Essay by Valerie Fletcher
Willard Boepple’s birthplace, Bennington, Vermont, became nationally renowned for the art department at its eponymous college. During the 1960s and 1970s, the school attracted practitioners and theorists of abstract art, including the leading critic, Clement Greenberg, painters Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski, and the British sculptor Anthony Caro.
Despite the local availability of advanced art practice, Boepple initially went as far away as possible for his undergraduate education while still remaining in the United States (a not unusual decision among college students in the 1960s). In 1963 and 1964 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design, and finally obtained his BA from the City University of New York in 1973.
From 1977 to 1987, Boepple worked as a technical assistant for sculpture at Bennington College, where he had the opportunity to work closely with Caro. The older British sculptor was a master of improvisational composition using sheet metal, and Boepple adapted that technique to his own style.
In the 1990s, as part of a widespread reaction against constructed steel sculptures, Boepple turned to working with wood.
Eleanor at 7:15, 1977
During the 1970s, Boepple, like his fellow abstract sculptors Caro and Richard Serra, made art out of welded Cor-ten steel. Although seemingly disorganized, Eleanor at 7:15 is a highly articulated mass of intersecting curves and flat planes. Neither predominantly horizontal nor vertical, the work is carefully balanced on a tripod of steel plates. While the sculpture resists a figurative interpretation, the title suggests an intimate moment in the life of the artist.
Valerie Fletcher is Senior Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Her research on groundbreaking aspects of international, globalized, and transnational art have resulted in numerous exhibitions and publications.