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Prominent American sculptor, Beverly Pepper (1922-2019) was known for her work in welded steel, including monumental, site-specific, and land art. Working independently of any specific movement, Pepper lived in an ancient castle in Todi, Perugia, Italy, where she cast her sculptures in a nearby factory. Major site-specific works by Pepper are located in New York; Trenton, New Jersey; Kansas City, Kansas; Minneapolis; Dallas, Texas; Sacramento, California; Denver, Colorado; and Dartmouth, New Hampshire. Her work has been installed in New York and Italy, and other locations in the United States and abroad.
Pepper entered Pratt Institute when she was sixteen, intending to study advertising design, photography, and industrial design. After working as a commercial art director, she attended the Art Students League and in 1948 left for Europe to further her art studies. After marrying author-journalist Bill Pepper, she traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. After seeing Khmer carvings, she turned to sculpture forming works out of olive, elm, and mimosa trees that had fallen in her garden in Rome. As an apprentice to an ironmonger, she began to create geometric sculptural forms. David Smith, who was working in nearby Voltri, encouraged Pepper, and she began working in her true artistic medium in the late 1950s. By 1962, she submitted a welded sculpture to an outdoor sculpture exhibition in the town of Spoleto, Italy, along with Smith and Alexander Calder.
In the 1970s, Pepper developed the concept of “Earthbound Sculptures,” comprised of sculptures that seem to be born in and rise up from the earth. By then she had returned to New York and was producing sculptures in Cor-ten steel. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pepper continued to combine nature with industrial materials, exploring themes of genesis and continuity. Her work reflects a tension between the cold forms of steel and a mysterious inner quality. Pepper has received many commissions for earthworks and environmental projects, in which the landforms as well as the usage of the land are taken into consideration.
Pepper’s commissions and her numerous works in museum collections attest to her placement amongst the late 20th century master sculptors.