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 George Spaventa  (1918 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: abstract figurative sculpture, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
George Spaventa
from Auction House Records.
The Artist and His Studio
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography, written and published with permission by Alexis Cairns, was submitted by Jeff Gold, of J. Gold Fine Art.

"George...was a man of eloquent silences. His work breathes with the eloquence of his muteness." (Elaine de Kooning, 1978)

George Spaventa was a thoughtful, somewhat reclusive artist who claimed that the ideas for his sculpture came to him in dreams. He was born in New York City in 1918, where he studied as a teenager at the Leonardo Da Vinci Art School.  After  serving in the military during World War II, Spaventa studied art in Paris on the G.I. Bill.  There, he worked with Ossip Zadkine, visited Brancusi in his studio, and had the good fortune of meeting Giacometti, one of his great  influences.

Spaventa's work was small, intimate, molded by hand in clay or wax and later cast in bronze. Besides Giacometti, his influences included Medardo Rosso and David Smith.  In a 1964 Art News review of Spaventa's first and only New York solo show during his lifetime, his good friend, the poet Frank O'Hara, described his work: "In Spaventa, the emphasis is on the hand, and handling. With the single exception of Nakian, it is difficult to think of an American sculptor who has insisted more upon the imprint of his finger, thumb, wrist and arm. Sensitivity to the material is there, but first and foremost the material itself is required to be capable of sensitivity to Spaventa."

He was a methodical worker, not particularly prolific, and it wasn't until he was in his mid-forties that he had his first solo show, the first of just two.  His work was exhibited in a number of group shows, however, in the 50s and 60s, including the Annual Exhibition 1962 at the Whitney Museum, and an exhibition entitled, "Four American Sculptors", which also included Peter Agostini.

Spaventa was especially well liked and admired by many sculptors and painters of his time. He was particularly associated with a group of artists who worked on Tenth Street in New York City, and developed what came to be identified as the "Tenth Street Style." They included, among others, Milton Resnick, Earl Kerkam, Franz Kline, Peter Agostini, and Willem de Kooning, with whom Spaventa was sometimes compared, and who once said about him, "When I look at George's sculptures, I wish I had made them myself."

Spaventa was one of the founding faculty members of the New York Studio School, where he taught until he died.  Students remember him perpetually encircled by a cloud of smoke, ashes dropping from the lit cigarette in his mouth onto the clay as he rearranged their pieces with crushing movements and inarticulate grunts....

Despite the public nature of his teaching life, Spaventa spent much of his time alone, in a life dedicated to art. He died of a heart attack in his studio in 1978. His work has been shown just twice since his death.

Jeff Gold adds: "Although little remembered today, Spaventa lived and worked with those now regarded at the forefront of the abstract expressionist movement, spending significant time in the Hamptons (and on Tenth Street NYC) working among them.  He was highly regarded during his lifetime, and his influence on future generations of sculptures is well documents.  In 1980, The Gruenebaum Gallery in New York held a retrospective of his work, and in 2006, The Cantor  Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College featured his work in The exhibition entitled 'Five Sculptors: Peter Agostini, Christopher Cairns, Bruce Gagnier, Jonathan Silver, and George Spaventa'."

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