REVIEW | MCA DNA: Richard Hunt

Richard Howard Hunt, Photo by CHESTER HIGGINS.jpg

MCA DNA: Richard Hunt

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

“One of the striking aspects of modern sculpture is the way in which it manifests its makers’ growing awareness that sculpture is a medium peculiarly located at the juncture between stillness and motion, time arrested and time passing. From this tension, which defines the very consideration of sculpture, comes its enormous expressive power.” – Rosalind E. Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture

Richard Howard Hunt is the creator of objects that invite contemplation. In the tradition of other avant-garde sculptors, he continues to push the boundaries of accepted modes of sculptural representation, abandoning devotion to the visible in favor of abstraction. His welded metal sculptures, more often than not made from scrap materials, offer palpable introductions ripe for both sensual and theorized expressions of life through exploration in form, surface, and proportion.


Untitled, in its purity, is the embodiment of physical and psychological forces literally colliding – the result is a formidable and forceful presence, though the work is less than three feet high. The dualities depicted are masterfully tucked between the crass welds and polished bulges. The dense mass is siphoning down to a bloated cube, unromantically rusting and seemingly deflating beneath the crushing weight of the indecipherable heap above. Hunt, much like artist Max Bill who was attempting to overthrow barriers between artistic expression and scientific knowledge, is “by giving concrete form to abstract thought…introduces an element of feeling into it.” (Giedion-Welcker) Untitled, a unique example of the notions of push / pull, displays Hunt’s formal strategy of discontinuity by creating powerful yet abbreviated movement (in both shape and manifestation of surface) that invokes complex feelings and desires. Ideas of the actual vs. the imagined, the individual vs. the mob, and man vs. the machine are all stirred by the assembly of cold, welded chrome steel. Like many abstract expressionists, it is obvious that Hunt makes objects that either directly or indirectly identify with a concern for formal fetishism and totem practice. Although quoted in reference to the work of David Smith, Rosalind E. Krauss’s words also aptly apply here: “the work locates itself at a strange border halfway through the human figure and the abstract sign.” Though I would consider Hunt more progressive and intuitive in his efforts than Smith, he eloquently captures the subjectivity of the human experience and invites me to into his confidence, yet leaves room for my own secrets.


Small Hybrid, even more lyrical and quite sexy in its character, is the visual reconciliation of the organic and the industrial that, again, does not cater to any want I may have to see everything in order to understand this work. Delicate voids, created through the cultivation of linear gestures, are found hidden within the structure, small pauses for the eye that serve as visual rubber bands to return the center cylinder/torso. Slightly off-balance, this small figure aggressively festoons upward, exploding with irrational and numerous limbs that serve as both weapon and defense. An appropriate resignation I think of our co-habitation and acceptance of the industrial, the mechanical, the technological movements that both dominate and surround us. I may want to resist, but in many ways, I will (and must) give in.

MCA DNA: Richard Hunt celebrates Hunt’s prolific life (he turns eighty this year) and artistic achievements from a career spanning more than fifty years (and continues today) with an exhibition of his sculptures and drawings, dating from the 1950s through the 1990s. The exhibition is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago through May 17. For more information about this exhibit, visit: For more information about this artist, visit:

To view a video of the artist produced by MCA Chicago, visit:

Images (from top to bottom): Untitled, c. 1963, Welded chromed steel, 34 x 14 x 12 inches, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Mark Maremont, Stephen Maremont, and Kate Maremont Stone in memory of Jill Fischer Maremont, 1994.21, Photo: Nathan Keay, © Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Small Hybrid, 1964, Steel, 17 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 10 inches, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Morton A. Sterling, 1981.39, Photo: Nathan Keay, © Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Richard Howard Hunt, Photo: Chester Higgins

Bibliography: Giedion-Welcker, Carola. Modern Plastic Art. New York: Wittenborn, 1955 and London: Faber, 1956.; Krauss, Rosalind E. Passages in Modern Sculpture. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 1981.

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