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Richard Hunt’s status as the foremost African-American sculptor and artist of public sculpture has remained unchallenged. Vary experienced in welded and cast steel, aluminum, copper, and bronze, Hunt’s abstract creations make frequent references to plant, human, and animal forms. 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.
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. Both of Hunt’s parents provided invaluable influences during his childhood. His mother instilled in him a love of reading and classical music, and took him to local black opera companies. One of his earliest influences was the work of Julio González a spanishSculpture of the Twentieth Century.
Hunt began drawing in his childhood which led him to enrolled in a summer program at the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he went to school to get his training in sculpture under a teacher he loved Nelli Bar. In 1950 Hunt started to set up a studio in his bedroom so he could began to model in clay and small steel sculpture. Within two years Hunt had taught himself to master the welded-metal technique required to make complex sculptures and unique designs. Hunt’s career at the Art Institute was outstanding to say the least. He was awarded the prestigious Logan, Palmer, and Campana prizes, and the James N. He even got the Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship in 1957. Which gave the ability to him to visit England, France, Spain, and Italy. Hunt was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1962, a Cassandra Foundation Fellow in 1970, and a Tamarind Fellow awarded under the auspices of the Ford Foundation in 1965.
In 1969 Hunt became the first African-American sculptor to be honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York which was a hard accomplishment to achieve do to segregation. He has had numerous one-man and group exhibitions, has received a number of honorary degrees, and has served as Visiting Artist and Professor at many schools and universities but most people didn’t believe a black man could make pieces this magnificent. The public sculptures of Richard Hunt undeniably bridge the gap between abstract art and the black experience in America, as is evident in such works as Freedmen’s Column at Howard University and I Have Been to the Mountain, a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, where King was killed.
Hunt chose abstraction at a time when black American artists were expected by a predominantly white art world to focus on figural representations of African American history, struggles, and triumphs. Hunt had many pieces that many people loved but most did not accepted art from an african american. Hunt created open-form works of various sizes, whose long and delicate lines combined with thin metal circles or flat metal planes in an effect that critics have characterized as a kind of drawing in space.Hunt makes monumental sculptures for public spaces, and has works in Washington, D.C., his hometown of Chicago, New York, and as far away as Vienna and Jerusalem. The gracefulness of Hunt’s welded work led to his being credited with bringing sculpture out of its stone age.
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