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Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age

1959 Harry Bertoia Born: San Lorenzo, Italy 1915 Died: Barto, Pennsylvania 1978 brazed and welded brass and bronze 142 1/4 x 231 1/4 x 81 in. (361.4 x 587.4 x 205.8 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Zenith Corporation 1979.107A-D Smithsonian American Art Museum
3rd Floor, East Wing

Gallery Label

Bertoia created this sculpture group for Zenith Radio Corporation's Chicago headquarters. The largest cluster symbolizes the world, transmitting light to the three smaller forms, representing sight, sound and electronic control and responding with "luminous impulses" of their own. Bertoia explained that "we live in a time dominated by these invisible forces...these elements of the atomic and electronic age that I am trying to give sculptural shape and form."

The work reflects the optimism of the 1950s, when the economy boomed and new technologies appeared every day. Visitors watching the clusters flash at regular intervals likely thought of Sputnik, the satellite launched by the U.S.S.R. in 1957. Americans turned out to watch its blinking path across the night sky, and the event launched the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Across the nation, broadcast television was transforming American culture, and thousands of TV sets appeared in households for the first time. Bertoia's vision of global communications is our reality today, when hundreds of satellites receive and transmit signals for television, cell phones, and computers at every moment.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006



Allegory - arts and sciences - technology

Allegory - element - energy

Allegory - life - Atomic Age


metal - brass

metal - bronze


About Harry Bertoia

Born: San Lorenzo, Italy 1915 Died: Barto, Pennsylvania 1978

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Harry Bertoia

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