Beverly Pepper

1922 | New York, United States
Beverly Pepper — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

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American sculptor.

After starting a career as a commercial director for an advertising agency in New York, Beverly Pepper moved in 1949 to Paris, where she studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, before relocating to Rome with her husband, Curtis Bill Pepper, in 1951. There, she became known for her semi-abstract brand of expressionist painting, later turning to sculpture on wood and stone in the early 1960s. In 1962, on the occasion of an outdoor exhibition alongside major sculptors (including Americans David Smith and Alexander Calder) in Spoleto (Italy), she learned metal casting, particularly focusing on steel, which would eventually become her material of choice. The physical challenges of steel casting made her presence as a woman exceptional, especially in such a male-dominated field. In the mid-1960s, she created geometrical steel sculptures with rough, jagged surfaces. The inner surfaces, on the other hand, were often vividly coloured, contrasting with what she called their “steel viscera”. Starting in the late 1960s, she worked with stainless steel, which she valued for its reflective properties. Her sculptures became increasingly monumental and her forms minimalistic.

Large rectangles or triangles, standing alone or in groups and shown outdoors in the context of installations (Via Appia Antica, Rome, 1969), were made to outline selected portions of the landscape and, in doing so, to frame and mirror it. She took part in the Venice Biennale in 1972. From then on, her sculptures showed an increased taste for verticality and came in a variety of materials – steel, wrought iron, bronze, and even pietra serena, the grey stone used in Florentine architecture. They were shaped like totemic reproductions of sculpting tools (Basalt Ritual, 2.14 meters high, 1985–1986) or more abstract forms (Normanno Wedge, 1983). From 1979 to 1981, she erected her monoliths from the Sentinel series in Todi, Italy, then in the mid-1990s in New York – the 11 to 30-meter high Manhattan Sentinels. From the 1970s, B. Pepper also worked on large-scale public commissions, such as Sol I Ombra Park (1986–1989) for the Gaudí Park (Barcelona), in which a spiral of trees and a convex grass-covered hill meet a ceramic tile mosaic, as a tribute to the Catalan artist.

Anne Lepoittevin

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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