Ursula von Rydingsvard and Others: Materials and Manipulations

For decades, the sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard has explored organic and inorganic materials, the familiar and the unfamiliar. She is best known for her monumentally scaled work—often in cedar and frequently crafted from four-by-fours painstakingly remade with such untraditional sculptural tools as a circular saw and then assembled in equally transformative modes. Von Rydingsvard’s process is laborious and her approach fearless; her results challenge us to reconsider the nature of material form and have made her one of today’s most admired sculptors.

Ursula von Rydingsvard (American, born Germany, 1942), URODA, 2015. Copper, steel, and bronze, h. 579.1 cm. Princeton University Art Museum, John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection. © Ursula von Rydingsvard, 2015 / photo: Ricardo BarrosThis installation features nine works by von Rydingsvard in a variety of media, including the recent Museum acquisition Braided Ladle (2014) and eight loans from the artist, that together succinctly sketch out the array of considerations that compel her. They are gathered on the occasion of the installation of URODA, a new commission for Princeton University, which now occupies the primary approach to the new Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. This monumental sculpture, years in fabrication, is von Rydingsvard’s first work in copper and was created in collaboration with the metal artist Richard Webber. It incorporates thousands of small-scale, hand-hammered sheets that are as carefully transformed as is her work in cedar.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Crossed Mirage, 2011. Cedar, graphite, and charcoal; overall, total of 15 sections: 236.2 × 209.5 × 81.3 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong, New York. © Ursula von Rydingsvard, image courtesy Galerie Lelong, New YorkThe works by von Rydingsvard on view illustrate a concern for the aesthetic potential and emotional power of materials that is shared by several other contemporary artists whose work is found in the Museum’s collections. Some of these artists question the sources, circulation, and footprint of the materials they use, including El Anatsui in his work Another Place (2014). Others, such as Gert and Uwe Tobias and Arlene Shechet, investigate new means and modes of production or trace their medium’s cultural and political relevance, as can be seen in the work of Leonardo Drew. This installation witnesses a renewed interest both in painstaking fabrication and in exposing the properties and origins of materials and forms.




Ursula von Rydingsvard and Others: Materials and Manipulations has been made possible with generous support from Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965, and Robert and Stacey Goergen, Class of 1990.