Susan York is an American artist and educator, primarily known for her reductive cast graphite sculpture, and a working process that merges precise geometrical forms with unexpected elements of asymmetry. She lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico where the quality of light and expansive emptiness of the high desert landscape provides inspiration for her minimalist approach.
Education and early work
York began her studies in studio arts at University of New Mexico (UNM), Albuquerque, where she earned her BFA, and created a body of floor-oriented assemblage work. These flat reductive works marked the early stages of her fascination with transitions between 2D and 3D materials. York states that a fundamental aspect of her art process involves the primary question: "When does one state become the other? How do I “take apart” a solid form and render it flat? How do I take a flat shape and make it 3-dimensional?"
After graduating from UNM, York continued her art practice in Santa Fe, where she had a studio space at a local Zen Center. In 1982, York attended an Agnes Martin lecture, where she recalls the impact of Martin's statement: ‘‘My paintings are not about what is seen. They are about what is known forever in the mind.’’. This was a pivotal experience in her development as an artist and an important event foreshadowing a mentoring friendship that evolved, in years to follow, between York and Martin.
In 1995, York completed her graduate studies in ceramics at Cranbrook Academy of Art and returned to Northern New Mexico, where she continued to explore tentative relationships between flat and dimensional forms. With a reverence for "truth in materials" and a sensitivity to the particular characteristics of her chosen medium, York intently focused her attentions on a sculptural practice that commonly involved combinations of porcelain, graphite, and steel.
In 1997, as an artist in residence at the European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands, York engaged in a particularly informative period of experimentation. She began to integrate a dialogue between the forms she created and their position within the architecture of a given space. Her preoccupation with the balancing act between tension and tranquility, led to compositions of stacked fragile porcelain shards, positioned alongside the weight of objects blackened by graphite powder rubbed surfaces. Suspension and gravity became central elements in this new discourse and her appreciation for the possibilities of working with graphite inspired a particular curiosity in the casting process.
After her time in the Netherlands, York returned to Santa Fe and began to involve drawing as an integral part of her art practice. York explains, “In developing the graphite forms, sometimes I make 50-100 drawings before I get a shape that is symmetrical but slightly skewed, which has a subtle tension that is sometimes felt more than it is seen. My aim is for you to feel the tension but not necessarily see it.”
York's appreciation for precision, coupled with the subtle irregularities inherent in her forms, are clearly associated with the principles of Minimalism, but unlike the machined industrial sculpture being produced by her predecessors in the 60's, her work bears the traces of a disciplined and meditative hands-on process of making. Harmony Hammond, in a review of York's work, stated that "Susan York represents a new generation of minimalist sculptors. While her formal vocabulary of columns, beams and slabs is heavily indebted to such artists as Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, John McCracken, Ronald Bladen and Richard Serra, her choice of graphite as a material (cast solid, kiln-fired, shaped into irregular geometric forms with saws and files, then hand-polished) contributes a sense of warmth, mutability and body missing from the industrially fabricated work of the mid-'60s".
2018- The Drawing Center,"Susan York:Foundation",New York, NY
2016- Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, “Carbon”, Santa Fe, NM
2014- Hauptsache Grau #4, Mies van der Rohe Haus, Berlin, Germany, group exhibition
2013-The Unfolding Center, with Arthur Sze, Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe NM, solo exhibition
2012- Alcove 12.5, Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, group exhibition
2008- Lannan Foundation, “3 Columns: Graphite Sculpture by Susan York” solo exhibition
2008- Gravitas, Dorsky Projects, Long Island City, NY, group exhibition
2004- Implicit Plasticity, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, group exhibition
1997- Europees Keramisch Werkcentrum, s’Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, solo exhibition
Art works by York are held in the permanent collections of institutions including the Museum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt, Germany; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Lannan Foundation, Marfa, TX and Santa Fe, NM; Yale University, Beinecke Library, New Haven, CT; The Maxine & Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI; Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; and Museum of Fine Arts of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM.
York's work is also found in notable private collections including The Panza Collection, Lugano, Switzerland; Wynn and Sally Kramarsky, NY, NY; Irving & Jackie Blum, New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Brett Littman and Kara Vander Weg, NY, NY; and Tobias Hestler, Zürich, Switzerland.
- Lippard, Lucy R. (2008). "Between Tension and Tranquility". susanyork.com. Lannan Foundation.
- Riley, Jan (1 July 2008). "Eliminating Subject and Object, A Conversation with Susan York". Sculpture Magazine. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- York, Susan (2012). "Artist Statement". susanyork.com. © 2012 Susan York.
- York, Susan (4 December 2005). "Geese Flying". New York Times. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- King, Sarah (1999). "Universe of Susan York". susanyork.com. THE Magazine.
- York, Susan (2008). "Artist Bio". Lannan Foundation.
- Hammond, Harmony (2 March 2011). "Susan York at James Kelly Contemporary". artinamericamagazine.com. Art in America. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- Yau, John. "An Artist's Devotion to Exactness". Hyperallergic. Hyperallergic. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
- Abatemarco, Michael (20 February 2016). "Art in Review, Susan York:Carbon". Santa Fe New Mexican. Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "Constructed Grey (in german)" (PDF). Mies van der Rohe Haus. Mies van der Rohe Haus. 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "The Unfolding Center". SFAI. sfai.org. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "Alcoves 12.5". New Mexico Museum of Art. New Mexico Museum of Art. 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "3 Columns:Graphite Sculpture by Susan York". Lannan Foundation. Lannan Foundation. 2008. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "Gravitas" (PDF). Dorsky Gallery. Dorsky Gallery. 2008. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "Susan York Resume". Susan York. Susan York. 2012.
- "Alumni: Susan York". sundaymorning.ekwc. sundaymorning.ekwc. 1997. Retrieved 27 June 2016.