Born Arieto Bertoia in Italy, Harry Bertoia (1915–1978) emigrated to the United States with as a teenager and became a prolific sculptor, printmaker, and draftsman (his total artistic output has been estimated by some at more than fifty thousand works). This exhibition features seven of the artist’s “sounding” or “tonal” sculptures from the Museum’s permanent collection. Strikingly minimal in design and expertly constructed, Bertoia’s enchanting, resonating tonal objects come to life when activated by the slightest vibration, air current, or human touch. The seven owned by the Johnson Museum were acquired when the Museum first opened, in 1973, and have not been seen (or heard) by our audiences in many years. Bertoia is perhaps equally well known for his (ironically few) furniture designs. His wire chairs—conceived in the early 1950s for Knoll Associates—are still in production today. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to sit in a Bertoia “diamond” chair and to linger and listen to audio recordings of the artist’s own “symphonic” performances on his unique sculptural instruments.
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