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William King (b.1925)1960s Pop Art Unique Cast Bronze Sculpture Americana Folk Art William King
Mid-Century Modern wrought iron sculpture a person with oversize top, shorts, and carrying a hat, signed, artist's monogram and cipher, further mounted on a plaster base. 28" H. This a unique piece. It is interesting in that it speaks of a transition, leading into the later aluminum public pieces that kind of defined his work in the 70's. According to his estate this is most probably cast bronze. It might possibly be wrought iron.. William Dickey King was born in 1925 in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. As a boy, William King made model airplanes and helped his father and older brother build furniture and boats. “I was 19, 20, my mother gave me a hundred bucks, says, ʻGet out of this state and don’t come back until you’re 65; there is nothing here for you,’ ” Bill King recalled in a video interview for the Smithsonian museum. He came to New York, where he attended the Cooper Union and began selling his early sculptures even before he graduated. He later studied with the sculptor Milton Hebald and traveled to Italy on a Fulbright grant. He was a contemporary, at the Cooper Union, of Alex Katz and Lois Dodd, his first wife, and remained close in many ways to their common aesthetic grounding, shared also with younger sculptors such as Red Grooms and Marisol Escobar. The hallmark of King’s early work was radical experiment keeping company with social connection and hedonism. The mix of big, important, innovative ideas and immediate, sensory, in-the-moment experience was a kind of visual jazz. For this was not just the time of Franz Kline’s big open defiant brushstrokes and Jackson Pollock’s all-over mists of intricately drooling line, but of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. If we look at the works that King made in the early 1950s when he got back from his Fulbright to Italy we see free, experimental, open forms that take their cue from jazz as much as art in their fusion of virtuosity and cool.American sculptor King is most noted for his long-limbed figurative public art sculptures depicting people engaged in everyday activities such as reading or conversing. He created his busts and figures in a variety of materials, including clay, wood, metal, and textiles. Mr. King worked in clay, wood, bronze, vinyl, burlap and aluminum. He worked both big and small, from busts and toylike figures to large public art pieces depicting familiar human poses — a seated, cross-legged man reading; a Western couple (he in a cowboy hat, she in a long dress) holding hands; a tall man reaching down to tug along a recalcitrant little boy; a crowd of robotic-looking men walking in lock step. Mr. King’s work often reflected the times, taking on fashions and occasional politics. In the 1960s and 1970s, his work featuring African-American figures (including the activist Angela Davis, with hands cuffed behind her back) evoked his interest in civil rights. But for all its variation, what unified his work was a wry observer’s arched eyebrow, the pointed humor and witty rue of a fatalist. His figurative sculptures, often with long, spidery legs and an outlandishly skewed ratio of torso to appendages, use gestures and posture to suggest attitude and illustrate his own amusement with the unwieldiness of human physical equipment. His subjects included tennis players and gymnasts, dancers and musicians, and he managed to show appreciation of their physical gifts and comic delight at their contortions and costumery. His suit-wearing businessmen often appeared haughty or pompous; his other men could seem timid or perplexed or awkward. Oddly, or perhaps tellingly, he tended to depict women more reverentially, though in his portrayals of couples the fragility and tender comedy inherent in couplehood settled equally on both partners. His first solo exhibit took place in 1954 at the Alan Gallery in New York City. William Dicky King was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2003, and in 2007 the International Sculpture Center honored him with the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. Mr. King’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, among other places, and he had dozens of solo gallery shows in New York and elsewhere. Reviews of his exhibitions frequently began with the caveat that even though the work was funny, it was also serious, displaying superior technical skills, imaginative vision and the bolstering weight of a range of influences, from the ancient Etruscans to American folk art to 20th-century artists including Giacometti, Calder and Elie Nadelman. The New York Times critic Holland Cotter once described Mr. King’s sculpture as “comical-tragical-maniacal,” and “like Giacometti conceived by John Cheever.” From an article by David Cohen "In a career that ran in tandem with the hegemony of formal abstraction in sculpture, Bill King inevitably struggled with the prejudice that sculpture full of humanity and humor can’t be quite as serious as sculpture devoid of them. But the tide has clearly turned in ways that ought to work in King’s favor, with an increasing number of sculptors, fêted internationally, who are producing work that looks remarkably close in spirit, if not quite as regal in sheer mastery of form, as his own. When art historians of the future connect the dots of modern sculpture then artists like Franz West, Stephan Balkenhol, Huma Bhabha, Thomas Houseago, Julian Opie and Rebecca Warren will force recognition of the achievement of King the way King in turn has had us rethink Elie Nadelman and Alexander Calder." His style was mostly abstraction and pop art. During the years of 1994 to 1998, he served as the president of the National Academy of Design. In 2007, King was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award given by the International Sculpture Center.
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