At 98 years of age, Woodstock artist Manuel Bromberg continues his life’s work. He is a painter, sculptor, and influential teacher whose distinguished career spans three quarters of a century. From New Deal muralist to decorated World War II artist, from award-winning painter to pioneering creator of monumental cliffs, Bromberg has been unswervingly loyal to his own sensibilities. He is an original participant in what has come to be known as the Woodstock Art Colony, the term used to describe artists who, working in a combination of realist American Regionalism and/or European-based abstraction, settled in Woodstock in the wake of the establishment of the Byrdcliffe Art Colony, the Maverick Colony, and the summer school of the Art Students’ League. But Bromberg defies category or the restraints of a single style. Manuel Bromberg: Cliff Sculptures brings together a focused scope of the artist’s fiberglass cliffs produced between 1968 and 2010, examining his innovative idea of reimagining the scale and weight of rock formations in nature.
In 1967, demonstrating an early interest in environmental issues and the continuity of art’s relationship to nature, Bromberg developed the concept—indeed a significant sculptural problem—of casting cliff faces. His search for an interesting rock face to cast took him throughout the Hudson Valley. He spoke to road crews and hunters, and chased down any lead until he found his site, a 45-foot high wall, in Catskill, New York.
Ivan Karp, owner of OK Harris Gallery and dealer for Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg, championed and debuted Bromberg’s cliff sculptures in 1968, the earliest cliff measuring 22 feet high. The cliff sculptures replicate the natural world in such fine detail that Peter Schjedahl of the New York Times declared them “huge, astoundingly realistic.” William Seitz, Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote in response to the impact and originality of Bromberg’s cliff face: “During a period when nature is being raped and polluted, when our cybernetic buildings make us forget its existence, how admirable it is that one sculptor was moved, and had the skill, ruggedness and determination, to recreate a huge fragment of nature’s randomness and structure and present it before us for meditation and rejuvenation. Such audacity, one feels, would have delighted the souls of William Cullen Bryant and Thomas Cole.”
Bromberg’s cliff sculptures are in the permanent collections of Storm King Art Center, Hankone Sculpture Museum in Tokyo, Princeton University Art Museum, The State University of New York at New Paltz, as well as in many private collections. The solo exhibition at the Kleinert/James will include a combination of wall-mounted and free-standing sculpture.
The exhibition is curated by Portia Munson and Jared Handelsman, also visual artists who have created projects engaging the natural environment. Munson and Handelsman will join Mr. Bromberg for an artist’s talk at the Kleinert/James at 3:00 pm on Saturday, May 2. An opening reception for the exhibition will follow from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.