understand the way our reality relates to our social state. When I was in Documenta 6 in the seventies, we shared an adjacent space. I exhibited photo collages of my Time Landscape and he exhibited a machine dealing with his art made out of fat. Years earlier, my Time Landscape intrigued the mayor of New York, but it was in these years that Hoving really moved the project to happen. In my first meeting with Hoving, when he was parks commissioner, he said to me, “You are too young to have such good ideas.” (Mark laughs.) So before the next meeting I had with him, I made sure I had grown a beard. (Mark laughs again.) I thought it would make me look a little older. He also laughed, and then later introduced me to some of the most influential people of the city. I was shocked to have what.was essentially a childhood dream become what others thought was an essential part of the city. M. Would you say that the involvement of Hoving resulted in the acceptance of your particular brand of environmental art?
A. Yes. It was extremely helpful in boosting the credibility of my work. Eventually, when Hoving became director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Time Landscape was included as part of the master plan for the renovations that took place in the seventies. I still had not totally entered into the commercial art world. I was engaged in the politics of the city, not totally understanding first of all what was being offered to me, nor the political implications of this project. Despite my temporary ignorance, the project was approved. M. Let us switch gears. Like so many artist of the last forty years, for example Beuys and William Kentridge, your big enterprises, which include your site-specific works or installations, are just one side of your work. How do you think of objects, apart from the installations? A. People like Kentridge and Beuys, who I greatly admire and feel a kinship with, I believe engage in a similar process with the object. They observed nature and recorded their observations and thereby created objects that resembled the natural world. Object making is the foundation of my work, as it transcends all mediums and expresses the totality that exists within the essence of nature as instilled within my art. My parents gave me a paintbrush and a camera to set up dialogue with the forest, and so through these artistic modes, I created objects from my primal experiences with the forest I loved. M. By juxtaposing the greater ritual of New York Cityâ€™s urbanity with its natural heritage, art objects are created that exemplify a desire that exists within all individuals. When you talk about what you are doing with the landscape and the story of the Bronx, on the one hand it seems like you are restoring an aspect of the earth, and on the other you are enacting something. How would you describe this relation between nostalgia and projection? A. I agree that my art is two-fold in this manner. It acts as a form of restoration that no longer exists. In some ways, I would call myself a visual archeologist. Restoring the green that attracted the original indigenous people as well as the early colonial forces to New York, I feel that I can bring the magic of the living earth back to the city.
BIOGRAPHY Beginning with his first major sculptural work, “Time Landscapes” in Greenwich Village, NYC, Sonfist received critical acclaim for his innovative use of urban spaces to design havens of nature and green art. His early work in the 1960s and 1970s helped pioneer the burgeoning movement of site-specific sculpture. Today, he continues to promote sustainable energy and strives to raise awareness for global climate change with his international projects. Recently, Sonfist collaborated with Green City Planners in Pori, Finland and Tampa, Florida to create green public spaces. After growing up in the South Bronx of NYC near the Hemlock Forest, which later became a major inspiration for his art, Sonfist attended Hunter College, where he received a Masters in Art. In addition to his studies at Hunter College, he also studied with Gestalt psychologist, Hoyt Sherman at Ohio State University. His research there concerned the language of visual culture and its relationship with human psychology. Later, he went on to pursue a Research Fellowship in visual studies at MIT, Cambridge, MA. His first major publication was on his lecture series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. Sonfist edited “Art in the Land,” an anthology on environmental art which was republished in Europe and Asia due to its reception by critics and artists alike. He has been included in multiple major international exhibition catalogs such as the Dokumenta, the Venice Biennale, and the Paris Biennale. Recently, Dr. Robert Rosenblum wrote an introduction to Sonfist’s “Nature: The End of Art” which was distributed by Thames and Hudson, and published by Gil Ori. Throughout his career, Sonfist has given several keynote speeches for public and private events and organizations such as Pennsylvania State University, the Southern Sculpture Conference, and the American Landscape Association in Miami. He has been a featured speaker in numerous symposiums at major
institutions and conferences including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Midwest College Association, the U.N. Ecological Conference in San Paulo, Brazil, and the Berlin Ecology Conference. Sonfist has been a featured lecturer at numerous major institutions including the Whitney Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. Sonfist has received major awards and grants from private and governmental organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Graham Foundation for Art and Architecture, the Chase Manhattan Bank Foundation, and the U.S. Information Agency. Sonfist’s works are included in many international public collections such as Skulpturen Park Köln (Cologne Sculpture Park) in Germany and Villa Celle, in Tuscany, Italy. His work is also featured in collections of major institutions including Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Princeton University Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art – New York City, The Whitney Museum, and the Ludwig Museum in Aachen, Germany. Some of his most notable solo exhibitions include “The Autobiography of Alan Sonfist,” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, “Alan Sonfist Landscapes” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, “Trees” at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA, and “Trinity River Project” at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. A few of his commissions include, but are not limited to: “Lost Falcon of Westphalia,” commissioned by Prince Richard of Germany, “Time Landscape of Indianapolis,” commissioned by theEiteljorg MuseumofAmerican Indians and Western Art, and “Circles of Time,” on the Gori Estate in Florence, Italy. Sonfist’s current projects include “Ancient Olive Grove,” in Florence and “The Serpentine Mound Protecting the Ancient Seeds,” in Bristol, England. Today, he continues to promote his message of ecological sustainability and timeless respect for the fragility of nature in each of his green art projects.
Front Cover, Bronze Protector, Bronze, 1983-84, 7 x 5 x 2 ft. Back Cover, Circles of Life, Mixed Media, 1985, 28 x 50 ft.