On April 14th Wright presents Structurist: The Art of David Barr, the largest collection of works by the late artist to be publicly offered at auction. This exceptional collection comes directly from the artist’s estate and includes an array of examples from across the spectrum of Barr’s prolific career including reliefs, tabletop sculptures, and more, demonstrating the artist’s seamless melding of art, science and math.
David Barr 1939–2015
Born in Detroit in 1939, Structurist artist David Barr did not express an interest in the arts until college. As a child growing up in the suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, it seemed that he would pursue a more conventional route — Barr’s father was an engineer at Chrysler and his mother worked as a secretary in the public library. Following in his father’s footsteps, Barr enrolled at Wayne State University to study engineering but felt like an outsider among the other students. When a friend introduced him to the fine arts college Barr decided to change paths and focus his studies on sculpture and industrial design.
Born in Detroit in 1939, Structurist artist David Barr did not express an interest in the arts until college. As a child growing up in the suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, it seemed that he would pursue a more conventional route – Barr’s father was an engineer at Chrysler and his mother worked as a secretary in the public library. Following in his father’s footsteps, Barr enrolled at Wayne State University to study engineering but felt like an outsider among the other students. When a friend introduced him to the fine arts college Barr decided to change paths and focus his studies on sculpture and industrial design.
At Wayne State, Barr incorporated materials and concepts found in the engineering trades into full-scale sculptures and reliefs. Combining mathematics, nature and Structurist principles, Barr began to define the visual vocabulary which he would continue to use throughout his career. He graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in 1965 and later that same year, Barr accepted an associate professor position at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan which he would hold for thirty-seven years.
In 1979, interested in the connective power of art, Barr began to formulate ideas for a conceptual sculpture spanning the globe. The Four Corners Project, completed in 1981, consisted of an invisible tetrahedron under the earth’s crust with four protruding corners located on Easter Island, South Africa, New Guinea and Greenland. At each corner, he installed a pinnacle of marble to mark the intersecting planes.
Barr was awarded the Governor’s Michigan Artist Award in 1988, and during his acceptance speech he announced his plans for a public sculpture park. In 1995 Barr realized his dream of creating an outdoor sanctuary for artists, poets and naturalists alike when he founded the thirty-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain, southwest of Traverse City in Thompsonville, Michigan. Furthering his commitment to the community, in 2012 he sold his Villa Barr home and surrounding property to the city of Novi, Michigan to be used as a sculpture garden, artist residence and cultural education center.
Throughout his career, Barr completed numerous sculptural commissions at sites around the world including the iconic tribute to the auto industry, Transcending at Hart Plaza in Detroit, a marble monument to astronomer Galileo at Town Hall in Pisa, Italy, and two gear-inspired companion sculptures, Revolution I and II, at the Chrysler European Headquarters in Brussels and the Chrysler World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. His work is housed in various collections and institutions across the United States including the AT&T Corporate Collection, Chicago, the Atlantic-Richfield Company, Los Angeles, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Portland Art Museum and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. David Barr died on August 28th, 2015 leaving behind a legacy committed to public art and a vast body of work.
“In order to translate the organizing processes of nature, I have developed a constructive visual vocabulary of color/form/light/space/time, a metaphor for the shifting relationships that comprise ‘reality’.”
— David Barr
“Color, form, light, space are a creative reality. Awareness, consciousness, memory are my vision through the window.”
— David Barr
Life & Work
David Barr’s exceptionally prolific career spanned over fifty years. Throughout that time he received numerous accolades and honors for his unwavering commitment to the arts and abounding artistic vision.
“This artistic process is not intended to mimic nature’s appearance. It is creation in harmony with nature’s glory.”
— David Barr
Remembering David Barr
By Laurence Booth, FAIA
David Barr was an artist who knew that the i-phone employed the Golden Section as the shape of its screen. He knew that the Golden Section (1:1.62...) was integral with the Fibonacci Series (0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21...) that governs much of Life on Earth. He knew that Art History showed that this mathematical treasure was key to much of great art and he pursued a synthesis of Art, Mathematics, and Life.
David's Energy constantly explored the varieties of relationships between Art, Math, and Life. His reliefs, his steel and stone works, his housebuilding, and his writings connected ideas, numbers, and even color in a logical, thoughtful way. He sought to enrich the world and the lives of those of us who knew him.
He was a trailblazer in many ways, enthusiastically reaching for a grand synthesis in his works. We still have many works of his with us and will continue to appreciate them into the future.
“The constructivists were the first people to use plastics, metals, and different kinds of materials to produce art. That interested me. They were interested in a kind of democracy of art which does continue to interest me, too.”
— David Barr