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Apparently Hanged Himself : Abstract Sculptor Christopher Wilmarth

November 21, 1987|From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — Abstract sculptor Christopher Wilmarth, whose works are on permanent exhibit in major museums throughout the country, has died after apparently hanging himself in his studio-apartment, police said Friday. He was 44.

Wilmarth was found Thursday at his Brooklyn residence, Police Detective Joseph McConville said.

The sculptor's body was discovered by his wife, Susan, who told police she had left about an hour earlier. She said Wilmarth had recently been under treatment for depression. He left no note.

Inspired by Poet

Wilmarth's work, like the symbolic poetry of Stephane Mallarme, the 19th-Century Frenchman who inspired him, is based on contemplation rather than perception. He created a series of fragile orbs made of steel, bronze and etched glass that he said were based on Mallarme's poetry.

Although he never received the popular acceptance of other sculptors, his work was deemed of sufficient importance to be made part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Cooper Union Library and other museums and galleries in New York.

Elsewhere he has pieces in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the St. Louis Museum and many other institutions.

In 1984 some of his ethereal pieces were shown at the University Art Museum of UC Santa Barbara.

"It seemed to me he had everything to live for," said Donald McKinney, director of the Herschel and Adler Modern Gallery in New York. "He was 44, but he was in 30 of the great museums of the country and some very important corporate collections."

McKinney, who said he knew the artist since the early 1960s, said he had just talked with the sculptor Tuesday. "He told me he had a lot of new directions he wanted to go in."

The gallery director said Wilmarth recently began treatment for depression, adding, "I think there were some personal problems he wasn't able to resolve."

Gallery Showing Sold Out

Wilmarth began making a reputation in the late 1960s with his first one-man show in 1968. A gallery showing of his work last year was sold out before the show formally opened, McKinney recalled. Most of Wilmarth's work was in the $40,000 to $90,000 range, he said.

Wilmarth was born in Sonoma, Calif., studied at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and became one of the leading proponents of the Constructivist School, which was characterized by its abstract designs and massive forms.

In a 1974 review in the New York Times, critic Hilton Kramer hailed Wilmarth as "one of the leading sculptors of his generation."

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