Designer, author and artist Richard Saul Wurman is best known for writing, designing, and publishing 90 books as well as creating the TED conference, where specialists and geniuses trade ideas like baseball cards.
But the 86-year-old from Golden Beach created his first bronze sculptures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wurman started the sculpting at least partially because of the COVID-19 restrictions during 2020. “I only did the sculpture when I ran out of frames,” he said. “Different things make you do changes… [COVID] didn’t make me do the sculptures but there was a causality there.”
Now, Wurman is showing a collection of his work in the exhibition “Watercolors and Bronzes” at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables.
The exhibition, displayed at the Carole A. Fewell Gallery, includes over 40 paintings and 20 sculptures. It will be available until Nov. 8.
Born in Philadelphia in 1935, Wurman has dedicated his life to architecture, graphic design and teaching. In addition to all his other work, he continues to work on new projects, including the Wurman Center for Understanding Understanding at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York State.
Interviews with Wurman are featured in our sister publication, Inspicio magazine.
“I think the big design problem is to design your life,” Wurman said when talking about his early years and what drove him to build a career in architecture and later art. “I am not really an expert in anything.”
Still, Wurman has researched and published works on diverse topics, including medicine, cartography, traveling, mortality and sports.
John R. Allen is the Executive Director at the Coral Gables Museum. He spoke with Wurman during a VIP event held shortly after the exhibit opened back in August.
“He is such a bright man. He really doesn’t have to think a lot about what he is going to say,” Allen said. “He could talk to you about anything.”
Allen said the exhibit has received great feedback from guests during the past month and a half. “People donated a ton of money to sponsor that.”
Instead of looking like a regular museum exhibit, Wurman wanted it to look like a salon from the 1930s and for it to be a space where visitors could have conversations while being surrounded by art.
“I had not seen anything like it before,” Allen said regarding the display.
During the Inspicio interview, Wurman talked about his life experiences and what lead him to create the sculptures during unprecedented times.
He explained that understanding new things is his passion. Learning how things correlate can be even more interesting than the things themselves, he says.
“Pattern recognition is the basis of creativity and innovation,” he said. As he perceives it, spinning around expectations and using one’s imagination during the creation process often result in successful, innovative work.
Wurman founded the TED conference in 1983 together with television executive Harry Marks. The name TED, stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and the first conference was held in February 1984 in Monterey, California.
Back then, it consisted of a series of conversations for four days. He was present during each one of the presentations, designed the graphics and planed everything related to the event himself.
“It was theater over four days,” he said. “There was not a theme. I never told people what the connections were. But it was something that had a flow to it,”
The purpose was to bring together different speakers and casually discuss various topics while promoting new ideas. There were no sponsorships, advertisements, or commercial purposes. “It [became] so different form after I sold it, I’m not saying it was better. It was just different,” he added.
The TED conference is only one of Wurman’s milestones. In 1967 he published a book titled, “Urban Atlas: 20 American Cities.” It analyzed the discrepancy between the scales and legends used in the maps of metropolises in the U.S. at the time. “No two cities in the United States did their maps with the same scales.”
His purpose with such a book was to influence the way cities mapped the years after 1966, which did not happen. To Wurman’s surprise, less than two years ago, he received a call from one of his friends, Jack Dangermond who owns Esri, a geographic information company, and found out that the system he had come up with in in the book, by hand, had been converted into a mapping system, called Wurman dots.
“If I have a thought about something that interests me, I give myself permission to try it,” he said. “I don’t like failing, but I accept it absolutely as part of what I do.”
The sculptures have an abstract style and although each of them is different, most share similar features such as snakes, bottles and hands joined together in a compelling way. Six of the paintings in the exhibit are from 60 years ago; the rest were created last year. For now, there are no plans for his exhibit to be displayed at another museum after Nov. 8.
According to Wurman, the most unusual part of the sculptures is the fact he decided to show them in the exhibit. “I had never done a piece of sculpture before in my life… I gave myself permission to do it,” he added.
For more information, visit: Richard Saul Wurman: Watercolors & Bronzes – Coral Gables Museum.
Coral Gables Museum
285 Aragon Ave.
Monday – Friday: Noon- 5 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: Noon- 6 p.m.
Available from Aug. 6 to Nov. 8, 2021.
Entrance fee: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $5 for children ages 6-12.