French, born in Russia, 1886-1962
Antoine Pevsner began his career as a painter. A sojourn in Paris from 1911 to 1914 introduced him to cubism and futurism, two radical new approaches to making art. After the Soviet Union withdrew from World War I in 1917 and the threat of a draft was over, Pevsner and his brother, sculptor Naum Gabo, returned to Moscow to participate in the utopian fervor of building a new egalitarian society. Pevsner began sculpting works that could, in theory, be adapted for use in architecture and urban design projects to serve the general public. His sculptures were strongly influenced by his brother’s innovative constructions and were small in scale due to severe shortages of materials in the fledgling Soviet Union.
In 1923 Pevsner immigrated permanently to France. In the exhilarating art environment of Paris, he joined other artists who endorsed the new aesthetics of geometric abstraction. Early in the twentieth century, the Italian futurists had conceived the basics of a visual language for the new Machine Age. Their ideas were widely disseminated throughout Europe and the Americas by the mid-1920s. Pevsner developed a style based on convex and concave forms, primarily funnel-shaped vortices; he adopted the futurist emphasis on diagonal linear elements, originally known as “lines of force.” Such art was suppressed during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II but reemerged strongly in the early 1950s.
After the devastation and destruction of seven years of combat and oppression, Europeans intensely hoped for a lasting peace as they rebuilt their lives and their countries. Column of Peace was conceived as a maquette for a large memorial that was never completed. The sculpture consists of intersecting, upwardly rising diagonals. To viewers familiar with the original utopian meanings underlying abstract art, the message is one of hope for progress. By the time Pevsner conceived his Column of Peace, this abstract language was widely understood in the art world.
Location: Bass Concert Hall Lobby, Fourth Floor