Richard Hunt (b. 1935, USA) is one of the most accomplished American metal sculptors of the past century. His work has been exhibited 12 times at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, including a solo retrospective in 1971, when the artist was only 35 years old. Titled The Sculpture of Richard Hunt, March 25–July 9, 1971, this was only the third solo exhibition for a black artist in the history of MoMA. (The first was Sculpture by William Edmondson, October 20–December 1, 1937, and the second was Paintings by Jacob Lawrence, October 10–November 5, 1944.)
One of the elements of his work that so resonates with admirers is the way Hunt blends natural and architectonic forms. This is an outgrowth of Hunt’s mixture of urban upbringing with his family’s rural roots in the south and midwest. His father emigrated north during the Great Migration, which saw the movement of six million African Americans out of the southern United States beginning in 1916. The migration was largely caused by intolerable life conditions brought about by Jim Crow laws, which lasted roughly from the end of the Civil War until the 1960s. Hunt’s mother was raised in rural Illinois. For brief periods while growing up, Hunt returned to the countryside with his family. Those experiences instilled a deep love of nature in him, and inform many of the natural shapes that he incorporates into his work. His distinctive language of forms combines those natural influences with the architectonic aesthetic of the city.
In the realm of large-scale works, Hunt has established himself as very possibly the most productive public sculptor in the United States. His more than 125 public sculptures grace everything from the grassy sweeps of idyllic public parks to the imposing facades of steel and glass skyscrapers. He has been commissioned by corporations, hospitals, museums, municipalities, universities and athletic organizations. One of his proudest recent accomplishments is the welded bronze sculpture “Swing Low” (2016), which hangs in the lobby of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, the newest Smithsonian institution.