George Sugarman, Trio

George Sugarman (American, 1912 – 1999)
Trio, 1972-1973
Painted yellow aluminum
10’ x 30’ x 13.5’
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: Claire Ruzicka
Click to listen to docent Lloyd Hickson talk about Trio.
Click to listen to docent Carol Stephenson talk about Trio.
Click to listen to more information about George Sugarman and his work.

George Sugarman, the artist best known for taking sculpture off the pedestal and placing it directly on the ground, was born in New York City in 1912. He graduated from City College in 1934 and served in the Navy from 1941 to 1945. After the war, Sugarman attended night classes at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1951 he travelled to Paris to study sculpture under Ossip Zadkine, remaining until 1955. Back in the United States, he taught at Yale, Columbia and Hunter College. He also joined the Brata Gallery and co-founded the New Sculpture Group, which promoted abstract sculpture. Sugarman died in New York City in 1999.

Sugarman began his artistic career in the late 1950s by creating painted wooden sculptures. In the 1960s, he changed to polychrome laminated wood pieces, switching again to painted aluminum in the 1970s. Aluminum allowed his works to be larger and to move outside. Placing sculptures directly on the ground was considered innovative, but what was truly radical at the time was the complete abstraction and open-endedness of Sugarman’s sculptures. They embraced horizontality, hugging the ground and exploring space in a completely different way. His earlier sculptures had separate forms within the sculpture, each delineated and emphasized by a different bright color. As a child, the artist helped his father sell Oriental rugs, the patterns of which influenced his designs. Eventually, Sugarman concentrated on a single abstract form that evolved and changed over the course of the sculpture. As one walks around these works, they unfold into an expressive abstract narrative of shape and color.

Trio consists of a bright yellow ovoid shape which evolves and becomes more open as the sculpture progresses. The title arises from its form, which repeats and transforms itself three different times. It is the second, and last, sculpture made from Sugarman’s original design. Mrs. Bradley saw the first sculpture, now in Albany, and commissioned a second for her home. Trio is one of the artist’s earliest large-scale outdoor pieces, and it is similar in concept to his earlier pieces in wood. It was in this period that Sugarman abandoned using different shapes and colors in the same sculpture, and instead concentrated on a single form that develops and changes throughout the piece. Trio demonstrates the artist’s interest in the transformation of forms as well as his concern with creating volumes out of linear elements. The sculpture, which is meant as a participatory object, draws the viewer in with its clever interplay of light, shadow, and form.

More information on this artist can be found at