Today we detour from working artists to remember the lasting impact of an artist from the recent past.
Barney Bright is arguably the single most influential Louisville artist of the second half of the 20th century; a sculptor of such great facility and grace that his bronze statues seem often to belong more in the wind than anchored in terra firma. In his work we find a suppleness of form that can be warm and sensual enough that it is not a stretch to imagine a beating heart within the figures. Yet the virtuosic plasticity is easily shaped into magnificent compositions of great dynamism. As documented by Louisville’s Commission On Public Art (COPA), several works, including “River Horse” and “The Search”, are important parts of the rich fabric of visual art that can be discovered throughout the city and surrounding area.
In Bright’s “Louisville Clock” we are provided a case study of the perils of high ambition in public art. Unveiled to great fanfare in downtown Louisville in 1976, the 40-foot high, ornamental mechanical masterpiece has been relocated several times and now sits in storage, waiting for a philanthropic angel of mercy to restore it to public view once again. Incorporating Kentucky themes and iconography such as the Belle of Louisville, Daniel Boone and King Louis XVI, the clock reflects Bright’s singular sense of humor; its enduring popularity throughout its troubled history a testament to the affection and esteem with which the community still holds Bright and his work; its fate underscoring the crucial need for continual upkeep of such public treasures.
Barney Bright: A Fifty Year Celebration: Exhibition and Catalogue, a 36-page catalog of the 1997 LVA retrospective of Bright’s work, can be purchased through Artebella for $15.00 ($5.00 shipping and handling if required).
bronze sculpture, located at Floyd County New Albany Public Library, New Albany, Indiana
More Artwork by
bronze sculpture, located at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 600 Martin Luther King Jr. and Seventh Street.
At a Glance:
Name: Barney Bright
Hometown: Shelbyville, Kentucky