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Alexander Archipenko (1887-1864)

An energetic teacher and pioneering modernist sculptor of abstract human forms, Alexander Archipenko created one of the first multi-media sculptures, composing it of wood, glass and wire. He experimented continuously with the effects of negative and positive space. He began his career with a Cubist style and then turned to simplified, abstract shapes with hollowed out parts of the bodies, especially where one might expect curves.

His American works include Archipentura, a machine he invented in 1924 that showed paintings in motion.

He was born in Kiev, Russia and studied at the art school in his native Kiev from 1902 to 1905, when he was expelled for criticizing the academic attitudes of his teachers. In 1906 he moved to Moscow and in 1908 to Paris, where he left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts after two weeks' study, again showing his impatience of discipline. Instead, he studied ancient and medieval sculpture in the Louvre, and some of the work of his early years in Paris (mainly female figures) is done in a primitive manner recalling Egyptian art.

In Paris he worked with Amedeo Modigliani and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Around 1910, he was introduced to Cubism by Fernand Leger, whose studio was near his own. As a result of this influence, Archipenko became one of the better-known of the Cubist sculptors creating abstract figures with his principal subjects being variations of 'Torsos in Space.' In works such as the bronze, Walking Woman (Denver Art Museum, 1912), he sculpted the human figure into geometrical forms and opened the figure with concavities and a central hole to create a contrast of solid and void. This approach ushered in a new sculptural idiom. George Heard Hamilton writes that "This is the first instance in modern sculpture of the use of a hole to signify more than a void, in fact the opposite of a void, because by recalling the original volume the hole acquires a shape and structure of its own".

In the same year, with "Medrano I" (destroyed), Archipenko began making sculptures that were assembled from pieces of commonplace materials, paralleling the work of Picasso. Medrano II (Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1913) is made of painted tin, wood, glass and painted oilcloth. (Medrano was the name of a circus in Paris much frequented by artists, and these two figures represented performers there).

Archipenko exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Independants, and in 1912, he and the Duchamp brothers formed a group called Section d'Or, a dissident Cubist group with which he exhibited for several years. That same year, he opened his own art school in Paris and had a one man show in Hagen, Germany. He also exhibited in the Armory Show in New York in 1913 and lived in Nice, France from 1914 to 1918.

In 1921, Archipenko moved to Berlin where he opened another art school, and in 1923 immigrated to the United States and founded the Guild School in New York City as well as other locations including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Woodstock. He became an American citizen, living most of the remainder of his life in New York, but he taught short courses in numerous schools around the country including the Universities of Kansas City, Delaware, Washington, and Oregon. Source: askart.com

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