Mark di Suvero: Dreambook

Mark di Suvero: Dreambook shows the daring, greatness, and individuality of di Suvero’s monumental work alongside the passions, poetry, and deep thoughts that drive him. As his 75th birthday whizzes past, di Suvero eschews critical commentaries and lets 40 years and over 150 major works speak for themselves.

Most of the sculptures are photographed in dramatic outdoor settings, where wood or steel beams gesture into blue sky. Each work manages to transform tons of raw material into unique, poetic statements. Some works (with and without moving parts) are pictured as being kid-safe and playful. All have evocative names. The early wood beam and mixed-media sculptures have a raw power: Tom and Barrel (both 1959) are dramatic constructions whose masses jut out at diagonals. Ad Astra (Toward Stars) (2005) shows 48-foot-high beams converging around a double circular core. This work is curiously paired with a Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz poem about the hopelessness of capturing honorable love. For Kepler (1995), an impossibly angled, red steel sculpture, seems to bow like a geisha as it extends an arm twice its height. di Suvero presents this work with an essay on Galactic Origin Center (GOC) theory, which reformulates space-time relations. While one misses his variously intimate, mischievous, and searing small sculptures and prints, it seems profound that he chose to match his largest works with the large ideas that fuel them.

His choice of spare, timeless texts ranges from poems by Lao Tzu and Yeats to philosophical meditations on violence, forgiveness, and politics, to straightforward advice: “Chess saved my mind in a hospital: that it’s a game is evident, but it is also a passion full of emotion, pre-planning, and logic…chess teaches us how to think. You cannot survive in this society unless you can think; organize your resources.” Or “Thoreau taught me: to be original is to see the thing as it is, not as others have told you it is.”

François Barré’s closing essay, “Mark di Suvero, or The Era of Builders,” relates the artist’s strengths: “Courage, risk-taking, momentum, tension, the play of weight and grace in the imperceptible animation of steel, all this gives Mark di Suvero’s sculptures a perilous and paradoxical lightness…They interact with the sky and are anchored in the earth.”

The book is beautifully printed, its design strikingly fresh. The layout pairs full-color images of di Suvero’s sculpture with philosophical musings, often set on a vivid color field. A spare autobiography juxtaposes personal things, such as the birth of his daughter; political events, such as being arrested protesting the Vietnam War; and historic exhibitions. di Suvero also mentions how he founded the Athena Foundation and Socrates Sculpture Park. Mark di Suvero: Dreambook inspires readers to dream big, to see clearly, and to discover the joy and the moral truths in life. di Suvero believes that “if we can think and act together, we can change the world.”

—Jan Garden Castro

Book Information:
Mark di Suvero: Dreambook
With a contribution by François Barré.
Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2008.
Hardcover; 288 pp., 169 color illustrations, 40 b/w photographs.
$49.95.
ISBN: 978-0-520-25865-5.

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