Richard Hunt: Early Masterworks – White Cube, New York

Richard Hunt, Hero's Head, 1956.
Welded steel, 15.2 x 20.3 x 20.3 cm | 6 x 8 x 8in. ©Richard Hunt
Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

White Cube New York is pleased to present a solo exhibition of works by Richard Hunt (1935–2023). One of the preeminent American sculptors of the 20th century, Hunt’s hybrid creations are characterised by an exploration of dualities – the natural and the industrial, the surreal and the abstract, the geometric and the organic.

Opening on 13 March 2024, Early Masterworks is the gallery’s first exhibition by the artist, and the second-largest gathering of his works in the city for over 50 years, bringing together over 25 important examples from the early part of his oeuvre.

Born on the South Side of Chicago, where he lived and worked throughout his life, Hunt’s career has deep roots in New York City. In 1971, at the age of 35, Hunt achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first African American sculptor to have a landmark retrospective at MoMA, New York with a presentation of works from 1955–71.

The exhibition at White Cube New York mirrors that time span, including the restaging of a number of works that were presented in his MoMA retrospective. These include the welded steel work Linear Spatial Theme (1962), one of Hunt’s most significant explorations of three-dimensional ‘space drawings’, which he developed alongside his ongoing studies of botanical and zoological forms.

Several rarely-exhibited works from the artist’s personal collection, including Hero’s Head (1956), a pivotal sculpture made in response to the murder of Emmett Till, also feature in the show. The brutal, racially charged murder of Till in 1955, a fellow Chicagoan and African American who became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, had a profound impact on Hunt. The artist went on to create art shaped by this experience, influencing both his artistic expression and his commitment to Civil Rights. 

Early Masterworks is organized by Sukanya Rajaratnam, Global Director of Strategic Market Initiatives who shared:

‘It is an immense privilege to present Richard Hunt’s work at White Cube New York, with a nod to his important MoMA retrospective in 1971. At the age of 35, Hunt was the youngest and first African American artist to receive this honour, and over fifty years later, it feels very special to commemorate that historical moment. Hunt was a giant hiding in plain sight for decades, and with Early Masterworks, the first exhibition since his passing last year, we not only look forward to showing his powerful early sculpture, but also celebrating his life and art.’

Jon Ott, Biographer of Richard Hunt and Chairman Emeritus of the International Sculpture Center said:

‘These major works by Hunt, welded while still in his 20s, call to mind the influence of Pablo Picasso, Julio González and David Smith. This body of work confirms Hunt’s dazzling talent at an early age and manifests his undeniable importance as an American sculptor. Not since his 1971 MoMA retrospective have so many of Hunt’s masterworks been on display in New York.’

Following Early Masterworks, White Cube New York will present a solo exhibition of work by Antony Gormley.

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