Directed by Francois de Menil, written by art historian Barbara Rose, and with original musical score by Philip Glass, this newly redigitized film first released in 1977, is an illuminating portrait of Mark di Suvero. One of the most important sculptors of the Twentieth Century, the artist is renowned for his formal orchestration of steel and found industrial material. The film consists of biographical interviews and discussion with the artist about his relationship to the tumultuous political moments in the United States, interlaced with shots of the installation and construction of his sculptural work.
Drawing from candid footage of di Suvero from the 1970s in New York and France, de Menil pieces together quiet and reflective segments of the artist at work, climbing, rigging, constructing and drawing, as well as more contemplative and intimate shots of the sculptor talking with his family and openly sharing his artistic philosophies and political beliefs. In the film, we move from the artist's home on a barge in the port city of Chalon-sur-Sane, where he lived for many years in the 1970s in protest against The Vietnam War, to his studio in New York, and the grounds for his new works in Paris.
In the spring of 1975, di Suvero became the first living sculptor to put his work in the Tuileries, the public gardens in front of the Louvre. As he installs a group of three sculptures here, including the monumental North Star, the camera carefully juxtaposes the lines of the sculpture's I-beams with the curved marble forms of the classical figural work in the grounds. The contrast is a compelling affirmation of the artist's entirely new understanding of sculpture, in terms of scale and balance, and his radical manipulation of material.
The film concludes with the opening of di Suvero's retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1975. Swinging, and handing from the work, the viewers at the event delight in a feast of interactivity as art critic Robert Hughes declares that the energy and intensity of di Suvero's work makes you breath deeper.
Mark di Suvero was born in Shanghai, China in 1933. His family, in exile from a fascist Italy during WWII, moved to San Francisco in 1942. After studying philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, the artist moved to New York City, where he continues to live and work.