Willard Boepple, Eleanor at 7:15, 1977
Detail of Willard Boepple, Eleanor at 7:15, 1977
Eleanor at 7:15
Valerie Fletcher: During the 1960s and 70s, many sculptors, particularly in North America, worked in constructed and painted steel. One of the reasons for this is that industrial materials like steel or aluminum or other alloys were considered the appropriate materials for a world that was highly industrialized, highly technological. It also had an appeal because it posed a physical challenge to sculptors: to take on a sheet of industrially made metal, to cut it, to weld it, to bend it, to construct it in ways that would require great physical strength and a certain amount of technological skill with a welder and other industrial tools.
Willard Boepple was one of this generation of artists. He had been inspired partly by having seen a great deal of abstract art in his native Bennington, Vermont which was a magnet school for the great abstract artists of the time. He also was inspired by the great sculptor, Anthony Caro, with whom he worked for a short period. Boepple’s sculpture with its title is perplexing at first. Eleanor at 7:15, what does that mean? When we look at this piece, first of all, we’re struck by its scale or lack thereof. It’s only the size of a young child. It is entirely abstract but when viewed from a certain viewpoint, it can suggest a small figure striding forward, perhaps with scarves or clothing fluttering in the breeze. This may be a partial reference to a famous Futurist sculpture of a striding figure with fluttering draperies that was done in 1915 by an Italian artist. It is more likely, however, addressing the problem of abstract sculpture, which is how do you create a sculpture that has a kind of reference point or something that will attract viewers who are perhaps not as far committed to modern art as the artist himself? And so Eleanor at 7:15 suggests by its title that we are meant to see a young child striding forward or perhaps it’s simply sophisticated construction of steel forms curving in and out about themselves in space.