MCA DNA: Richard Hunt

The MCA celebrates the life and artistic achievements of Richard Hunt, one of Chicago’s most accomplished artists, with an MCA DNA exhibition of his sculptures and drawings. For the last sixty years, Hunt—who turns 80 in 2015—has created bronze and steel sculptures that explore lyrical forms, the sublime possibilities of abstraction, and the reconciliation of the organic and the industrial. He has also created countless drawings, applying linear gestures and a sense of movement to his works in both media.

It was about 1955 when I made some things that I thought I would show and enter into an exhibition or take to an art fair or something. And then low and behold some people bought it.

The direct metal technique of developing sculpture basically describes, well, what it says: working directly with metal. And at the time, it made sense to make that distinction, because there was metal sculpture, most often cast.

One of the things about this direct metal approach is that you can put things together and then take them apart. It’s not like, you know, sawing off a piece of wood and then deciding, "Oh, I shouldn’t have done that," and trying to glue it back together. The process of

welding, cutting things, forming them, repositioning them, is just part of it. So it’s much more free and improvisatory in a way.

Then, another thing is, part of the process of sort of working on a large thing, you take a large piece of metal, and then you cut something out. Then you got a smaller piece of metal you just stack over here, put it in a pile. So actually I have my own sources within the studio. You know, I’m always looking out for metal.

The idea of being able to make something, using the tensile strength

inherent in the metals, so you can have something here,

you can weld something here, have it stick out there,

and weld something else on it, again, was another way of kind of opening up . . .

Then the idea of sort of freedom within the medium. So it was about exploring space, about freedom. And as a matter of fact, it takes a cue from the musical idea of theme and variation.

And there’s the idea of space. I mean the way forms develop in space, and the way it kind of—sound expands in space. So anyway, there’s this idea of space and exploring it . . .

It’s been interesting to me. In terms of flight, man’s interest in flight—okay, so he sees a bird flying. And how initially people thought they fashioned wings and flapped their arms and kept falling.

But anyway, then the development of the air foil. And, of course,

one of the things I like about working using metal, and most wings these days are made of metal. So just in my own experience, just like the history of man, you see birds flying that interest you, and then you see other kind of things that fly.

Then of course, another thing are fins. Water is another medium that you either want to stay up in or go down below and come back up.

I guess that would set a work of art apart from some other work—either work of nature, or work of some design. Its look isn’t an expression of its functionality. And of course, what its functionality is something interesting to debate, discuss.

The word "freedom" comes up as I’m talking about things a lot. One of the things I like about what art suggests, the practice of it, the use of it, is that artists are, or make themselves, free enough to make it. And other people are free enough to choose it, look at it, utilize it, for whatever use they can find for it.