Bruce Beasley

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Bruce Beasley (born 1939, Los Angeles, California) is an American abstract expressionist sculptor born in Los Angeles and currently living and working in Oakland, California. He attended Dartmouth College from 1957–59, and the University of California, Berkeley from 1959-62 where he earned his BA.


Beasley ranks among the most productive sculptors of the post- Henry Moore/David Smith generation of abstract sculptors. His work can be found in the permanent collection of 30 art museums around the world, including: Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Guggenheim Museum, New York City; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the National Art Museum of China in Beijing; the Musee National d'Art Moderne-Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, DC; the Kunsthalle Mannheim in Germany; and the Islamic Museum in Cairo.

Quotes from the Art World[edit]

Many experts in the art world have praised Beasley's contributions to the art of sculpture. Among them:

Beasley continues in the tradition of modernist abstract sculptors such as David Smith, Anthony Caro, and Eduardo Chillida, pursuing pure form and shape as an expressive and communicative human language. Beasley's sculpture is profoundly and proudly visual. Rather than resembling any one thing, his works evoke many things. His sculptures immerse the viewer in an experience of form that triggers feelings and sensations. -- Philip Linhares, chief curator of art, Oakland Museum of California

(Beasley) has been among the most innovate artists on the West Coast…(His) intelligence is balanced by a deep respect for the unpremeditated creative process as a fertile source of invention. -- Susan Landauer, chief curator of the San Jose Museum of Art and author of The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism

Beasley will be on the scene long after many of the current faddists are forgotten. -- Henry J. Seldis, art critic, The Los Angeles Times

In the modernist tradition, Beasley does not see sculpture's purpose as providing the viewer with things the mind already knows. The sculptor's vision is to see what could be. His sculpture adds to, rather than confirms, our knowledge of what structures can look like that perform no practical function. -- Albert Elsen, Walter A. Hass professor of Art History, Stanford University

Beasley's technical innovations, his evolving formal vocabularies, the continuity of his sensibility, and his overt dedication to form as content all mark him as an unregenerate, and unapologetic, modernist... -- Peter Frank, art critic

Bruce's development has conformed to my greatest expectations. He is forever in the avant-garde, doggedly creating sculpture that evolves and delights. This is the mission of the consummate artist such as Beasley -- one who embraces the fundamental truth of 'risk and reward' in the very act of creating artworks. -- Everett Ellin, owner Everett Ellin Gallery, 1960–64, assistant director, Guggenheim Museum, 1965–67

Beasley uses the metaphor of syntax and grammar for what he nevertheless sees as a visual, not written, medium:

The language of sculpture is mute and silent. The vocabulary of sculpture is shape and emptiness. It is a visual language with a unique syntax and grammar that explores the limits of the physical world and the limits of our imagination. This visual language has been deep within us from the beginning of our species. It is a language that anyone who wants to can understand, but it cannot be rendered into the language of the written or spoken word.


In the 1960s, Beasley's first work consisted of welded sculptures made from broken cast iron. This work brought him national recognition when in 1961 one of his sculptures was included in the ground breaking exhibition The Art of Assemblage at the New York, Museum of Modern Art a piece which appeared in an exhibition which Philip Linhares, Chief Curator of Art of the Oakland Museum of California referred to as "seminal". The following year his assemblage sculpture "Chorus" was acquired by New York's Museum of Modern Art,[1] making Beasley the youngest artist to have work in the permanent collection.

In 1961, while a student at Berkeley, Beasley joined Peter Voulkos in building one of the first sculptor-built foundries, the storied Garbanzo Works that was instrumental in the Renaissance of bronze casting in American sculpture. Following an abstract esthetic, he began casting sculptures in bronze and aluminum. In 1963, he was one of eleven artists to represent the United States at the Biennale de Paris, where French Minister of Culture Andre Malraux awarded him the purchase prize.[2]

In 1968, Beasley began investigating the use of transparency as a sculptural medium.[3] He was successful in creating small transparent sculptures in cast acrylic but experts at Dupont and Rohm & Hass were convinced that it was impossible to do castings as large as Beasley envisioned. That year, the State of California invited Beasley to participate in a competition for a monumental sculpture for the state. At first, the jury was unaware that Beasley was experimenting with transparency as a sculptural medium and invited him based on his work in cast metal. Beasley was determined to pursue transparency and proposed a monumental cast acrylic sculpture. Upon seeing Beasley's proposal, they questioned the sculptor about its viability. He convinced them that creating what he envisioned was no problem but privately knew that he would have to invent a new process, which he did.[4] His proposal for Apolymon, a transparent sculpture in cast acrylic won and he installed the piece in Sacramento in 1970.[5]


Fascinated by the esthetics of transparency, Beasley worked in cast acrylic for the next ten years. In 1974, members of the undersea research community approached Beasley to see if he could adapt his technique to cast transparent bathyspheres for undersea exploration. He succeeded in creating the bathyspheres for Johnson Sea Link submersibles for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.[6] It was these submersibles that were deployed to locate the crew compartment on the bottom of the ocean after the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated upon liftoff in 1986.

Beasley continued to make transparent sculpture for the next ten years. His transparent sculptures were exhibited widely both in the US and abroad including solo exhibitions in 1972 at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the San Diego Museum of Art, and group shows including the Salon de Mai in Paris and at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan.


In 1980, Beasley turned back to metal, exploring a more formal geometry with a series of large sculptures produced in both stainless steel and aluminum. He created a number of monumental commissions for public institutions including the San Francisco International Airport, Stanford University; the State of California; the State of Alaska; the Miami International Airport; the City of Eugene, Oregon; and Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey.

In 1987, he turned to a new direction of work involving cube-like intersecting polyhedra. While most of these were made in cast or fabricated bronze, he also created them in carved granite. This work has been exhibited worldwide in more than 100 exhibitions in Europe and Asia.[7] Public commissions for this series have included the cities of Oakland, California; Dortmund, Germany; Mannheim, Germany; Bad Homburg, Germany; Monterrey, Mexico; Palo Alto, California; as well as the University of Oregon and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

In 2008, Beasley began sculpting a new series of intersecting stainless steel disks. One of this series, commissioned by the Chinese government for the Beijing Summer Olympics[8] is 15 feet tall and remains permanently installed as part of the Beijing Olympic Park. The Expo 2010 in Shanghai also commissioned a large sculpture in this series for permanent installation in Shanghai.


  • Bruce Beasley: Skulpturen (Bruce Beasley: Sculpture) (The Stadtiche Kunsthalle Mannheim, 1994) monograph which includes articles by Peter Selz and Manfred Fath, ISBN 3-89165-098-2
  • Sculpture by Bruce Beasley (The Oakland Museum of California, 2005), monograph which includes articles by Albert Elsen and Peter Frank, ISBN 1-882140-35-4


  1. ^ Los Angeles Times (December 16, 1962)
  2. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, 4 February 1964; San Francisco Examiner, 3 February 1964
  3. ^ "The Crystal Clear Scene", Time (9 February 1968)
  4. ^ American Association for the Advancement of Science, "The Sculpture Transparent", Science (December 1983)
  5. ^ "Sculptor Unveils Impossible Feat", Los Angeles Times (15 March 1970); "The Age of Acrylic Dawns in Sacramento", Artnews (May 1970)
  6. ^ "The Undersea World of Bruce Beasley's Bathysphere", San Francisco Chronicle (1 February 1976)
  7. ^ "Works of California Sculptor in the Mannheim Kunsthalle", Allegemeine Zeitung (13 July 1994)
  8. ^ "Bruce Beasley to Create Work for Olympics", San Francisco Chronicle (5 August 2008)

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