Artist Spotlight: Tony Rosenthal
Remarking on a new body of smaller-scaled sculptures by Tony Rosenthal, including Mother and Child (1953), in the November 1953 edition of Arts & Architecture then-Chairman of the Department of Art at UCLA, Gibson Danes, described the artist’s recent bronze works as being “lyrical with the gaiety and gravity of a superbly wrought ballet.” “Although autonomous and independent creations,” he continued, “these new works imply an architectural setting. They envelop and electrify the expansive dimension of their ordered world.” Rosenthal’s abstract, geometric sculptures continually embraced a play with seemingly irreconcilable binaries.
Most widely known for his landmark public art installations, particularly in New York City, Rosenthal created dynamic sculptures out of several mediums including bronze, wood, steel, iron, and aluminum, in an array of sizes ranging from a few inches to several hundred feet. In their acute sensitivity to the relationship between form, site, and material, Rosenthal’s works uniquely bring sculpture and architecture together, regardless of whether they manifested as smaller scale objects placed in an intimate, interior setting, such as Mother and Child (1953), or as monumental structures, like his acclaimed, colossal Cube sculptures. Mother and Child (1953) is nearly 100 inches tall, but is one of the artist’s more intimate works, intended to be placed in an interior setting.
Mother and Child (1953) was featured on the cover of the November 1953 edition of Arts & Architecture, and is an excellent example of Rosenthal’s early work. During this time, the sculptor was teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles, and working primarily in bronze. It was only a few years earlier, while stationed in England during the Second World War, that Rosenthal came across the monumental bronze sculptures of Henry Moore, who would be one of the artist’s greatest influences.
As Danes noted in 1953, Rosenthal’s work continually “proves that sculpture is a necessary part of any important architectural environment” and that “the universal fact that all significant sculpture conveys meanings which are architectonic by the nature of its three-dimensional life.” Echoing Danes, in 1999 American playwright Edward Albee would go on to note that Rosenthal’s “monumental outdoor pieces, set in landscapes or in busy city spaces, seem always to have been there. His more intimate Wall Sculptures and standing forms have a monumentality no matter what their actual size.” He continues, “Like all the important metal workers – like Stankiewicz, like Caro, like Serra, like Chamberlain – Rosenthal’s objects instruct us, alter our perceptions, disturb and thrill us by their audacity, their wonder and their inevitability” — which is to say, by their glorious embrace of complex contradictions.
Danes, Gibson. “Rosenthal.” Arts & Architecture Magazine, Nov. 1953, pp. 11–15.
Albee, Edward. Tony Rosenthal, Monograph. Rizzoli, 1999.
Bernard “Tony” Rosenthal
Mother and Child, 1953
Cut and welded bronze
Incised signature near base
99.125″ x 14″ x 18.25″; (252 x 36 x 46 cm)
Together with Arts & Architecture from November 1953
Exhibited: “Tony Rosenthal,” Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York, November 1953
Illustrated: Arts & Architecture. November 1953. Cover.
February 25, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction