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Harry Bertoia: Double-Branched Gongs

April 28, 2010 - October 31, 2011

Harry Bertoia
American, born in Italy (1915-1978)
Double-Branched Gongs, 1970
Bronze sheet and welded bronze
Gift of Audrey and Bernard Berman
to Allentown Art Museum, 1982

On Tuesday, April 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Allentown Art Museum will de-install and move three major outdoor sculptures in its collection in preparation for construction to begin on the museum’s expansion and modernization project. These large and dramatic works will then be placed on temporary loan to two other institutions in the Lehigh Valley while construction is underway at the museum.

“Double Branched Gongs” by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), will find its temporary home at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. According to Ricardo Viera, director/curator of the Lehigh University Art Galleries, Museum Operations “Double Branched Gongs” will arrive at its visual laboratory galleries at a very opportune time.

“We will open the exhibition ‘Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978):  Works on Paper and Sculpture’ – September 8 through December 12, 2010,” said Viera.  “This masterpiece, on temporary loan from the Allentown Art Museum, will bring an additional perspective to the upcoming exhibition.”

“The breadth and scope of Bertoia as a multi-tasking designer was simply phenomenal.  From sculptural musical instruments to functional chairs, nature was always a strong influence on his creations.  Having this spectacular artwork at the Zoellner Arts Center entrance will give our students and community-at-large an unprecedented experience.”

Created in 1970, the “Double Branched Gongs,” one of Bertoia’s famous sound sculptures, was given as a gift to the museum by Audrey and Bernard Berman in 1982. Made of bronze, the sculpture was part of Bertoia’s Sonambient® series – a term Bertoia used to describe the spatial and tonal environment created by these sound sculptures.

Bertoia was an Italian-born artist, sculptor and modern furniture designer who came to the United States at the age of 15. He moved to Pennsylvania in 1950 to work with Knoll and there designed his iconic “Diamond Chair,” a fluid form made with a lattice work of welded steel. He also built a studio where he created his unique sculptures.Bertoia’s Sonambient® sculptures explored the ways in which metal could be manipulated to produce sound.

By stretching and bending the metal into different shapes, lengths and thickness, he could make it respond to wind or to touch and create a range of pure, unique tones. The sounds are organic and mysterious, as tones resonate and flow into each other. Bertoia used the sculptures to perform in concerts and also produced several recordings to showcase the music made by his art.

“Double Branched Gongs” will be on display outside, in front of Zoellner Arts Center on the Lehigh University campus, beginning Thursday, April 29, and will remain in place there until the museum construction is completed. Additional Bertoia works from the museum’s collection will also be on loan to the University for its special Bertoia exhibition this coming fall.

Two other sculptures “Metallurgical Worker” (also known as “The Puddler”) and “Metallurgical Science,” by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) will move to the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa. These two monumental cast bronze sculptures, each standing over eight feet high, were commissioned by Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939), founder of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and one of the most colorful and influential steel magnates of the early 20th century.

“Many of our nation’s leading industrialists used art as a form of expressing pride in their companies,” said Steve Donches, president & CEO, National Museum of Industrial History.  “Mr. Schwab, was one of our country’s foremost businessmen whose life was dedicated to steelmaking and he expressed himself through these works of art.” “We are delighted to be able to house these important sculptures that he had commissioned for his residence in New York City. We are grateful to the Allentown Art Museum for selecting the National Museum of Industrial History as its partner in housing these impressive works representative of the steel industry while the museum is under construction.”

The two Gérôme sculptures, completed in 1903, were among the final works by Jean-Léon Gérôme, one of France’s most prominent realist artists of the late 19th century. These special figures, cast in bronze at Siot Fondeur, Gérôme’s preferred foundry in Paris, France, were soon sent to the United States to grace the grounds of “Riverside,” the grandiose New York mansion built by their patron, Charles M. Schwab.

When the house was demolished in 1947, the bronzes were purchased by Bethlehem Steel Corporation and moved to Bethlehem, Pa. In 1982, the statues were gifted to the Allentown Art Museum by Bethlehem Steel, making these unique works of art available to the public as never before. The Gérôme sculptures will be on display at the National Museum of Industrial History’s Preview and Staging Facility (610-694-6644) at 754 Roble Road, Allentown, Pa. every Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., free of charge. They will return to the museum at the close of construction.

The Allentown Art Museum’s expansion will kick off in May 2010; and a Groundbreaking Ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 10.


April 28, 2010
October 31, 2011
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Bethlehem, PA 18015 United States + Google Map