Richard Hunt

Sears Tower

Richard Hunt makes good tough sculpture but when he turns to prettiness, his work loses its formal, conceptual, and even mythological edge.

He started Hybrids in the early ’60s. Linear, steel, elongated “insects” that coiled around like paranoid flies, they made weird paths into space from little point-anchors on wall, ceiling, or floor. In the later ’60s, his work stressed massed or crushed bodies welded together with organically shaped fragments. Now, he deals more intellectually with the concept of bringing together unrelated elements, assembling them, and relying on the resulting visual ambiguities to give the work its strength.

Hunt says, “I’m not interested in finality; perfection in nonfunctional art is a way of death.” He ignores the stamped-out, technological idea of a single, complete “unit” and opens up specific or perfect shapes—usually spheres or pyramids—into antievolutionary convolutions. In the large-scale Roosevelt Square Sculpture, for example, two flat, tidy, calm, pyramidal side-planes are indecorously invaded by a fusion of flaps, swerves, ridges, and prongs; there are blind alleys, misleading signals, engaging assorted ideas all over the place. This reflects a chancy building process in which he continually experiments with basic link-ups, thrusts out appendages, and pushes forms inside each other. Not surprisingly, such a freeform, nonforbidding work is very happy among people: its protrusions are good kid’s slides, its curves little benches, its negative spaces shadowed wooing caverns.

But then we see the human-sized Ibex Hybrid’s scrupulous shine, parallel welds, and triangle repetitions. Its “impurities” are conventionalized in a sleek esthetic polish—for what? And the Freedom 300 is a neat, streamlined beauty all too easily classified Force has been replaced by shine.

––C. L. Morrison