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Adaline Kent



Magnesite (oxychloride cement)
32.5 x 19.5 x 12 in. (82.55 x 49.53 x 30.48 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

Adaline Kent was a high-spirited adventurer and experimental sculptor active in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1920s until her untimely death in an automobile accident in 1957. According to critic Clement Greenberg, Kent was among the most promising American sculptors of her generation, standing alongside David Smith, Theodore Roszak, Seymour Lipton, and Isamu Noguchi.

In the early 1940s Kent began incorporating space and movement as active sculptural elements in her art, along with exploring abstract form. She also experimented with the sculptural possibilities inherent in synthetic compounds from the construction industry, such as magnesite and hydrocal, which are malleable and allow one to build and rework forms.

Gambler, a biomorphic tabletop sculpture, combines a witty exploration of the interface between positive and negative space with the earthiness of ancient painted terra-cotta. Wide, painted horizontal black stripes lend balance and stability to the sculpture, while also creating an awkward continuity as they cross the strong triangular voids inscribed and contained by three interlocking, vertical-diagonal thrusts. In speaking of her sculpture, Kent explained, “The awkwardness, the peculiar accidents, the intruders, and the phantoms that appear in the work give it vitality.”

The title of the piece alludes to an adventurer or risk-taker, and perhaps also identifies it as something of a personal talisman. The work was a significant one in Kent’s oeuvre. She showed it in several important exhibitions, including her first solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in 1949 and Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America at the Museum of Modern Art in 1951.

Susan M. Anderson

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