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  • Sari Dienes


    Art Brokerage: Sari Dienes Hungarian-American Artist: b. 1898-1992. Sari Dienes (8 October 1898 – 25 May 1992) was a Hungarian-born American artist. During a career spanning six decades she worked in a wide range of media, creating paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, textile designs, sets and costumes for theatre and dance, sound-art installations, mixed-media environments, music and performance art. Her large-scale 'Sidewalk Rubbings' of 1953-55 - bold, graphic, geometrical compositions, combining rubbings of manhole covers, subway gratings and other elements of the urban streetscape - signalled a move away from the gestural mark making of Abstract Expressionism towards the indexical appropriation of the environment that would be further developed in Pop art, and exerted a significant influence on Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Dienes was born Sarolta Maria Anna Chylinska on 8 October in Debreczen, Austria-Hungary. Between c.1928 and c.1935 Dienes studied fine art in Paris with Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant at the Académie Moderne, with André Lhote, and with Ozenfant at the Académie Ozenfant. She was appointed assistant director of the Ozenfant Academy of Fine Arts London in 1936. Dienes recruited the school’s first students, Leonora Carrington and Stella Snead, and employed Henry Moore to teach a course in modelling in clay at the school in 1938. In September 1939 Dienes travelled to New York for a brief visit but was prevented from returning to Europe by the outbreak of the Second World War. She helped Ozenfant establish his new art school at 208 East 20th Street in New York, where she taught until 1941. With Ozenfant's help, Dienes attempted to find a teaching position for her husband at an American university but was unsuccessful; Paul Dienes remained in England, where he died in 1952. Dienes later taught drawing and composition at the Parsons School of Design and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Around this time she befriended abstract painters Mark Rothko and Theodoros Stamos, the composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham. From the mid-1950s Dienes attended D.T. Suzuki’s weekly afternoon lectures on Zen Buddhism at Columbia University together with composers Earle Brown, John Cage and Morton Feldman and Jackson Mac Low, artists Ray Johnson, and Isamu Noguchi, often followed by a soirée at her 57th Street studio. A three-month trip to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah in 1947 had a profound effect on Dienes' aesthetic, as she later recalled: 'Experiencing the natural formations as pieces of sculpture changed my whole attitude to life, to art.' The stark beauty of the desert landscape, together with her studies of Zen Buddhism, allowed her to see the artistic potential in her surroundings, inspiring her to assemble works of art from found materials.

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