Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964) was the son of an engineer/inventor and grandson of an icon painter. Among the first modern sculptors of the 20th century to be associated with the Cubist movement, Archipenko was known for his innovative use of concave space. His major contribution was the realization of negative form through use of a hole to create a contrast of solid and void. His sculpto-paintings united form and color; begun in 1912, these polychromed constructions are among the earliest mixed-media works known, and sometimes incorporated objects. Eventually, his Cubist-inspired work evolved into the simplified, abstract shapes for which he is best known. Although known primarily as a sculptor, Archipenko produced paintings, drawings, and prints as well.
At age 15, Archipenko began studying art at the University of Kiev in his native city; he was expelled three years later for criticizing the teachers. He then went to Moscow where he worked on his own and exhibited in several group shows; his first solo exhibition was held in the Ukraine in 1906.
Archipenko made Paris his home from 1908 until the outbreak of World War I. Soon after his arrival, he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; this association lasted but two weeks, and marked the end of Archipenko's formal training. He continued to study art by spending large amounts of time visiting art museums and painting on his own. During this period, he began exhibiting in the Salon des Independents with the Cubists, and as a member of the "Section d'Or" participated in that group's exhibitions. His first one-man exhibition in Germany was held at the Folkwant Museum (1912) and his work was featured in the Armory Show (1913).
In 1912, at the age of 25, Archipenko established his first art school in Paris. He spent the war years working quietly outside of Nice, and soon afterwards circulated an extensive exhibition of his works throughout Europe. In 1921, Archipenko settled in Berlin, opened an art school there, and married sculptor Angelica Bruno-Schmitz, who was known professionally as Gela Forster.
Archipenko's reputation was solidly established and the majority of his ground-breaking work - adaptation of Cubist ideas to sculpture, sculpto-paintings and incorporation of negative space in sculpture - was accomplished prior to his 1923 arrival in the United States. One of his most innovative works executed in America was the Archipentura, invented circa 1924 and patented in 1927, a machine with rolling cylinders that displayed "animated paintings" using motion and light. Other creations of note are carved Lucite sculptures, illuminated from within, that were executed in the mid-1940s.
Upon settling in the United States in 1923, Archipenko opened his art school in New York City; a summer school was established in Woodstock, New York the following year. Within a few years, Archipenko purchased land near Woodstock and began construction of a home, personal studio, and buildings for the school. At various times during the 1930s, Archipenko resided in Chicago and Los Angeles, and operated schools while living in those cities. For many years during the 1940s, Angelica served on the sculpture faculty at the Escuela de Belles Artes in San Miguel Allende, Mexico.
In addition to running his own schools, Archipenko taught at a number of colleges and universities, where he ran workshops, and served as a visiting professor. He wrote and lectured extensively about his philosophy of art and theories of creativity, publishing several articles and a book, Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years, 1908-1958 (1960).
Angelica Archipenko died in 1957. Three years later Archipenko married sculptor Frances Gray, a former student. During the early 1960s, the couple traveled extensively on a lecture tour that accompanied a solo exhibition to several German cities. Archipenko died in New York City, February 25, 1964.
The following chronology is excerpted from Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute by Katherine Janszky Michaelsen and Nehama Guralnik (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1986) and Archipenko: The Sculpture and Graphic art, Including a Print Catalogue Raisonne by Donald Karshan, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag (Tubingen, Germany, 1974).
Born to Porfiry Antonovich and Poroskovia Wassilievna Machova Archipenko in Kiev, Ukraine, Russia. Father a mechanical engineer, professor of engineering, and inventor; grandfather an icon painter.
Studied and copied Michelangelo drawings from a book given him by his grandfather during a long confinement following a leg injury.
Painting and sculpture student in Kiev art school; expelled for criticizing his teachers.
First one-man show in the Ukraine. Worked in Moscow and exhibited in several group shows.
Moved to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Quit formal art instruction after two weeks, continued to study art on his own by visiting museums.
Exhibited in the Salon des Independants with the cubists (also in 1911-1914 and 1919).
Opened art school in Paris. "Section d'Or" formed in Paris with Archipenko among its members. The group exhibited until 1914, and briefly after World War I. First solo exhibition in Germany, Folkwant Museum, Hagen.
Represented in the Armory Show. Executed first prints (lithographs).
Began making sculpto-paintings.
Spent the war years working near Nice.
Began extensive tour exhibiting his works in various European cities (Geneva, Zurich, Paris, London, Brussels, Athens, Berlin, Munich, etc.).
One-man exhibition in the Venice Biennale.
First solo exhibition in the United States at the Societe Anonyme, Inc., New York; a symposium, Psychology of Modern Art and Archipenko, was held during the course of the show. Moved to Berlin and opened art school. Married sculptor Angelica Bruno-Schmitz [known professionally as Gela Forster]. First print commission.
Moved to the United States and opened art school in New York City.
Established a summer school at Woodstock, New York.
"Archipentura" patented ("Apparatus for displaying Changeable Pictures and methods for Decorating Changeable Display Apparatus," nos. 1,626, 946 and 1,626,497).
Became an American citizen.
Bought land near Woodstock, New York, and began construction of school and studio buildings.
Lectured on his theories of creativeness at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Taught summer session at Mills College, Oakland, California, and Chouinard School, Los Angeles.
Moved to Los Angeles and opened art school.
Taught summer sessions at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Moved to Chicago and opened art school. Associate instructor at New Bauhaus School, Chicago.
Returned to New York; reopened art school and Woodstock summer school.
Taught at the Dalton School, New York City.
Returned to Chicago; taught at the Institute of Design.
Began making carved plastic sculptures with internal illumination.
Taught at University of Kansas City, Missouri.
Lecture tour of the southern cities of the United States.
Taught at Carmel Institute of Art, California, University of Oregon, and University of Washington, Seattle.
Taught at University of Delaware, Newark.
Elected Associate Member of International Institute of Arts and Letters.
One-man exhibition tours in Germany (Dusseldorf, Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Recklinghausen).
Taught at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Death of Angelica.
Awarded gold medal, XIII Biennale de'Arte Triveneta, III Concorso Internationale del Bronzetto, Padua, Italy.
Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years, 1908-1958 by Alexander Archipenko and Fifty Art Historians published by Tekhne (a company established by Archipenko for the purpose). Married Frances Gray, a sculptor and former student. Recovered plasters of early work stored by French friends since the end of World War I. Traveling exhibition in Germany (Hagen, Münster, and Dusseldorf).
Elected to the Department of Art, National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Dies in New York City.