In 1960, Phillip King returned to London from a trip to Greece, cleared the entire contents of his studio, repainted it from top to bottom, and started afresh. The work that he made over the next three years helped to revolutionize British sculpture and announced him as one of the most important and radical sculptors of his generation. The eight works shown at his first one-man exhibition in London in 1964 have now become icons of modern British sculpture, notably Declaration (1961), Rosebud (1962), Genghis Khan (1963), and Tra-La-La (1963). Their daring and strident originality is undimmed to this day, just as King hoped it would be: “I want people to stand aghast for a second, and I hope they’ll do it again and again with my best work.”1 These extraordinary sculptures were just the beginning. Each decade since has brought new works of exceptional vitality and innovation, from joyful masterpieces in brightly painted steel, such as Dunstable Reel (1970), to the raw materiality of pieces like Tracer (1977), and on to a new flowering of color in his recent work, epitomized by Sun Roots II (2008). For more than half a century, King has forged ahead with an unwavering commitment to extending the expressive possibilities of sculptural form. He has continually explored new materials and processes, testing the traditions of sculpture while challenging and redefining the successes of his past work. King’s contribution to modern art is celebrated this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center.
Reel 3, 1969.
Mild steel, sprayed and stove-enameled zinc, approximately 257 x 500 x 340 cm.
Image Courtesy New Art Centre, Roche Court, Salisbury, Wiltshire, U.K.
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