Produced at the zenith of his career, Wedding of the Rock and Dynamo belongs to a small group of constructed bronzes produced by Paolozzi in 1960, such as Elektra, The Age of Steam and Triple Fuse. With the heavily worked surfaces and circular columns, these sculptures conform to the defining aesthetic of post-war British sculpture described by Herbert Read as ‘the geometry of fear’. These works are the mature development of an innovative technique, a sculptural collage informed by found objects which Paolozzi pioneered drawing inspiration from Alberto Giacometti and International Surrealism.
In 1954, with the assistance of his landlady’s son, Paolozzi began casting his own bronzes in his back garden. Roughly two years later he began scouring car wrecking yards and other suitable locations for objects, the detritus of the industrial age, from which he would take negative moulds in clay before casting positives in bronze. The Surrealist motivation to metamorphose natural, organic forms with constructed, mechanical ones becomes evident in the Artist’s explanation of this process:
‘I really set out in my sculpture to transform the objets trouvés that I use to such an extent that they are no longer immediately recognisable, having become thoroughly assimilated to my own particular dream world…In the final casting, the original objets trouvés are no longer present at all…They survive only as ghosts of forms that still haunt the bronze…I am interested, above all, in investigating the golden ability of the artist to achieve a metamorphosis of quite ordinary things into something wonderful and extraordinary that is neither nonsensical nor morally edifying' (the Artist, quoted in Édouard Roditi, Dialogues on Art, London, 1960, p.163).
Although his works were exhibited at the Maeght Gallery in Paris as early as 1949, alongside Giacometti, and at the Venice Biennale in 1952, it was only in the 1960s that Paolozzi achieved international commercial acclaim. A 1958 exhibition of new sculpture at Erica Brausen’s Hanover Gallery in London was followed two years later by a solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, in which the present work was included. Later that year he would exhibit again at the Venice Biennale and take up the position of visiting professor at the Hochschule fűr Bildende Kűnste in Hamburg where he taught ‘Radical Surrealism’.
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