Ursula von Rydingsvard: Sculpture

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Sculpture
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On View May 29, 2011 - Aug 28, 2011

Ursula von Rydingsvard works on a monumental scale. For over thirty years, she has worked with red cedar, a soft and fragrant wood. Using both carving and construction techniques she painstakingly cuts, assembles, and glues the cedar beams which have been shaped by a circular saw.  In a final, unifying action, von Rydingsvard rubs the sharply textured, exposed surfaces with graphite powder to create works of enormous grandeur and stirring intimacy.

Built slowly and incrementally from thousands of small cedar blocks, each work reveals the mark of the artist’s hand, her respect for physical labor, and deep trust of intuitive process. Her signature shapes are abstract yet refer to things in the real world from the modest to the majestic. These forms typically suggest domestic objects such as spoons, plates, and bowls; shovels, axes and other farm tools; women’s bonnets and lace collars; and vernacular architecture including barns, barracks, and fences. Her work also evokes great natural forms, from a craggy cliff side to a deep canyon, and phenomena, such as the forces of wind and water or the formation of the earth’s strata. Von Rydingsvard consistently endows each sculpture with tremendous dignity. In her hands, familiar forms become archetypal objects.

Von Rydingsvard regards her connection to wood as part of her history. She comes from a long line of Polish peasant farmers for whom wood provided basic shelter and tools to work the land. Her characteristic form is the bowl in its simplicity and variety. It appears in her work as a wide, shallow basin whose physical gravity recalls the Ocean Floor (1996); and as the five voluptuous bowls that comprise Krasavica II (1998-2001), Ukrainian for a beautiful young woman, whose overall shape conveys a fluid sense of movement despite its weighty volume. In von Rydingsvard’s work a pair of huge, wall-mounted plates may weep (Weeping Plates, 2005), and the enormous, horizontal, torqued shape of Droga (2009), or bride’s veil, undulates across the floor as the artist makes cedar flow like soft fabric. In sculptures filled with contradiction, the artist succeeds in expressing something raw and elemental with remarkable sophistication and grace.  

Helaine Posner, Guest Curator

This traveling exhibition was organized by SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York and guest curated by Helaine Posner. The exhibition and its tour are made possible with the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Agnes Gund.

Ursula von Rydingsvard was the 2008 recipient of the Rappaport Prize.

All programs are free with Museum admission.


May 28, 2011: Member Preview Day


Artist and Curator Conversation

Saturday, June 11, 3 pm: Ursula von Rydingsvard and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs Nick Capasso


Cell Phone Audio Tour

Listen to artist Ursula von Rydingsvard as she guides you through her exhibition. Hear about her creative practice, her personal background, and the specific process she uses when creating a new work. Finally, learn about the ways in which cedar, circular saws, and lots of muscle come together to make these awe-inspiring works in Ursula von Rydingsvard.

Listen at home! Click here to retrieve the numbers.


Eye Wonder Family Program

Sunday, June 5, 1–3 pm, drop-in

This program combines careful looking with creative art making. Take a family-friendly guided tour of Sculpture  and then create an art project inspired by the exhibition. Best for families with children ages 6–12.


Family Activity Kit

Check out our Family Activity Kit at the front desk of the museum. The free kit includes art making materials and activities that focus on current exhibitions and is great for ages 5–12. This is a perfect way for families to engage in contemporary art together! 


Family Gallery Guides

Gallery Guides are available throughout the museum and provide information about the Ursula von Rydingsvard exhibition in a family-friendly way.