Partner Ray Johnson, Augusto Morselli

Queer Places:
1671a N Prospect Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Layton School of Art, 758 N Jefferson St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, NC 28711
27 Frost Creek Dr, Locust Valley, NY 11560

Richard Lippold.jpgRichard Adolph Lippold (May 3, 1915 – August 22, 2002) was the creator of gigantic abstract metal sculptures that sparkle and soar in prominent places--including Lincoln Center and the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City and the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, where his red, gold and silver "Fire Bird" flies through a glass facade.

The faculty of the Layton School included two artists who had strong gay connections: Richard Lippold and Karl Priebe.

While later employed at another teaching position at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, he began a long affair with gay artist Ray Johnson, whom he would introduce to the New York art world. For a period, Johnson and Lippold lived with two other gay artists, dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage. The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art has a 1963 drawing titled Penis by Lippold. The 14th and 15th of John Cage's famous Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano are subtitled Gemini - after the work of Richard Lippold.

"He saw his works as an affirmation of life," said Curtis L. Carter, who as director of the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Lippold's native Milwaukee, curated a 1990 retrospective of the sculptor's work. "He thought that light and space were the vocabulary of the 20th century artist. His work has a sense of openness, and implies a kind of upward, celebratory movement."

Richard Adolph Lippold was born in Milwaukee, the son of Adolph Lippold (1883–1967), a mechanical engineer, and Elsa S. Schmidt (1885–1976). Lippold studied industrial design at the Art Institute of Chicago and had his own practice for two years after graduating in 1937. He also studied piano and organ and composed music in his spare time. He taught design at the University of Michigan and married Louise Charlotte Greuel, daughter of Frank Greuel & Louise Hoffmeister, a dancer, in 1940. His first sculpture, in 1942, was a collage of himself and his wife, made of newspapers and baling wire retrieved from the Ann Arbor city dump. They moved to New York City in 1944, she to study under Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, he to sculpt.

Lippold first exhibited his sculpture in the group show ''Origins of Modern Sculpture'' at the City Art Museum in St. Louis in 1945 and had his first solo show in 1947 at the Willard Gallery in New York, where he continued to exhibit periodically until the early 1970's.

From 1945 to 1947 Lippold taught at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., and then led the art department at what was then called Trenton Junior College in New Jersey before teaching at Hunter College from 1952 to 1967.

In 1950 the architect Walter Gropius commissioned Lippold to produced a piece that now stands on the Harvard University campus. Called ''World Tree,'' that open structure of straight and circular metal tubes rises 27 feet, resembling a powerful radio antenna.

In 1952 he was included along with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still in the ''Fifteen Americans'' exhibition organized at the Museum of Modern Art by Dorothy Miller.

In 1955, he moved permanently to Lattingtown, New York, on Long Island. Eventually, Carter said, Lippold owned homes in Vermont and Italy, as well as his main residence in Lattingtown, N.Y., where he kept a collection of Rolls-Royces and built his own pipe organ.

Two of Lippold's important public works can be seen in New York. ''Orpheus and Apollo,'' commissioned in 1961, is a 5-ton, 190-foot-long constellation of polished bronze bars connected by wires that hangs over the lobby at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. ''Flight,'' a complex construction of shimmering gilded wires, was installed in 1963 in the lobby of the former Pan Am Building, which is now the MetLife Building.

In 1976 he produced ''Ad Astra,'' a slender, 115-foot-tall double spire bearing starlike wire bursts, for the front of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

In 1990 the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee organized a retrospective and published a catalog that remains the best source of information about the artist.

"He always said he wasn't interested in being well-known; what he wanted was to have his work experienced," Carter said.

"He's the most unknown great artist around. You ask around, 'Who's Lippold?' and nobody knows, but that's what he wanted," said Augusto Morselli, his companion of 28 years. Morselli said it was Lippold's wish to be cremated and have his remains launched into space: "He said, 'I came from space, I want to go back to space.' In due time, we will honor his wish."

He died iof kidney failure at a hospital in Roslyn, N.Y, at 87. Morselli said that Lippold continued to draw new designs, including one for a 200-foot-tall memorial to victims of the World Trade Center disaster, until his final two-week hospitalization.

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