May 16, 2006, Philadelphia, PA—These four large-scale works installed in the gallery’s roof garden, represent a broad period of breakthrough work by Isaac Witkin. Beginning with his first American works, the Vermont series of 1965-67 and ending with the artist’s last, large-scale steel work, Chesterwood (1980), the sculpture are among Witkin’s most ambitious-scaled and daring compositions.
Characteristic of Witkin’s steel constructions are Cubist forms—hard-edged, geometric steel plates, often delicately balanced on precise, linear points. Witkin’s work is also distinguished by his vibrant patinas—a cutting edge approach begun in London, while a student at St. Martins and typical of the "New Generation " sculptors.
The artist, newly arrived in New England and teaching at Bennington in 1965, quickly became immersed in the Bennington art scene, then identified with a group of modernist artists labeled the “Green Mountain Boys”. Perhaps the strongest influence was David Smith, whose Bolton Landing studio Witkin visited upon moving to Bennington.
Isaac Witkin’s groundbreaking welded-steel sculpture were first shown in London in 1965 in the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition, The New Generation. Witkin, a South African by birth quickly emerged on the international art scene with a solo exhibit at Rowan Gallery, London and inclusion in the 1966 Primary Structures exhibit at the Jewish Museum, New York. Throughout the 60s and early 70s, Witkin’s steel works were regularly shown in solo and group exhibits in London and New York.
Large-scale steel constructions are included in prominent museum sculpture collections including the Tate Gallery, London; the Hirshhorn Museum, Storm King Art Center and the Meyerhoff Collection of the National Gallery of Art.
In the late 1970s, the artist began working primarily with bronze, perfecting a technique of direct pours in sand molds. Witkin continued to refine the technique and develop increasingly sophisticated, color-imbued bronze patinas.
Additional museum collections with works by the sculptor include Carnegie Museum of Art; Delaware Museum of Art; The Denver Art Museum; Grounds for Sculpture; Israel Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian Museum of American Art and Williams College Museum of Art.
The artist, who curated this exhibition, died Sunday, April 23, 2006. A memorial service for the artist will be held at 5 pm on Friday, June 2, 2006.