Richard Hunt is a preeminent American sculptor at the apex of a prolific and successful career. His work includes gallery-scale sculptures displayed and collected by major museums, and over 100 large-scale public art commissions created for American cities, campuses, and corporations. This body of work is immediately recognizable by Hunt’s evocative forms which fuse the man-made with the natural, melding the gritty muscularity of American industrial-urban environments with a passion for natural and biomorphic forms and biology. In source and in content they bridge European Modernism with the art of African blacksmiths and integrate ancient mythology with African-American literary and musical traditions. Potent from such broad and diverse sources, the sculptures resonate with multiple layers of meaning, giving voice to America’s unique hybridized cultural experience.
Born in Chicago in 1935, Hunt developed an interest in art from an early age. After attending the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago he went on to study there at the college level, receiving his B.A.E. in 1957. He also studied at Chicago Teachers College, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago. While still a student at SAIC, he began exhibiting his sculpture nationwide and during his Junior year, one of his pieces, Arachne, was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1962, he was the youngest artist to exhibit at Seattle’s World Fair.
In 1967, Hunt’s career in sculpture began to take him outside the studio with his first large scale public sculpture commission, Play. This piece marked the beginning of what Hunt refers to as his second career, a career that gave him the opportunity to work on sculpture that responded to the specifics of architectural or other designed spaces and the dynamics of diverse communities and interests.
Hunt has continued to experiment throughout his successful career. He employs a wide range of sculptural techniques and materials, including stainless steel, bronze, corten steel, and aluminum. Most famous for his abstract works, they often suggest recognizable human and natural forms. He also comments in some works on contemporary social and political issues.
Hunt has received accolades and recognition throughout his career and was the first African-American sculptor to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He continues to exhibit internationally and his work can be found in numerous museums as well as both public and private collections, including the Art institute of Chicago, the National Gallery and National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as one of the first artists to serve on the governing board of the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received the Guggenheim, Ford, and Tamarind fellowships as well as awards from the Art Institute of Chicago. Hunt holds fourteen honorary degrees from universities all over the country. In 2009, Hunt was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center.
Hunt’s art is the product of transformation, improvisation, and regeneration firmly rooted in multiple histories and traditions, and always moving forward in positive ways.