Sam Richardson, his work that I know

Sam Richardson, "Sierra Snow: Sunrise on East Face," 1974 Sam Richardson Born: Oakland, California 1934 mixed media: polyurethane, plexiglass and painted wood 8 3/8 x 20 x 20 in. (21.3 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection

Sam Richardson, "Sierra Snow: Sunrise on East Face," 1974 Sam Richardson Born: Oakland, California 1934 mixed media: polyurethane, plexiglass and painted wood 8 3/8 x 20 x 20 in. (21.3 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection

I uploaded a couple of images of Sam’s work yesterday – he’s one of the artists in California who I admire most. I love this early sculptural work and also his interesting approach to environmental art. I may have trouble finding images for him, this work somehow fell out of favor in the last forty years. I wonder why? Fortunately the world is such that good work stays around to be discovered anew each time another person experiences it.

For this body of work the Smithsonian has the following story on their website:

Sam Richardson’s Sierra Series was the result of a happy accident. While traveling across the country, a storm caused his plane to change direction and fly over an area of the Rockies. Richardson had seen the mountains from the ground before, and always had been fascinated with the formation of the snowdrifts, but seeing these from above gave him a new perspective. Pieces in the Sierra Series are composed from a thin layer of plastic that has been formed and painted to resemble delicate peaks and ridges of snow.

This is a story I have read in other places and also heard from Sam himself. His first-person telling of it, filled with the enthusiasm of discovery was quite charming. Imagine the old days, in a propeller plane traveling over mountains and thinking. Remember what we know about James Turrell and his plane-bound discoveries. Cool.

Sam's work has often reflected a deep respect for and interest in his materials. The earlier fiberglass and resin work required much detailed finishing - forming, sanding and painting - to achieve the look he desired. In the 2000's, when we met him, he was working on tools like the one pictured here. I found this on good old Rocor's Flickr stream. Rocor seems to go to every museum in CA taking pictures. Great oddball stuff. Oh, oh, but what gets me, what is charming and wonderful, is that an artist who is deeply respectful of the tools that enable him to make his work would..... make art works that resemble lovingly used tools. And weird H.C. Westerman tools at that.

Sam's work has often reflected a deep respect for and interest in his materials. The earlier fiberglass and resin work required much detailed finishing - forming, sanding and painting - to achieve the look he desired. In the 2000's, when we met him, he was working on tools like the one pictured here. I found this on good old Rocor's Flickr stream. Rocor seems to go to every museum in CA taking pictures. Great oddball stuff. Oh, oh, but what gets me, what is charming and wonderful, is that an artist who is deeply respectful of the tools that enable him to make his work would..... make art works that resemble lovingly used tools. And weird H.C. Westerman tools at that.

Link to Rocor’s Flickr stream here.

As and if I find additional images, and perhaps scan or photograph the catalogs that I have, I’ll put up more about Richardson.

Cheers,

Geoff

6 Comments

  1. I really don’t have a comment but I am trying to find a way to contact Sam Richardson. We have been out of touch for at least three decades. I worked for him at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City in 1961/62. He is my daughter’s godfather but we have lost contact: we were very good friends. I now live in France and would love to be able to write to him. He would know me as Pauline Hoffman. Anything you can do to help me find him would be absolutely wonderful. His goddaughter’s FIFTIETH is coming up in May!!

    Thank you so much
    Paulli (Taylor-Lewis)

  2. Sam was my professor in college. I just found out he passed away last week. His memorial is Friday at the chapel, near the Tower on the campus of San Jose State. 1pm. Take a look at the current photos I posted. I visited the Anderson Collection today and on the coffee table in Hunk’s office: a vintage Sam Richardson piece! RIP

  3. Oh. Rob – I’m so sorry to hear this. Sam was a wonderful person and a great artist. I imagine he was a generous professor, too. When I met him he was very open, and his heart was a mile wide. I will check your photos. Where did you post them? Thanks for sharing!

  4. Geoff, it’s the last 4-5 shots on my Flickr account. I was fortunate to have been to his house once. Met his wife, and about 18 years ago ran into him outside of MOCA waiting for the doors to open. His grandson contacted me through Flickr when I posted one of his pieces from the opening of the then new Crocker Museum. Great writing Geoff–glad to know you’re also a fan of his work.

  5. I didn’t know Sam, but now I am getting more into his art.

  6. I just, at this late date, discovered Sam Richardson had passed. Such a loss.
    He was on my graduate committee when I was applying for my MFA. He, truly, was one of my mentors and such an inspiration to me and my own work. I will not forget his influence on my process in many different ways. He was always such a positive human being. I know I will miss him dearly as will many of his other students. His art is so timely in this area. I am pleased he has a piece of work in the Smithsonian. It is important to look and see how his brilliant mind worked. I’m happy to have known him from SJSU as an undergrad. & graduate.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *