Cross Section , 1970
Richard Hunt’s sculpture Cross Section masterfully blends organic and industrial elements. Made from junk metal parts such as old car bumpers and bicycle handlebars, the sculpture recalls a human form in its frontal, upright stance and truncated “arms”; a plant form in its trunk-like pillar and branch-like protrusions; and a cross form—hence its title. Hunt looks to the natural world for inspiration, but not for subject matter. Abstract art, he believes, frees him to move beyond the visible world. He once surmised that “artists no longer must imitate nature, but are free to interpret it. Sometimes I try to develop forms nature might create if only heat and steel were available to her.” Cross Section—part of his “natural form” series—enabled Hunt to explore formal concerns about volume and mass, line and space.
Hunt’s creative approach may have its roots in his love of music. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, he grew up playing the violin and attending performances by local black opera companies. The impact of classical composers, such as Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, and Handel, is reflected in the smooth, undulating surfaces and harmoniously balanced shapes of his sculptures. Hunt was also inspired by Julio González (1876–1942), a Modernist Spanish sculptor, who was one of the first artists to devise welded-iron sculptures and who advocated the notion of “drawing in space,” a concept that Hunt enthusiastically adopted. In both his sculptures and works on paper, Hunt looks to create works that feel spontaneous, free, and dynamic.
Hunt began working with metal in 1954, while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Over the next year, he taught himself to weld and began to construct forms from sheet metal. In 1956, during his junior year of college, Hunt exhibited a piece in a major show at the Art Institute of Chicago, which a curator from the Museum of Modern Art saw and purchased. From this auspicious beginning, Hunt has developed a reputation as one of the world’s great sculptors. In addition to numerous fellowships, grants, visiting professorships, and artist residencies, Hunt has presented many solo exhibitions and has produced more than one hundred commissioned sculptures for public spaces across the country. His work was featured in the Indiana University Art Museum’s 1969 exhibition Four Artists, along with John E. Dowell, Jr., Robert Reed, and Robert Stull.