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Alexander Archipenko

Ukrainian-American Sculptor and Painter

Alexander Archipenko Photo
Movement: Cubism

Born: May 30, 1887 - Kiev, Ukraine

Died: February 25, 1964 - New York, New York

"What Plato said about ideas is true, they are in the air. One can get them everywhere. That is why one finds the same things, similar religions, similar works of art in very distant places. In short, everything exists in the universe. Come, take it if you can."

Alexander Archipenko Signature

Summary of Alexander Archipenko

Alexander Archipenko was a seminal influence in 20th century avant-garde sculpture. He announced himself to the modern art world through a series of small-scale works that were the first to apply Cubist techniques to three-dimensional forms. As his career developed, Archipenko became well known for his experiments in so-called "sculpto-paintings" which, as the name suggests, saw a blending of sculpture and painting. His fascination with the contours of the female form meanwhile reflected not only the influence of Cubism but ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Grecian, and African sculpture too.
Archipenko challenged the homochromatic conventions of marble, bronze and plaster modeling by painting many of his pieces, sculptured from metal, wire wood and glass, in bright colors. He would also eschew carving and moulding in favor of nailing, pasting and string binding (which he made no attempt to conceal). Archipenko also invented his first kinetic work (and forerunner to Kinetic Art) which he called "Archipentura" while later in his career he produced sculptures that were illuminated from within. Archipenko also founded art schools in Paris and Berlin and even joined the New Bauhaus for a period. Indeed, having become a US citizen in the early-to-mid part of the 20th century, he taught in art schools and universities across the country before publishing his book Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years 1908-1958, in 1960.

Key Ideas

Archipenko can be credited with several innovations in modern sculpture chief amongst which was his reassessment of the relationship between dense mass and empty void. The conventions of sculpture had demanded that figures be represented in mass but Archipenko would replace solid volume - such as heads and torsos - with voids.
A close friend and associate of Fernand Léger, Archipenko's early work revealed a direct reference to Cubist painting whose effect he tried to recreate in literal three-dimensions. The mass of his figures were thus represented through faceted geometric planes, and concave and convex shapes, to create abstract forms that offered an affront to the traditional understanding of what sculpture should, and indeed, could, be.
Archipenko's "sculpto-painting" were meant to be hung on walls and the artist would use a wood support in order to create a relief for his figures. His sculpto-paintings gave the immediate impression of a two-dimensional artwork, but when scrutinized more closely, the spectator quickly becomes aware of the sculpture's lifted planes and contours with the relief becoming a key feature of the artwork's effect.
For a medium that was historically monotone, Archipenko would often paint sculptures in vibrant colors. He used color, less for aesthetic harmony but rather to extenuate the abstract structure and to further draw the spectator's attention to his sculptures' non-traditional materials and unconventional presentation.
Alexander Archipenko Life and Legacy

Olexandr Porfyrovych Arkhypenko was born in Kiev, Ukraine to Porfiry Antonowitsch and Poroskowia Wassiliewna Machowa. His father was an inventor and professor of engineering at the University of Kiev. His father's invention, a furnace that purified noxious factory fumes, provided financial security for the family and instilled in Archipenko the idea that the "artist's most precious faculty is invention." As a child in Kiev, he grew up looking at the images of Byzantine culture, including the painted icons and murals produced by his grandfather.

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