RENOWNED SCULPTOR Richard Hunt, is now represented worldwide by London-based White Cube. Hunt produces abstract, geometric, and organic constructions that often suggest the figure and speak to African American history and culture. Working with steel, aluminum, copper, and bronze, he describes the forms as “volumetric.”
In December, White Cube will present Hunt’s sculpture, “Years of Pilgrimage” (1999), at Art Basel Miami Beach. His first solo exhibition with the gallery will be on view at White Cube New York in spring 2024.
“Richard has been a giant hiding in plain sight for decades and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with him at White Cube,” said Sukanya Rajaratnam, global director of strategic market initiatives.
“He has more public monuments in the U.S. than any other sculptor, and his ability to thread the history of twentieth-century sculpture, with his own deeply personal experience as a Black man is nothing short of profound. His sculptures often appear to soar, and the metaphor speaks to his core belief as to what art means to him, an avenue and opportunity for freedom.”
“Richard [Hunt] has been a giant hiding in plain sight for decades… his ability to thread the history of twentieth-century sculpture, with his own deeply personal experience as a Black man is nothing short of profound.”
— Sukanya Rajaratnam
Hunt, 88, is a true Chicago artist. He was born in Chicago, where he was introduced to art as a child and continues to live and work. Growing up on the South Side in Woodlawn and Englewood, he took classes at the historic South Side Community Art Center and visited the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum with his mother. “What I saw in those museums made me more aware of various possibilities,” he has said.
He began taking classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) at age 13. After graduating early from high school, he received a scholarship to attend SAIC, where he earned a BFA in 1957. More than six decades later, the Art Institute of Chicago honored Hunt with its 2022 Legends and Legacy Award.
A pioneering and prolific figure, Hunt has produced more than 160 public art works installed throughout the United States. In Chicago, his many commissions have included “The Light of Truth,” a monument to Ida B. Wells unveiled in 2021. “Book Bird” will be installed in the Library Reading Garden outside the new Chicago Public Library branch at the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center. Adapted from an award Hunt designed for the United Negro College Fund, the sculpture depicts a bird emerging from an open book. Hunt said he wanted the installation to be seen “as something that encapsulates the progress one can make through reading and study. This Book Bird helps you to take wings yourself.”
When the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016, “Swing Low” (2016), a soaring, large-scale installation by Hunt, was suspended from the museum’s first floor ceiling. Referencing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the artist said the bronze sculpture was inspired by Negro spirituals and “their defining place in early colored religious, social and cultural self-consciousness.”
Over the course of his seven-decade career, Hunt has been the subject of more than 150 solo exhibitions. Recent presentations include “Richard Hunt: Synthesis,” (2018) a survey of sculptures and works on paper from the 1950s to the present at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens; “Richard Hunt: Scholar’s Rock or Stone of Hope or Love of Bronze” (2020-21) at the Art Institute of Chicago; and “Richard Hunt: Details” (2022), presenting a selection of prints at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif.
In 1971, he became the first African American sculptor to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: “The Sculpture of Richard Hunt.” Representing 15 years of work, the exhibition featured 50 sculptures and a selection of drawings and prints. According the the press release that accompanied the exhibition, the range included “early ‘found-object’ pieces, through the more linear ‘drawings-in-space,’ to the denser, more monolithic, enclosed forms of the late 1960s and includes studies for a recent architectural commission.” The exhibition opened when Hunt was 35 years old and later traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Richard Hunt” is the definitive survey of the artist’s groundbreaking career. The fully illustrated, long-overdue volume was published in 2022. Last fall, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles acquired Hunt’s archive, including models, maquettes, sculptural objects, sketchbooks, related works on paper, studio notebooks, and photographs. Joining White Cube is another important step toward bringing Hunt’s practice the attention and broad reach that it deserves.
“It was important to me to partner with a gallery with global reach because I always meant for my art to express the concerns of people everywhere,” Hunt said, “especially the universal desire for freedom.” CT
IMAGE: Top right, Richard Hunt, 2020. | Photo © Sandro Miller
Published in 2022, “Richard Hunt” is the definitive survey of the Chicago sculptor’s seven-decade career. The volume is the first comprehensive accounting of the life and work of Hunt. More than 350 images showcase his vast oeuvre. Courtney J. Martin penned the foreword and Adrienne L. Childs conducted an interview with Hunt, illuminating his background, methods, and influences, alongside essays by Jordan Carter, LeRonn Brooks, and John Yau.
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