Happy Birthday Sculptor Seymour Lipton (1903-1986)
by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) Today is the birthday of sculptor Seymour Lipton, born in New York in 1903, and best known in Jewish contexts for his expressive metal menorahs and other sanctuary fittings in modernist synagogues of the 1950s and 60s. Lipton's fluid yet robust forms were widely emulated by other artists and his type of Jewish modernism later influenced the work popular ceramicist and design guru Jonathan Adler. In the 1950s Lipton was one of the leading American sculptors with works owned by more than 150 museums. in 1958 his works filled the United States Pavilion at theVenice Biennale.
The work of Lipton, like fellow that of abstract expressionist sculptors Ibram Lassaw and Herbert Ferber, was frequently included in synagogues designed by Percival Goodman. Lipton was a self-taught sculptor (And like Ferber, Lipton got a degree in dentistry before turning to sculpture) He died in 1986.
According to the webpage of the Phillips Collection, which hosted a Lipton exhibition in 1964: :
"Although interested in art and aesthetics at an early age, Lipton decided to train as a dental surgeon, completing his degree at Columbia University in 1927. Soon, however, he began experimenting with sculpture, mainly in wood. His works were first exhibited in 1933–1934 a group show at the John Reed Club in New York; his first one-person show was held at New York's A.C.A. Gallery in 1938.
In the mid-1940s Lipton began using metal because of its greater flexibility. He taught at the Cooper Union from 1942–1944 and the New School for Social Research from 1940 to 1965. During this time he was represented by a sequence of important New York galleries. He began to receive major corporate commissions, including sculpture for the Inland Steel Company Building in Chicago (1957) and the IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York (1961–1962).Lipton's popularity waned as minimalism gained strength, but his work, especially since a 2005 exhibition at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, has gained new appreciation. His abstract works are timeless. They are often very beautiful objects that also challenge the mind. Their fine finish and often folded and twisted forms hint at natural mysteries and sensual pleasures.
Through the medium of metal sculpture, Lipton endeavored to portray the inner complexities of the human psyche through shapes that enclose and oppose each other, interrelating convex and concave, solid and hollowed forms. Although his imagery was often based on visual stimuli, his expressive abstractions were never literal translations of the visible world. He altered and arranged shapes to create sculptures symbolizing intangible, universal concepts absorbed from sociology, psychology, and myth.