Originally created in 1929 by Connecticut-born sculptor Dudley Talcott, The Wrestler is a testament to the power of the modern age. Nearly a century after its creation, its imposing presence is potent enough to earn itself the position as the symbol for the Florida International University Wolfsonian Art Museum. At nearly seven feet tall, the aluminum sculpture is oddly comforting. Its blend of a few key human features and a featureless facade gives it a quality of quiet strength, softening its powerful bulk. It seems only fitting that such an ominous figure of peaceful might would be displayed at the Olympic games in Los Angeles three years after its creation. This piece of art is one of subtle meaning, leaving it open to a variety of apt interpretations.
Dudley Vail Talcott was born in 1899 into an artistic and encouraging family. He was supported in his artistic endeavors instead of being pushed to adopt a more commercial career. Talcott studied briefly at Yale University but never earned a degree. He opted instead to travel, attending open classes at Academié de la Grande Chaumière in Paris before traveling to Norway. Alcott spent his time in Norway exploring Norwegian fjords by canoe and working on a North Sea fishing boat. He later published two books documenting his experiences replete with his own drawings and photographs. By 1927, Talcott was exhibiting his work in New York and Chicago. He quickly gained repute as America’s premier sculpture, creating works in his own distinct style but still showing signs of more traditional approaches. By this point, Talcott was being commissioned for large-scale installations such as fountains while working on smaller pieces of a more personal nature. The Wrestler, one of his earlier works, already showed distinct signs of Talcott's style. The 1920s saw American artists being presented with competing mediums in which to express visual modernity. Modern applied arts of French influence were the modes of choice for architects and interior designers. Many sculptors chose to create works based on pre-classical Greek figures; this refers to the rendition of the human form in expressionless poses and facial features. Being born on the heels of the industrial revolution, Talcott was caught up with the rest of the country in the wave of awe and wonderment that came with experiencing such a radical change in the cultural and economic landscape. The advent of the automobile and the plane physically changed the American landscape. Jazz, considered to be one of the truly American art forms, was born shortly followed by the invention of the radio. Home refrigeration as well as penicillin, a cure-all antibiotic, was changing the way of life on the home front. Modernism, an artistic philosophy founded on the breaking of traditions and the abandonment of convention, was increasingly becoming less of a philosophy and more of a reality. Modernist art is characterized by sleek, minimalist design. It forgoes extravagance and ostentatious splendor for subtle elegance. A bloom in popularity of science fiction, introduced by films such as Metropolis, had introduced robots into popular culture and fueled an already rampant wonder of new technology. Talcott fused all these modernist ideas into The Wrestler. His faceless visage and geometric musculature are reminiscent of an automaton, yet the inclusion of ears, nipples, and male genitalia humanize what might have been an otherwise cold form. This humanization of his sculpture is evocative of nude Greek figures in the pre-classical eras. The use of aluminum as a medium allows Talcott to express a sense of futurism through material alone. Though it is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, it did not become commercially available until the early nineteenth century. It was initially isolated in 1845 but until the early 1900s was only used for small applications, most notably jewelry. Once techniques were developed to produce aluminum in...
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