Richard Hunt Flight Forms (2001)
Bronze Casting 17.0 x 14.0 x 11.0
University Club of Chicago

Flightforms 02

Born in Chicago in 1935, Hunt developed an interest in art from an early age. From seventh grade on he attended the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He went on to study there at the college level, receiving a B.A.E. in 1957.  A traveling fellowship from the School of the Art Institute took him to England, France, Spain and Italy the following year.
While still a student at SAIC, he began exhibiting his sculpture nationwide and during his Junior year one of his pieces, “Arachne,” was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In 1962, he was the youngest artist to exhibit at Seattle’s World Fair.In 1967, Hunt’s career in sculpture began to take him outside the studio with his first large scale public sculpture commission, “Play” (the first sculpture commissioned by the State of Illinois’ Public Art Program). This piece marked the beginning of what Hunt refers to as “his second career,” a career that gave him the opportunity to work on sculpture that responded to the specifics of architectural or other designed spaces and the dynamics of diverse communities and interests.

Since that time he has created over one hundred and fifty commissioned works. Many of them are in the Chicago area. Among them are “Jacob’s Ladder” at the Carter G. Woodson Library at 9525 S Halsted, “Freeform” on the exterior facade of the State of Illinois Center at 160 N LaSalle, “Flight Forms” at Midway Airport on the corner of 59th and Cicero, and “We Will” at the Heritage building on the corner of Randolph and Garland Court. Hunt has received accolades and recognition throughout his career and was the first African-American sculptor to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

His work can be found in numerous museums as well as both public and private collections, including the Art institute of Chicago, the National Gallery and National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In 1968 he was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as one of the first artists to serve on the National Council on the Arts, the governing board of the National Endowment for the Arts.

He has received many fellowships, prizes and awards and holds fifteen honorary degrees from universities all over the country. In 2009, Hunt was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center.

This self-effacing quote from Richard Hunt sums up his down-to- earth style but masks the fact that he is an artist of supreme talent, skill and insight, who has been inspired by the great artists of the ages and received honors and awards to numerous to mention. 

For more than three decades Richard Hunt's status as the foremost African-American abstract sculptor and artist of public sculpture has remained unchallenged. Executed in welded and cast steel, aluminum, copper, and bronze, Hunt's abstract creations make frequent references to plant, human, and animal forms. Hunt prefers to be called a "Midwestern sculptor" and is one of the few well known African-American sculptors who still resides and works in his hometown.

Hunt was born on September 12, 1935, the younger of two children of Howard and Inez Henderson Hunt, a barber and a librarian respectively who lived on Chicago's predominantly black South Side. Both of Hunt's parents provided invaluable influences during his childhood. He acquired an early interest in politics from conversations he overheard while working in his father's barbershop. His mother instilled in him a love of reading and classical music, and took him to local black opera companies.

Hunt is credited with a having more public sculptures than any other living sculptor. He doesn’t claim this honor but others would argue it is true. More than thirty examples of Hunt's sculptures are located in and around Chicago's libraries, community centers, universities, apartment houses, and office buildings. An equal number may be seen elsewhere in the Midwest, South, New York, and Washington, D.C. Hunt's early works of the 1950s were more figural than the later examples, and frequently reflected classical themes. During the 1960s and early 1970s Hunt used automobile junkyards as his quarries, and transformed cast-off automobile bumpers and fenders into elegant abstract welded sculptures.

The artist’s mature style often celebrates a soaring swirl of abstracted forms such as seen in the University Club work, Flight Forms. This is, in fact, the first of several scale models (called a maquette, in this case created at a scale of ½” to 1’ of the finished work) the artist created in preparation for his monumental sculpture of the same name that graces the City’s Midway Airport. Sometimes Hunt will create a model by welding bits and pieces together however the Club’s work is a solid bronze casting.

In another quote the artist deftly sums up his artistic philosophy: “In some works it is my intention to develop the kind of forms Nature might create if only heat and steel were available to her.”

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