Lot 9
  • 9

Beverly Pepper

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  • Beverly Pepper
  • Curvae in Curvae
  • inscribed B. P. and dated 2017
  • corten steel
  • 179 by 177 by 145cm.
  • 70 1/2 by 69 3/4 by 57in.

Catalogue Note

Beverly Pepper began her artistic career as a painter. Having studied under Fernand Léger and André Lhote at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris in the 1940s her style was heavily influenced by the ideals of modernism and cubism (Wall Street Journal, 2013). However, following a visit to Angkor Wat in 1960 she became over-awed by the way in which temple and earth seemingly grew from the ground together, subsequently turning her attention to sculpture. Shortly after this, Pepper was selected as one of ten artists – including Alexander Calder, Lynn Chadwick, Henry Moore and David Smith – to be invited by the great critic and patron Giovanni Carandente to fabricate monumental steel sculptures in Rome. This was a pivotal moment for Pepper and saw the beginnings of the style that would come to define her career.

Pepper’s work responds to myriad influences. Culturally she draws inspiration from Cambodian temples and the Roman amphitheatres of the Mediterranean or the more recent examples of Joan Miró and the artists of the Bauhaus. There is an interest in historicity that is evident in the titles she chooses for her works – curvae being a feminine form of the Latin curvus (curved or arched) – and she has often commented on her love for Italy, where she has now lived for over half a century, as a country where past and present coexist.

More practically, the experience of many years working in metalwork factories in Italy – always the only woman on the factory floor – influences her choice of materials. Often said to be the first person to pioneer the use of corten steel in sculptures, her knowledge and skill with materials has enabled much of her sculptural innovation. Indeed, the introduction of corten steel and cement into Pepper’s output allowed her to develop the concept of ‘earthbound sculpture’ – monumental pieces designed to rise out of the ground, and to both sit naturally, and paradoxically in stark contrast, to their environment.

This is true of Curvae in Curvae which rises out of the ground in a sweeping arch and has at once the gravitas of an ancient monument – the rusted appearance of the steel is key in conveying a sense of antiquity – and a sense of belonging to the natural world. As Pepper explains: ‘my work both responds to and tries to reinforce the human capacity for wonder [...]. Obviously we can’t rebuild the monuments of the ancient world, but we can aspire to re-evoke, in however modern a world, some of the enduring and perhaps renewable sensations of amazement, even awe’ (quoted in Beverly Pepper. Curvae in Curvae (exhibition catalogue), Marlborough Fine Art, London, 2014).