Pol Bury (Belgian, 1922–2005)
Wood and metal
Diam. 36 in. (91.4 cm)
Gift of Marlene and Jerome Brody, 1981 (1981.167)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
As a young artist, born in Belgium and educated in France, Pol Bury met and was influenced by the Surrealist René Magritte. Bury was working as a painter at the time and began to participate in Surrealist group exhibitions. He abandoned painting in 1952, however, after encountering the work of sculptor Alexander Calder. Calder's mobiles, in particular, made a strong impression on Bury, who would go on to become one of the first practitioners of "kinetic" art in the 1960s. Bury emphasizes movement as an essential element of sculpture, stressing that his works are not complete until they are set into motion. His first kinetic pieces, from the 1950s, were weathervane-like sculptures that were activated by the viewer. In the later '60s, he began working in stainless and Cor-Ten steel, producing monumental balls that spun or rolled, columns that rotated, and planes that tilted, all operated by concealed electrical mechanisms. The movement that he assigned to these sculptures was often a slow, often imperceptible action that did not immediately register in the viewer's eye.
This work is a wall sculpture, consisting of a textured wooden circle with protruding bunches of grass- or hairlike tendrils that are powered by a hidden motor. As in Bury's other sculptures, their unexpected and irregular motion can have an unsettling effect on the beholder. This element of surprise and chance is a legacy of the Surrealist movement, which has never fully ceased to inform the artist's work. Bury has lived and worked in France and the United States and has received a number of large-scale public commissions for locations throughout the world, including projects for the Palais Royal in Paris and the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He has also created a number of fountains that incorporate water as an additional ingredient of movement in his sculpture.