“Bryan Hunt’s sculptures wear a classic mien, an air both individual and archetypal,” Mac McCloud wrote in Artweek in 1988. “Their esoteric and selective sources point them toward a sophisticated and complex realm of interacting signals and radical shifts of focus. Perhaps, indeed, he may be one of those who is leading the way.”
Bryan Hunt was born in 1947 in Terre Haute, Indiana. He studied architecture in Florida and went on to earn a BFA at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1971. In 1972 he moved to New York to participate in the Whitney Independent Study Program. In the early 1970s Hunt was making gallery-scale models of iconic structures like the Great Wall of China, the Hoover Dam, and the mythical Tower of Babel. This was a time, according to critic Steven Westfall, when some artists were trying to carve out artistic territory between minimalism and a reawakening of desire for imagery. In 1974 Hunt built a sculpture, Empire State Building, that featured a scale model of the famous building with a dirigible moored to its antennae. The technique was unusual—balsa wood covered with silk and metal leaf. He went on to build many fragile airships, some anchored to the wall only by the skins of their noses, seeming as if they had accidentally floated into the gallery and kissed the wall.
Between 1978 and 1979, Hunt made the first of the sculptures for which he is best known: abstracted waterfalls in bronze, twisting and pouring as waterfalls do, but without supporting rocks. The stripped falls are epic—the bronze is allowed to rush and pour like water—and at the same time seem embarrassingly naked without banks to hold them up. Steven Westfall wrote in Art in America in 1989 that Hunt is “constantly renegotiating an uneasy truce between a traditional esthetic of monumental grandeur and a deflating sense of irony.”
Hunt started showing in New York in the mid-1970s and was represented by the Blum Helman Gallery for many years. In 1980 he represented the United States in the Venice Biennale and in 1981 was included in the Whitney Biennial. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Wilhem-Lehmbruck Museum in Duisberg, Germany, in 1987, and at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum in Ithaca, New York, in 1988. In 2006 he joined the Danese Gallery, New York, where he is still represented.
Bryan Hunt produced portfolios of etchings with Crown Point Press in 1992 and 1999. In a San Francisco Bay Guardian review in 1999, Sarah Coleman wrote, “Hunt has said that his aim is to express ‘the energy that surrounds a mass,’ and his dynamic, forceful etchings prove he is equal to the task.”
Hunt’s work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He lives and works in New York.
-Kim Bennett, Crown Point Press