American, born 1924
Restlessly inventive, Beverly Pepper made significant contributions to several postwar sculptural styles and movements. After studying painting and sculpture in Paris following World War II, Pepper settled in Rome in 1950. She worked with clay and wood throughout the 1950s before creating a series of large metal sculptures that feature thin, ribbon-like strands of steel looping and curling through space. Pepper introduced geometric forms—open, chrome-plated boxes in configurations that suggest dynamic motion—into her work just as Minimalism emerged in the middle of the 1960s. Pepper was one of ten artists invited to Spoleto, Italy, in 1962 to create sculpture in local steel factories. There she became friends with pioneering steel sculptor David Smith. Like Smith, Pepper learned to cut and weld large sheets of steel so that she could fabricate her own sculptures.
Pepper was a leading figure in the earth art movement of the early 1970s, executing commissions for universities, corporate collections, and public plazas. Her first such project, designed for the Northpark Center in Dallas (1971), featured low-lying triangular and pyramidal forms sloping into and out of the ground. Her practice of taking the particularities of the environment led to a group of monumental sculptures constructed in 1979 for the Piazza del Popolo in Todi, Italy. In a nod to the Column of Trajan and monument to Marcus Aurelius in Rome, Pepper constructed four towering steel columns (between 28 and 35 feet tall) that resemble industrial tools. “They’re an extension of my hands,” she said. “I’ve always worked with tools. I simply began to transfigure them.”
The totemic forms of Harmonious Triad developed out of the Todi monuments. Dissatisfied with the color and texture of corten steel, which was then the most common material used to create large-scale sculptures, Pepper experimented with ductile iron at the John Deere Foundry in Illinois. In Harmonious Triad and other works from this period, she pioneered its use as a sculptural material. Though its vertical poles may suggest the human figure, Pepper intended them as pure abstraction.
Location: RLP Building, First Floor, North Entrance
GPS: 30.285149, -97.735265