Bryan Hunt, Amphora, 1982
Detail of Bryan Hunt, Amphora, 1982
Valerie Fletcher: During the 1960s, Bryan Hunt tried various paths in life. He started out to become an architect and then briefly he worked as an assistant to an engineer at Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, during the era when it was the peak of the Space Center’s activities, sending rockets and exploratory missions to the moon and beyond. He then went to California and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Then before he really had much time to develop his studies in art, he contracted a serious illness and had to spend a long time in bed. During that, he read voraciously, including some heavy theoretical and philosophical writers, notably the great French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre and the great modern theorist Roland Barthes.
When he had fully recovered his health, Hunt then turned to sculpture and what he did is he put all of these factors together. He believed that sculpture should be conceptually based, and at first he was interested in the role of technology in art. He did an amazing series in which he handmade little models of blimps, of Zeppelins from the era of World War I, and he would mount them in certain settings like smashing them into a wall. So, this tiny little model would be crashed into a wall and hovering in space. Other times he took pieces of planes and reassembled them into a series that he called the Broken Wing series.
The sculpture Amphora, from 1982, is from the period when he turned to an interest in classical art. Many sculptures and painters in the 80s were interested in appropriating ideas, themes, and motifs from the history of art, and the classical period of ancient Greece and Rome was of particular interest to some artists. Amphora is a clay storage vessel with two handles, one on each side, that was used to store liquids, often wine and, so amphorae were that something that were decorated and considered works of art but also very practical ordinary storage containers. And what Bryan Hunt chose to do was to take that ordinary motif, that object, which has no intrinsic symbolism or meaning, and to take it and use it as an excuse to create a form that stands up and yet it seems to melt. It’s very slender, it’s tippy. It’s as if it’s starting to melt; the exact opposite of what a sturdy, upright clay vessel would do. This may be a comment that the old classical traditions are melting away, that they have less and less solidity in reality in the modern world.