This new book on distinguished sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard offers something that few recent monographs have: a deep and intellectual engagement with the artist’s work by a critic, in this case Patricia C. Phillips, who is both a prominent writer and the Dean of Graduate Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. Phillips’s text is the most thorough and extensive analysis of a contemporary artist’s work that I’ve seen in a recent book based on an exhibition (in this case, the show originated by the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, NY, and traveling to DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, and the Frost Art Museum at Florida Atlantic University in Miami.
Phillips’s text deals with the biographical aspect (in terms of family history, cultural background, and artistic training and milieu) of von Rydingsvard’s work in much more detail and with much more critical subtlety than has typically been the case in considerations of her sculpture. The result is much broader than a strictly biographical approach. Phillips also delves into the poetics of the works themselves, but always in a non-academic, almost narrative style of writing.
The photographs through which the text winds throughout the book are a mixture of studio and process shots, portraits of the artist, large-scale views of the works, and detail photos. The photo documentation is carefully placed to illuminate the text and also to give a sense of the texture and scale of the work and the working process of the artist (an important aspect of any consideration of von Rydingsvard). The artist’s engagement with both cedar and, more recently, polyurethane resin, is richly evoked in the photos. The design of the book, in “landscape” format, also matches the scope and scale of the works and the photographs very well.
Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working
by Patricia C. Phillips
Hardcover, 224 pages, $65