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Sidney Gordin

American
(1918–1996)

#13
1955

Steel
33.6 x 15 in. (85.344 x 38.1 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
1991.45

Following a dry spell in his productivity as a painter, in 1949 Sidney Gordin made his first sculptures, an alternative activity that suited someone who had learned welding and soldering as a youth and loved to make things with his hands. By the 1950s, as abstract expressionism dominated art-critical discourse and its practitioners were heralded for their spontaneous painting techniques, Gordin was using a similarly free approach in his sculptural constructions, though with strikingly different results. While abstract expressionist painting was emotionally charged and often considered autobiographical, Gordin’s geometric sculptures appear cool, structured, and architectural. Nevertheless, like the painters of the day, Gordin began each work with an intuitive approach.

#13 is one of several sculptures that the artist made in the mid-1950s by soldering together steel rods and painting some of them black. Gordin found a joyful sense of freedom in an additive process of construction, beginning with one rod, adding another, and another, and so on until he felt intuitively that a work was complete. The language of abstraction was for him a kind of visual poetry, which he achieved through an assembly of rods that was balanced when viewed from any angle. The architectonic qualities of #13 may be attributed to Gordin’s on-and-off involvement with the field of architecture itself. While in high school he flirted brie y with the idea of entering the profession. During World War II he was a mechanical drafter in a military plant. And at the time he created #13, he was teaching three-dimensional design at the Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture in Brooklyn.

David S. Rubin


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