Ursula von Rydingsvard

Ursula von Rydingsvard, The Contour of Feeling, 2018.
Ursula von Rydingsvard, Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling at The Fabric Workshop and Museum (exhibition view), 2018. Courtesy Ursula von Rydingsvard and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

Celebrated as one of the most influential sculptors working today, Ursula von Rydingsvard is best known for the monumental works she makes out of thousands of four-by-four cedar beams. The artist’s work is not overtly autobiographical but is permeated by her life experiences. She was born in 1942 in Germany to Polish and Ukrainian parents; peasant farmers who worked in forced labor under the Nazis during WWII before moving to the United States in 1950. The materials, recurring patterns, and titles of von Rydingsvard’s works often evoke this history and her rural and cultural heritage.

While cedar has long remained the artist’s medium of choice, a 1989 residency at FWM allowed von Rydingsvard to integrate a new material—tube and cuplike felted forms—into her wooden works. This resulted in her first FWM exhibition, Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working with Felt and Cedar (1990). Following the show, the artist’s new work, Felt Cup Board (1989), entered FWM’s permanent collection.

In 2015 von Rydingsvard returned for another collaboration with FWM, this time resulting in a sculpture characteristically monumental in scale but made from an unexpected material. PODERWAĆ is an eleven-foot-tall leather jacket constructed from 193 jackets found at flea markets and thrift stores. With FWM’s studio staff meticulously sewing the leather, von Rydingsvard was able to explore the material through an intuitive creation process echoing that of her cedar works. She outlined a template with tape on her studio floor and composited the deconstructed jackets, section by section. PODERWAĆ debuted in Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling, the 2018 exhibition guest-curated by Mark Rosenthal, which focused on von Rydingsvard’s artistic development since 2000.

Artist Bio

Ursula von Rydingsvard (American, born Germany 1942)

Ursula von Rydingsvard has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions internationally, including the traveling exhibition Ursula von Rydingsvard: 1991-2001 organized by the SculptureCenter, New York, and her 2015 presentation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England. Her work is part of over thirty museum collections, including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York; and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Her sculptures are in such collections as the Microsoft Corporation, Bloomberg Corporation, and Barclays Center. In 2015, Princeton University permanently installed her first monumental work in hand-pounded copper. She has received honors including the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, three awards from the American section of the International Association of Art Critics, the International Sculpture Center Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The artist lives and works in New York.