Modern & Contemporary Art

Beautiful Detritus: The “Junk” Sculpture of Richard Stankiewicz

NEW YORK, NY -- The sculpture of Richard Stankiewicz (1922-1983) is revolutionary in its definition of assemblage art. Stankiewicz began to sculpt while in the Navy during World War II after passing on a Cranbrook Academy of Art acceptance that he could not afford. He used his G.I. Bill to study art after his 1947 discharge. Stankiewicz studied under Fernand Leger and Ossip Zadkine in Paris, and later under Hans Hofmann.

Upon his return to New York, Stankiewicz began showing at the famed Hansa Gallery, an artist-run space made up mostly of fellow Hofmann students. Stankiewicz was a unique and fascinating addition to the gallery’s roster, all largely AbEx painters. His lyrical scrap metal sculptures drew a line through abstraction to future Contemporary art movements and supplied a much-needed counterpoint to action painting.

In his renowned articles, the artist/critic Fairfield Porter championed Stankiewicz’s found objects. When welded together, they created forms that were at times whimsical (as seen with the mid-50s work Tribal Diagram), but often foreboding (as with an Untitled work from 1960). Stankiewicz would soon arrive at even more powerful and striking compositions. His Untitled 1970 work approximates hard-edge abstraction alongside forms that reveal him to be holding his own with peers like John Chamberlain and David Smith.

The artist’s “junk” aesthetic, with roots in the work of Jean Tinguely, Dubuffet, Duchamp and other predecessors, was pronounced by the preeminent critic and Brancusi expert Sidney Geist as a “miracle in the scrap heap.” The energy and motion Stankiewicz achieved with his welded creations were genre-defining and created a path forward to the work of Mike Kelley, Sarah Lucas, Monica Bonvinci and many others, appearing just as vital and contemporary today as when they were crafted.

Important Paintings

Featured in the May 20 auction of Important Paintings are three sculptures by Richard Stankiewicz.  View Lots

Portrait of specialist Angelo Madrigale
SVP/Director of Paintings / Director of Contemporary Art
Modern & Contemporary Art
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