In the 1960s, Beverly Pepper became a pioneer for women in the arts. The sculptor earned widespread critical acclaim with her innovative works in steel, iron, bronze and stone. “Beverly Pepper: Palingenesis 1962-2012,” the first of its kind to trace Pepper’s work in metal, celebrates the prolific career of one of the major forces across the international scene.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is the exclusive venue for the landmark exhibition “Beverly Pepper: Palingenesis 1962-2012,” which opens to the public May 25. This retrospective traces Pepper’s work in metal throughout her prolific five-decade career. The exhibition will be on display until August 26.
Born in Brooklyn in 1922, Pepper studied at Pratt Institute and the Arts Student League in New York. She painted from 1949-1960, then turned to sculpture. In 1962, Pepper emerged on the arts scene when she, along with legendary figures Alexander Calder and David Smith, was invited to create outdoor sculptures for the famed exhibition “Festival of Two Worlds” in Spoleto. She was the only woman invited. She is among America’s greatest living sculptors.
The exhibition features more than 20 works in a variety of metals including steel, aluminum, iron, stainless steel and Cor-ten steel. It is Pepper’s largest museum presentation in recent years, with loans from Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Marlborough Gallery and private collections.
“Although Pepper has been innovative and proficient in a variety of media, her endeavors in metal have been a constant source of inspiration and art historical merit” said Joseph Becherer, Vice President and Chief Curator of Horticulture and Sculpture.
The exhibition traces the progression of Pepper’s work, from early influences in Abstract Expressionism to the clean lines and highly polished surfaces of a minimalist aesthetic. Her experimental work in the early 1980s blended the opposing ideas of the ancient age of iron with Modern and Contemporary sculpture, which was innovative and new. Pepper’s more current work, abstract and totemic forms, have been created in both steel and industrially rich Cor-ten steel. One such monumental form, “Galileo’s Wedge” became part of Meijer Gardens’ permanent collection in 2009. A new, bold emergence of twisted rectilinear and upright forms proves that the 89-year-old sculptor remains a powerful and prolific artist.
Meijer Gardens has published a fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition. Excerpts from more than 32 hours of interviews and images from Pepper’s archives in Todi, Italy and New York describe the development of Pepper’s remarkable career.
This exhibition is sponsored by The Meijer Foundation and the Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The exhibition is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Curator’s Choice, June 8, 12 pm
Join the Chief Curator for the “inside scoop” on Beverly Pepper: Palingenesis 1962–2012. Walk through the retrospective exhibition and learn more about this artist who pioneered working in metal.
Perspectives, June 29, 12 pm
Walk through the galleries with three staff members as they explore Beverly Pepper: Palingenesis 1962–2012 from their own perspectives. Discover interesting personal interpretations of sculpture that you may have never thought of before. Feel free to participate in the discussion; it is not necessary to be an art expert to find deeper meaning in art!
Demonstration: Steel Cutting and Grinding, July 13, 12 pm
Watch Andrew Kline, Assistant Conservator/Sculptor, as he cuts and grinds steel, similar to the process Beverly Pepper uses. Using steel and an oxygen/acetylene torch, he will cut steel into shapes. He will then prepare the steel for welding by grinding it with a four-inch angle grinder.
Walk in the Sculpture Park, July 20 and August 9, 12 pm
Join Heidi Holst, Curator of Arts Education, for a walk in the Sculpture Park. Each of the walks will focus on themes that complement the Beverly Pepper exhibition in the Sculpture Galleries. Be prepared for the weather and to walk for approximately 45 minutes. The walk on July 20 will focus on female sculptors and the walk on August 9 will focus on sculpture in steel.
About Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park:
One of the world’s most significant botanic and sculpture experiences, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park serves more than 550,000 visitors annually. Meijer Gardens was recently ranked in the top 100 most-visited art museums worldwide by “Art Newspaper,” the leading publication in global art news. The 132-acre grounds feature Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; one of the largest children’s gardens in the country; arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens; and a 1900-seat outdoor amphitheater, featuring an eclectic mix of world-renowned musicians every summer. The internationally acclaimed Sculpture Park features a permanent collection including works by Rodin, Oldenburg, Moore, Bourgeois and Plensa, among others. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with recent exhibitions by Picasso, Degas, di Suvero, Borofsky, Calder and Dine.