Ursula von Rydingsvard
|Ursula von Rydingsvard|
von Rydingsvard in her Brooklyn studio, 1997
July 26, 1942|
Deensen, Lower Saxony, Nazi Germany
|Elected||Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters|
Ursula von Rydingsvard is a contemporary artist who creates distinctive, often large scale sculptures of wood, bronze, and other materials that are installed and exhibited globally in museums, galleries, sculpture parks, and public spaces. Often beginning with milled cedar, not unlike a “blank canvas,” she dips into an arena of the psychological and emotional. von Rydingsvard explains this approach: "If I were to say how it is that I break the convention of sculpture (and I'm not sure that's what I do or even if that's what I want to do), it would be by climbing into the work in a way that’s highly personal, that I can claim as being mine. The more mine it is, the more I’m able to break the convention." Through close observation and with poetic urgency, she creates abstract forms that invoke the body, landscape, language, vernacular architecture, spoons, shovels, and other common artifacts.
Her sculpture has features of the hands and mind of a seasoned builder, as well as a sophisticated artist. The work emerges from contradictory processes of labor – destructive and constructive, fractured and mended, decomposed and recomposed. von Rydingsvard’s work is a space where compelling contemporary ideas and searing memories coexist. She cuts away at the surfaces of cedar beams unleashing and discovering a deep, natural character. These nearly broken elements are arranged and bonded together in evocative forms. The processes of doing, undoing, and redoing over extended periods of time reenacts the slow, often painful emergence of palpable ideas through memory and speculation.
At once familiar and enigmatic, her energetic and restive forms have established a particular and defining presence in the contemporary art world. Her studio is in Brooklyn, New York and she lives in New York City.
Early life and education
Born in Deensen, Germany in 1942 to a Polish mother and Ukrainian father, as a young child the artist and her six siblings experienced the German occupation of Poland and the trauma of World War II, followed by five years in eight different German refugee camps for displaced Poles. In 1959, through the U.S. Marshall Plan and with the assistance of Catholic agencies, her family of peasant farmers boarded a ship to the United States where they eventually settled in Plainville, Connecticut. She received a BA and MA from University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida in 1965 and an MFA from Columbia University in New York City in 1975.
Major permanent commissions of her work are on view at the Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA; Storm King Art Center, New York; the Bloomberg Building, New York; the Queens Family Courthouse, New York; the Nelson-Atkins, Kansas City, and the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York. Mad. Sq. Art: Ursula von Rydingsvard was the outdoor solo exhibition presented at Madison Square Park in 2006.
In 2008, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters along with being featured in Art:21 Art in the Twenty-First Century on PBS. A monograph on her work titled The Sculpture of Ursula von Rydingsvard was published by Hudson Hills Press in 1996 and in 2011 Prestel published Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working. In 2014-2015 Ursula von Rydingsvard had her first British show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (West Yorkshire, UK), her most extensive exhibition to date. The exhibition was accompanied by the Ursula von Rydingsvard 2014 Catalogue, a major publication featuring text by Molly Donovan, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
The artist is represented by Galerie Lelong, New York.
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
- Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT
- Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
- Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland
- Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
- The Contemporary Austin, Austin, TX
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR
- De Cordova Sculpture Park + Museum, Lincoln, MA
- Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
- High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
- Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, NH
- Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
- Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
- Museum of Modern Art New York, NY
- National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO
- North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
- Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL
- San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA
- Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
- Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY
- Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA
- Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
- Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina
- Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- Williams College, Williamstown, MA
- Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
- 2018 “Now, She,” Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 2018 “The Contour of Feeling,” The Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 2015 “Ursula von Rydingsvard,” la Biennale di Venezia, Giardino della Marinaressa, Venice, Italy
- 2014 “Ursula von Rydingsvard,” Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, England
- 2011-12 “Ursula von Rydingsvard: Sculpture 1991-2009,” SculptureCenter, Queens, New York; traveled to deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio; and to Frost Art Museum, Miami, Florida
- 2006 “Mad. Sq. Art: Ursula von Rydingsvard,” Mad Sq Art at Madison Square Park, New York, NY
- 1992-4 Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY (Ten-year retrospective)
Awards and grants
- Visionary Woman Honors Award, Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, PA, 2017 
- Lifetime Achievement Award, International Sculpture Center, Hamilton, NJ, 2014
- Honoree, Storm King Art Center Annual Gala, New York, NY, 2012
- Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, 2011
- Best Show in a Non-Profit Gallery or Space, American Section of the International Association of Art Critics, 2011
- Rappaport Prize, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA, 2008
- Order of the Cross, Polish Consulate, New York, 2008
- Mary Miss Resident in Visual Arts, American Academy in Rome, Italy, 2007
- 2nd prize, Best Show in a Commercial Gallery, American Section of the International Association of Art Critics, 2000
- Academy Award in Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, 1994
- Best Small Museum Exhibition, American Section of the International Association of Art Critics, 1992
- Honorary Doctorate, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD, 1991
- Individual Artists Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., 1986
- Athena Foundation Grant, Long Island City, NY, 1983
- Guggenheim Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, New York, NY, 1983
- Individual Artists Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., 1979
- Individual Artists Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., 1978
- Fulbright-Hayes Travel Grant, Washington, D.C., 1975
- "PBS: Art 21".
- Michel, Karen (April 28, 2013). "When Sculpting Cedar, This Artist Is Tireless And Unsentimental".
- Phillips, Patricia (2011). Ursula von Rydingsvard, Working. New York: Prestel Publishing. pp. 27–31.
- "Visionary Woman Honors Award".
- Galerie Lelong site - for images and artist's CV
- Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips from PBS series Art:21 -- Art in the Twenty-First Century - Season 4 (2007).
- Ursula von Rydingsvard at Madison Square Park, New York
- Ursula von Rydingsvard in Sculpture Magazine: A Conversation with Steven Oliver
- Ursula von Rydingsvard in Works & Conversations
- Ursula von Rydingsvard at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
- Ursula von Rydingsvard in Frieze Magazine: At The Height of Her Career
- Ursula von Rydingsvard in The Philadelphia Inquirer