Ursula Meyer: Euclidean Geometries - 1960s Sculpture and Drawings

Ursula Meyer
Euclidean Geometries: 1960s Sculpture and Drawings

The Art Gallery of The Graduate Center The City University of New York

"Almost all of my sculptures relate in one way or another to the square, ergo the cube. For me the square is the most beautiful man-made form, lending itself to an endless wealth of ideas.” —Ursula Meyer (1915-2003)

Ursula Meyer was born in Hanover, Germany in 1915. From 1934-1937 the young artist studied with former Bauhaus masters after the Bauhaus itself had closed under the threat of National Socialism. Meyer then left Germany to study at the Reggia Scuola in Faenza, Italy, and eventually emigrated to the U.S. to finish her BA at the New School in 1960 and complete an MA at Columbia in 1962. She became a professor of sculpture at Hunter College, CUNY in 1963 and later taught at Lehman College, CUNY from 1968-1980. An art critic as well as an artist, Meyer was well-known for her book Conceptual Art (New York: Dutton, 1972), which surveyed important conceptual artists of the time.

Meyer's work in this exhibition encompasses The Graduate Center's own collection of her ceramic, metal and wood sculptures from the 1960s, supplemented by drawings of the same time period generously loaned by The Ursula Meyer Art Conservancy. Meyer donated the sculptures to the school in the 1970s, seemingly as a kind of farewell to that period of her artistic career. For many years two of her largest untitled Euclidean sculptures stood in the Mall Art Gallery of The Graduate Center's former building on 42nd Street. In the Exhibition Hallway beyond the Mina Rees Library, a display of Meyer's activist posters from the early 1970s, also loaned by The Ursula Meyer Art Conservancy, can be viewed.

Meyer was an artist whose style kept pace with the changing winds of the artistic times. She was highly praised for her work in ceramics while at school in Germany and Italy, and her ceramic pieces from the early 1960s provide an interesting link to her slightly later metal and wood sculptures. Though geometric and abstract, the ceramics appear rough and uneven, with deliberately unfinished, expressive surfaces. In contrast, the metal and wood sculptures incorporate the Minimalist aesthetic of the mid-late 1960s. Their geometric abstraction often uninterrupted by texture or shading, these monochrome works tend to exploit the repetition of geometric forms within a single piece, showcasing Meyer's interest in the square as an artistic form. Pieces like these garnered Meyer's greatest critical acclaim; Homage to Tiny Alice (1967) was included in The Newark Museum’s 1968 show Cool Art: Abstraction Today along with works by notable artists Sol LeWitt and Robert Smithson. Meyer also received notice for her large public sculptures such as the one shown in the gallery’s center, Untitled (1964-8), and another that is still displayed outdoors on the Lehman College campus in the Bronx, where Meyer taught for twelve years.

As is typical for sculptors, Meyer often worked on her artistic ideas in two dimensions as well as three. The drawings here represent various works in the process of creation, while some of the smaller sculptures also seem to have served as maquettes for larger works. Interestingly, many of Meyer’s metal sculptures can be exhibited in different stances, playfully creating a mathematically limited arrangement of different viewing experiences and contributing a conceptual dimension to the works, which have no fixed display position and thus question the notion of a stable, static artwork. Meyer continued to experiment stylistically after her Minimalist period, working in conceptual and expressive modes until her death in 2003.

Submitted on: JUL 13, 2005

Category: James Gallery