Mark di Suvero

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Mark di Suvero
Mark di Suvero (1978).jpg
Mark di Suvero outside the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, July 11, 1978.
Marco Polo di Suvero

(1933-09-18) September 18, 1933 (age 88)
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Barbara (attended)
University of California, Berkeley (B.A. 1957)
Known forSculpture
MovementAbstract expressionism
Spouse(s)Maria Teresa Capparotta (div.)
Kate D. Levin
(m. 1993)
AwardsHeinz Award (2005)
National Medal of Arts (2010)
American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal (2013)

Marco Polo "Mark" di Suvero (born September 18, 1933, in Shanghai, China) is an abstract expressionist sculptor and 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient.


Early life and education[edit]

Marco Polo di Suvero was born to Matilde Millo di Suvero and Vittorio di Suvero (later known as Victor E.), both Italians of Sephardic Jewish descent.[1][2][3][4] Di Suvero was one of four children, the eldest being Victor di Suvero.[1] His father was a naval attaché for the Italian government and the family resided in Shanghai until his father was relocated to Tientsin shortly after the birth of the family's last son in 1936.[3]

With the outbreak of World War II, di Suvero immigrated to San Francisco, California with his family in February 1941 aboard the S.S. President Cleveland.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Di Suvero attended City College of San Francisco from 1953 to 1954, followed by the University of California, Santa Barbara from 1954 to 1955. He began creating sculptures while at UCSB after reflecting that he couldn't make an original contribution in his philosophy major. Under the guidance of Robert Thomas, who allowed di Suvero to take his sculpting course, his work began to flourish. He transferred to the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with a B.A. in philosophy in 1957.[1][2][5][6]


After graduating from college, di Suvero moved to New York City in 1957 to pursue a sculpting art career. He worked part-time in construction and began to incorporate wood and metal from demolition sites into his work.[2][6]

Mark di Suvero gained an almost instant recognition among art critics with his first solo exhibit at the Green Gallery in the fall of 1960. Arts Magazine's editor wrote «From now on nothing will be the same. One felt this at di Suvero's show. Here was a body of work at once so ambitious and intelligent, so raw and clean, so noble and accessible, that It must permanently alter our standards of artistic effort.»[7]

Shortly thereafter, he was involved in a near-fatal elevator accident on March 26, 1960, while working at a construction site. He had a broken back and severe spinal injures; doctors believed he wouldn't be able to walk again. While in rehabilitation, he learned to work with an arc welder which became critical for later pieces. He made a recovery in four years and could walk without assistance by 1965. He is one of the sixteen artists included in the book Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists as a result of this accident and the subsequent effect it had upon his health.[2][3][5][6]

Di Suvero was a founding member of the Park Place Gallery in 1963 with Forrest Myers, Leo Valledor, Peter Forakis, among others, until the Gallery's closure on July 31, 1967.[6][8][9]

Di Suvero protested the Vietnam War, for which he was twice arrested, before he left the United States in 1971.[1][10] During his four-year self-exile, he exhibited his works in the Netherlands and Germany, taught at the Università Internazionale dell'Arte, and lived in Chalon-sur-Saône, France where he maintained one of his studios on a barge until 1989.[1][4][11] His French barge, Rêve de signes, has since been turned into La Vie des Formes, an atelier for emerging artists, which has been moored at Montceau-les-Mines since 2009.[1][12][13]

In 1975, his sculptures were exhibited in the Tuileries Garden in Paris,[7] the first living artist to hold an exhibition there.[14] He later returned to the United States and opened a studio in Petaluma, California in 1975.[11] While the Petaluma studio is still active, di Suvero moved to New York City and opened a studio there.[10][11]

In 1976, the Whitney Museum of American Art housed a retrospective exhibition of di Suvero's smaller structures, while the city of New York exhibited some of his larger sculptures all around town.[7] His 1966 sculpture, Praise for Elohim Adonai, was erected in front of the Seagram Building.

He founded the Athena Foundation in 1977 and Socrates Sculpture Park in 1986, both of which function to assist artists.[1][6] In 2019, his tallest piece, E=MC 2, was moved from France to the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Di Suvero currently lives in the Astoria, Queens neighborhood of New York City with his second wife, Kate D. Levin, whom he married in 1993, and daughter.[1][10] Levin, a former City College of New York teacher, served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs from 2002 to 2013, and has worked under the Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg administrations.[16] Di Suvero was previously married to architect Maria Teresa Caparrotta, whom he met while living in Italy, but later divorced.[1]


Bunyon's Chess installed at Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington
Entrance to the Kröller-Müller Museum and sculpture park in Otterlo/The Netherlands. In the background is the red K-piece by Mark di Suvero.

His early works were large outdoor pieces that incorporated wooden timbers from demolition buildings, tires, scrap metal, and structural steel. This exploration has transformed over time into a focus on H-beams and heavy steel plates. Many of the pieces contain sections that are allowed to swing and rotate giving the overall forms a considerable degree of motion. He prides himself on his hands-on approach to the fabrication and installation of his work. Di Suvero pioneered the use of a crane as a sculptor's working tool.[17]

His style is associated with the abstract expressionism movement but directly evokes the spirit of the Russian post-revolution constructivism. Constructivism is strongly associated with concepts of a utopian socialist reconstruction but came crashing down when the Stalin and Hitler empires failed. Di Suvero is the first artist post-war to revive the constructivist movement. The sculptures can be touched, and they are resistant enough to be climbed on.[7]

Some of his work includes:

Di Suvero's sculptures and career were the subjects of the 1977 film, North Star: Mark di Suvero. The film was produced by François De Menil and by art historian Barbara Rose, and it featured music composed by Philip Glass.[30][31] The film was released as a DVD in 2012.[32]

In May 2013, some of his most famous sculptures were exhibited in the Crissy Field park of San Francisco.[33]


Some critics deny the novelty of di Suvero's art, arguing he just inflated an established concept to greater dimensions. In 1975, William Rubin argued he merely vulgarized the style of abstract expressionism set forth by Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.[7] When Pax Jerusalemme was installed in a prominent spot in front of the Legion of Honor in 2000, Kenneth Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle dismissed it as "mediocre."[34] But remarking on the installation of the artist's colossal E=MC 2 at the Storm King Art Center, Jason Farago in the New York Times wrote that di Suvero "understands better than almost any artist the distinction between size and scale—and this serene work, breathing easy in Storm King's largest field, feels as approachable as a family member."[35]

Honors and awards[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Mark di Suvero and di Suvero family papers, 1934-2005". Archives of American Art. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mark di Suvero Luce Artist Biography". Archives of American Art. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Monte, James K. (November 1975). Mark di Suvero. New York City, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c "Mark di Suvero, Art World's 'Last Heroic Figure'". The Ledger. Vol. 71, no. 270. Lakeland, Florida. July 16, 1978. pp. 37–38. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Heinz Awards Mark di Suvero biography". Heinz Foundations. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Hilton Kramer, A playful storm of sculpture,, 25 January 1976
  8. ^ Kirwin, Liza. "Art and Space: Park Place and the beginning of the Paula Cooper Gallery". Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York". Blanton Museum of Art. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Dawson, Jessica (September 2, 2014). "At 80, Sculptor Mark Di Suvero Is Still Mixing It Up in New York". The Wall Street Journal. New York City, New York. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Bennett, Don (June 5, 2013). "Petaluma home to famous artist". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, California. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  12. ^ Castro, Jan Garden (June 2005). "To Make Meanings Real: A Conversation with Mark di Suvero". Sculpture. International Sculpture Center. 24 (5). Archived from the original on January 17, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Roux, Camille; Berry, Gilles (May 5, 2013). "Bateau logement pour artistes". Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire (in French). Chalon-sur-Saône, France. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Karen Michell, Sculptor Mark Di Suvero Creates Joy Out Of Steel,, 20 October 2019
  15. ^ a b Gabriella Angeleti, Storm King installs sky-high sculpture by Mark di Suvero,, 17 July 2019
  16. ^ "Kate D. Levin named first fellow of National Center for Arts Research at SMU". Southern Methodist University. February 11, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  17. ^ Mark Di Suvero's Path to Steel. May 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  18. ^ Pre-Columbian,
  19. ^ "Mark di Suvero Artworks & Famous Sculptures". The Art Story. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  20. ^ "Mark di Suvero, For Handel, 1975".
  21. ^ "rt Projects Mark di Suvero: Shoshone 1982". Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Shoshone 1982". Culture Now: Museum Without Walls. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  23. ^ Aurora - 1992-1993,
  24. ^ Mark di Suvero - Galileo, 1996,
  25. ^ ""Declaration" (2001) by Mark di Suvero". Public Art in Public Places. June 30, 2022. Retrieved June 30, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ "Exchange: Orion". Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  27. ^ "Outdoor Sculpture | University of Michigan Museum of Art". Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  28. ^ "ORION COMES HOME | University of Michigan Museum of Art". Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  29. ^ "Clock Knot 2007". The University of Texas at Austin. 12 August 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  30. ^ "Philip Glass: Music". unvagen Music Publishers. Archived from the original on 2015-08-19. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  31. ^ North Star: Mark di Suvero at IMDb
  32. ^ Stewart, James A. (April 19, 2012). "North Star: Mark di Suvero". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015.
  33. ^ Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field,, May 2013
  34. ^ Baker, Kenneth (16 July 2000). "A Legion of Concerns Over Sculpture / Di Suvero's mediocre 'Pax Jerusalem' may signal a troubling trend at Fine Arts Museums". San Francisco Chronicle.
  35. ^ Farago, Jason (9 July 2020). "Storm King Reopens for the Art-Starved". The New York Times.
  36. ^ "The International Sculpture Center's Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award". International Sculpture Center. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  37. ^ Sisario, Ben, ed. (May 2, 2005). "Arts, Briefly: Heinz Awards". The New York Times. New York City, New York. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  38. ^ "Smithsonian Announces Archives of American Art Medal Recipients" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art. October 6, 2010. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  39. ^ "Mark di Suvero Among 2010 National Medal of Arts Recipients Announced by the White House". Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  40. ^ "President Obama to Award 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: White House Office of the Press Secretary. March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  41. ^ "President Obama Presents Arts, Humanities Awards To Meryl Streep, James Taylor". The Huffington Post. March 2, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  42. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (May 15, 2013). "E.L. Doctorow and Mark di Suvero Strike Gold at American Academy of Arts and Letters". The New York Times. New York City, New York. Retrieved March 10, 2015.

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