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Ursula von Rydingsvard

Ursula von Rydingsvard, artist. The artist, née Ursula Karoliszyn, was born in 1942 in Deensen, a small German town where her Polish-speaking Ukrainian father was conscripted by the Nazis to work the land during World War II. The family remained there until the end of the war, and then moved through nine camps for displaced persons in five years. After immigrating to the United States at age eight, von Rydingsvard and her family carved out a new life for themselves. She earned an MFA from Columbia University in 1975, and emerged from her studies focused on the cedar 4 × 4 beams that would define her sculptural practice. Although her work is abstract, the artist has acknowledged a strong correlation to the human figure. This link is most visible in her vertically oriented conical works, exemplified by Five Cones (1990–1992), which was donated to the National Gallery of Art by Sherry and Joel Mallin in 2011. The gridlike format and the organic flow of von Rydingsvard’s materials give Five Cones its structural and visual tensions. It is this compromise formation—the artist’s physical aggression toward her material together with the considerable refinement of form—that gives strength to von Rydingsvard’s work. In honor of the installation of Five Cones in the East Building Atrium, von Rydingsvard discussed the sculpture within the context of her career in this lecture recorded on September 21, 2014.