Needle Tower II by Kenneth Snelson (1969) at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Netherlands
June 29, 1927 |
|Training||University of Oregon at Black Mountain College
Fernand Léger in Paris.
Kenneth Snelson (born June 29, 1927) is a contemporary sculptor and photographer. His sculptural works are composed of flexible and rigid components arranged according to the idea of 'tensegrity'. Snelson prefers the descriptive term floating compression.
Snelson asserts his former professor Buckminster Fuller took credit for Snelson's discovery of the concept that Fuller named tensegrity. Fuller gave the idea its name, combining 'tension' and 'structural integrity.' The height and strength of Snelson's sculptures, which are often delicate in appearance, depend on the tension between rigid pipes and flexible cables.
Snelson was born in Pendleton, Oregon in 1927. He studied at the University of Oregon in Eugene, at the Black Mountain College, and with Fernand Léger in Paris. His sculpture and photography have been exhibited at over 25 one-man shows in galleries around the world including the structurally seminal Park Place Gallery in New York in the 1960s. Snelson has also done research on the shape of the atom. Snelson continues to work in his SoHo studio, occasionally collaborating with animator Jonathan Monaghan. He lives in New York City with his wife, Katherine.
He holds four United States patents: #3,169,611: Discontinuous Compression Structures, February, 1965; #3,276,148: Model for Atomic Forms, October, 1966; #4,099,339: Model for Atomic Forms, July, 1978; and #6,017,220: Magnetic Geometric Building System; and most recently, #6,739,937: Space Frame Structure Made by 3-D Weaving of Rod Members, May 25, 2004.
Snelson was a founding member of ConStruct, the artist-owned gallery that promoted and organized large-scale sculpture exhibitions throughout the United States. Other founding members include Mark di Suvero, John Raymond Henry, Lyman Kipp and Charles Ginnever.
Honours and awards 
- (1999) Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, International Sculpture Center.
Sculptures in public collections and public spaces 
United States 
- Mora Terry II, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham
- City Boots, 1968, J. Patrick Lannon Foundation, Los Angeles
- Mozart I, 1982, Stanford University, Palo Alto
District of Columbia 
- Needle Tower, 1968, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington
- Untitled Maquette, 1975, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington
- Newport, 1968, M. Margulies, Coconut Grove
- Four Module Piece, 1968, Terrell Mill Park, Iowa City
- Virlane Tower, 1981, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA, New Orleans
- B-Tree, 1981, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda
- Easy Landing, 1977, City of Baltimore, Baltimore
- Six Number Two, Annmarie Sculpture Garden, Solomons, Maryland
- Indexer II, 2001, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- B-Tree II, 2005, Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids
- Triple Crown, 1991, Hallmark, Inc. Kansas City
- Able Charlie, 1983, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha
New York 
- Coronation Day, 1980, City of Buffalo, Buffalo
- E.C. Column, 1969–81, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
- Four Chances, 1982, Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo
- Fair Leda, 1969, Nelson Rockefeller Estate
- Free Ride Home, 1974, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville
- Mozart I, 1982, Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden at Pepsico, Purchase
- Sun River, 1967, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
New Jersey 
- Northwood II, 1970, Compton Quad, Graduate College, Princeton, Mercer
North Carolina 
- Northwood II(maquette), 1970, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville
- Forest Devil, 1975–77, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
- Forest Devil, 1975, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati
- V-X, 1968, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus
- Sleeping Dragon, 2002–03, Kirkpatrick Oil Company Building, Oklahoma City
- Northwood, 1969, Northwood Institute, Cedar Hills
- Soft Landing, 1975–77, Berlin Nationalgalerie, Berlin
- Avenue K, 1968, City of Hannover
The Netherlands 
- Easy-K, 1970, Sonsbeek ‘70, Arnhem
- Needle Tower II, 1969, Kröller Müller Museum, Otterlo
- Osaka, 1970, Japan Iron & Steel Federation, Kobe
- T-Zone Flight, 1995, JT Building, Toranomon, Tokyo
- Landing, 1970, Wakayama Prefecture Museum, Wakayama
Unknown Location 
- Audrey I, 1966, Private Collection
- Audrey II, 1966, Private Collection
- Equilateral Quivering Tower, 1973–92
- Tri-Core Column, 1974
- Wing I, 1992; Ed. 4, Private collection
- Rainbow Arch, 2001
- Dragon, 2000–03
- 38th Rotterdam Film Festival Shorts Program
- "Kenneth Snelson Untitled Maquette, 1975". Kenneth Snelson Untitled Maquette, 1975. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
- Busch, Julia M., A Decade of Sculpture: the New Media in the 1960s (The Art Alliance Press: Philadelphia; Associated University Presses: London, 1974) ISBN 0-87982-007-1
Further reading 
- Heartney, Eleanor, Kenneth Snelson: forces made visible/essay by Eleanor Heartney; additional text by Kenneth Snelson, Lenox, Massachusetts: Hard Press Editions, 2009.
- Kenneth Snelson's official webpage
- Letter from Snelson to R. Motro regarding Fuller's role in 'discovering' Tensegrity
- Snelson interview with Robert Ayers, March 2009
- "Tensegrity" Scholarpedia article
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