William King

July 18, 2013

A contemporary American sculptor, William King created work that spanned countless media and usually revolved around the figurative portrayal of human figures. These human figures traced social attitudes through the last half of the 20th century, often poking sly and poignant fun at human follies and foibles.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1925, he attended the University of Florida, until he moved to New York in 1945 and graduated from Cooper Union in 1948. While at school, he saw the sculptures of David Smith, which inspired him to commit to the medium.

Humorous and imbued with social commentary, King's work first offered an alternative to Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s. He once explained that "the sole purpose of the arts is neither description nor imitation, but the creation of unknown beings from elements which are always present but not apparent." Described as a sculpture of comic gesture, his work drew from the vast repertory of socialized human gesture a very personal vocabulary of contemporary sculptural forms. Working with aluminum and vinyl, he arranged his painted figures in configurations that transform various social activities into satirical or fantastic situations, exploring the state of mind of modern man and woman, and their tragicomic relations.