Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978)
Artist, sound art sculptor, and furniture designer, Harry Bertoia, was born in Italy in 1915 before immigrating to America in 1930. In 1936, he attended the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts before moving to study at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan, where he would later teach and establish a metalworking department. During this early artistic period, he experimented with jewelry forms, exploring creative concepts that would later emerge in his sculptures.
In 1943, he relocated to Venice, California, along with esteemed artist-designer couple Charles and Ray Eames, to participate in war efforts until 1946. During his first year in California, he began attending a welding class at Santa Monica City College. In 1947, he moved to La Jolla to work in the publications department of Point Loma Naval Electronics Laboratory creating training manuals for equipment operators. During this time, he continued making jewelry and monoprints and began his first experiments with metal sculpture.
In 1949, he moved to Barto, Pennsylvania to work alongside Hans and Florence Knoll at Knoll Associates, a design company and furniture manufacturer. From then on, he became a prolific architectural sculptor. While at Knoll Associates, he created the famous wire Bertoia Collection. Among the designs for this collection was his Diamond Chair, which quickly became an iconic and commercially successful model. His first sculpture exhibition was in 1951 at the Knoll Showroom in New York.
Besides his work in jewelry making and furniture design, during the 1960s, Bertoia began to devote himself to the production of sound sculptures, which are now some of his most notable works. Often incorporating metal rods that would move and hit one another to create the sculpture’s signature sound, these pieces varied greatly in size. In the barn on his property in Pennsylvania, Bertoia stored a collection of over one hundred sound sculptures, using the space to record and perform music with these artworks.
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