Herbert Ferber 1906 —1991


'Herbert Ferber enjoys a privileged position as one of the few surviving members of the inner circle of artists who revolutionized the art of the twentieth century-the abstract expressionist or New York school. In his welded metal forms, an interplay of sweeping planes and mobile spaces are held in vital tension.'  Written before his death in 1991.

Sculptor Herbert Ferber was born in New York City in 1906 with the name of Herbert Ferber Silvers. His love of literature sparked his artistic talents, beginning with an interest in the history of art, which inspired him to go to museums in New York City as much as he could in the late 20s.

From college he went on to dental school, and it was there when he had to make anatomical drawings that he discovered he had a talent for naturalistic drawing. Ferber was encouraged by a teacher in dentistry, who was a collector of work by Abraham Walkowitz, to carry on with art as an "extra-dental interest."

After a year of dental school, he began to attend the Beaux Art Institute of Design, which was distantly affiliated with the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. Ferber attended at night from 1927 to 1930, working first from plaster casts and then from the model, while going to art galleries. During those years, he also traveled in Europe, where he was introduced to sculpture of Ernst Barlach and German Expressionism.

In 1930 he became a dentist. Shortly thereafter, he made his first wood and stone carvings, combining solid masses with blunt contours, as in "To Fight Again," 1936-37, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.  At the time, his subject matter was symbolic yet realistic.

In 1940, however, he began to make wood pieces by gluing and fastening with dowels, and through the mid-1940s, under the influence of European sculptors,  Ossip Zadkine and Henry Moore, his forms grew more slender and open. Images of reclining women, for instance, became curved and bent arabesques in space.

After experimenting with soldered metal (by 1945) and the blowtorch (in 1949), Ferber evolved his style to include jagged forms that broke the once-flowing outlines of his earlier pieces. Created in the surroundings of Surrealism, the new sculptures were among the earliest Abstract Expressionist sculptural pieces then being made. Examples are "Labors of Hercules," 1948, New York University and "Portrait of Jackson Pollock," 1949,  Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City.

The new pieces, abstracted from nature, appeared to some viewers as threatening with hooks, spikes, knobs and projections. They either sprawled around an implied center or lifted up vertically from their bases.

After receiving a commission for the façade sculpture of the B'nai Israel Synagogue, Millburn, New Jersey in 1950-52 one of several religious commissions he was granted Ferber began to eliminate the sculptural base. Exploring this idea in both freestanding and hanging works, in 1954 he came upon the idea of "roofed sculpture," in which parts were raised from a flat base and hung from an attached ceiling, as in "Sundial," 1956, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

By 1958, these pieces had been enlarged to architectural scale. Known as Environmental Art, they did not create voids and spaces within themselves as much as help define the space of the entire environment. One such piece is installed in the Art Gallery of Rutgers University where he had been a visiting professor. Through the 1960s, he explored related ideas using relatively thin rods of sculpture to envelop spaces. Some of these were made from Corten steel.

Books and museum catalogues about Herbert Ferber include:

Dorothy Miller  1950 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Sculpture, Watercolors and Drawings   15 Americans The Museum of Modern Art  1952   Catalogue from an exhibition of American art, including works by: William Baziotes, Edward Corbett, Edwin Dickinson, Herbert Ferber, Joseph Glasco, Herbert Katzman, Frederick Kiesler, Irving Kriesberg, Richard Lippold, Jackson Pollock, Herman Rose, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Bradley Walker Tomlin, and Thomas Wilfred.

Goossen, E.C. & Goldwater, R. & Sandler, I  Ferber, Hare, Lassaw, Three American Sculptors  Grove Press, Inc. NY, 1959

Bauer, John  Whitney Museum of American Art  March 10 - April 21 1961  A Sculpture By Herbert Ferber to Create an Environment.

Etats-Unis Sculptures du XXe Siecle   Paris: Les Presses Artistiques, 1965  An exhibition at the Musee Rodin  Leonard Baskin, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Joseph Cornell, Herbert Ferber, John B. Flannagan, Dimitri Hadzi, Raoul Hague, Frederic Kiesler, Gaston Lachaise, Ibram Lassaw, Seymour Lipton, Robert Mallary, Escobar Marisol, Elie Nadelman, Reuben Nakian, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Thure Oldenburg, George Rickey, Jose de Rivera, James Rosati, George Segal, David Smith, George Spaventa, Richard Stankiewicz, Mark di Suvero, Wilfrid Zogbaum, William Zorach, Alexander Calder, Mary Callery, Claire Falkenstein, David V. Hayes, Caroline Lee, Ralph Stackpole

Artforum Vol IX, No. 8, April 1971 (an interview with Herbert Ferber)

Fitzimmons, James  Art International Incorporating Art Spectrum (Herbert Ferber's Sculpt In The Seventies) Vol.20, No.2-3; February-March, 1976  Lugano, Switzerland: James Fitsimmons, 1976, Lugano, Switzerland

  Goossen, E. C. Herbert Ferber  New York: Abbeville Press, (1981).

Agee, William  Herbert Ferber Sculpture, Painting, Drawing: 1945 - 1980  Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 1983  

Tuchman, Phyllis  Herbert Ferber, Sculpture & Drawings 1932-1983  The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield MA  1984

Dreispoon, Doug  Between Transcence and Brutality: American Sculptural Drawings from the 1940

S and 1950's   Tampa, FL: Tampa Museum of Art, Jan. 30 to Apr. 3, 1994, two other locations Includes an introduction and essays with notes and an exhibition checklist for each of the following sculptors: David Smith (16 drawings), Dorothy Dehner (19 drawings), Herbert Ferber (22 drawings & 3 sculptures), Theodore Roszak (16 drawings & 4 sculptures), Isamu Noguchi (22 drawings), Louise Bourgeois (22 drawings), and Seymour Lipton (22 drawings & 4 sculptures). Also includes a chronology and bibliography for each.

Polkari, Stephen  From Omaha to Abstract Expressionism American Artists Respond to World War.  Exhibition November 10 - December 14, 1995, Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College 1995.  Paintings, drawings sculptureand posters, most from 1944 or later. The artists include Kerr Eby, Joseph Hirsch, Bill Mauldin, Thomas Hart Benton, Ben Shahn, Benton Spruance, William Baziotes, Herbert Ferber, Adolph Gottlieb, Seymour Lipton and David Smith.

Museums with Herbert Ferber works in their permanent collection include the Albright Knox Art Gallery;  Boca Raton Museum of Art; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford; Dallas Museum of Art;  National Gallery of Art; Neuberger Museum of Art; Newark Museum; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis; ;   Whitney Museum of American Art; and  Yale University Art Gallery .

An important source for modern and contemporary American & European Art in East Hampton, New York & worldwide, Janet Lehr Fine Arts' spectacular wide-ranging inventory consists of unique paintings, drawings, large & small scale sculpture, monotypes, prints and photographs  by Ansel Adams, Milton Avery, Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Fernando Botero, Cartier-Bresson, Marc Chagall, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Willem De Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, David Hockney, Winslow Homer, Wolf Kahn, Jeff Koons, Fernand Leger, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Thomas Moran, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Cindy Sherman, Charles Sheeler, Bert Stern, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, Carleton E Watkins, Tom Wesselmann and Andrew Wyeth.

To bookmark Janet Lehr Fine Arts Gallery website: http://www.janetlehrfinearts.com

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