University Museums

Title: Inquisitor
Name: Metal Sculpture
Date: 1965
Period: Mid 20th Century
Medium: Metal (nickel, silver on monel metal)
Country/Culture: American
Dimensions: 81 1/4 x 35 x 35 1/2 in. (206.4 x 88.9 x 90.2 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of Barbara and James Palmer
Location: Iowa State University, Hoover Hall
Object Number: U2002.4
More Information
Except for his early career, when he worked in carved wood, Lipton’s media is primarily metal, especially a type that he began to use after around 1955 called Monel metal. His sculpture is abstract, but forms from nature can often be associated with his images. It is also intended to be seen as strongly emotional, a typical characteristic of American post World War II art, and as dealing with mythical and philosophical issues. In formal terms, his work is rough-surfaced and spatially complex, with an emphasis on exterior-interior relationships. Negative space is a consistent factor as are protruding, even spiky shapes.
The sculpture was sometimes described as technical/biological, referring to its multiple qualities. In contrast to many American artists of this time, preparatory stages are important for Lipton’s’ sculpture, and drawings and maquettes were a crucial part of his creative process. The titles he chose for his works of art were intended to provide insight into their interpretation. His work is found in numerous public and private collections.

Like other Americans in the 1960s, Lipton found heroic icons in the astronauts of the nation’snew space program. Inquisitor may refer to space exploration and to the need for heroic individuals in contemporary society.

Seymour Lipton was an American sculptor whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1970s. His mature work has been primarily associated with the New York School of the late 1940s and 1950s. Lipton was born November 6, 1903 in New York City where he lived until his death December 7, 1986. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and the City University of New York before entering Columbia University in 1923. He graduated in 1927 with a D.D.S. degree and began a career as a dentist. Without any training specifically in art, he began sculpting around 1928. His first exhibition was a 1933
group show at the John Reed Club Gallery and his first one-man show followed in 1938 at the ACA Gallery (both in New York) where he exhibited wood sculptures with Social Realist themes. Around this time, he dropped his dental practice to work full time as an artist. He married Lillian Franzblau Lipton (d. 1985) in 1930 and together they had two sons, Michael (b. 1935) and Alan ( b. 1941). He began in 1940 to teach sculpture at the New School for Social Research, continuing until 1965. From the mid 1940s on, Lipton
exhibited frequently in group shows, including those at the Whitney Museum of American Art , the Museum of Modern Art and many others. He carried out numerous commissions including the IBM Watson Research Center, the Philharmonic Hall of Lincoln Center, and the Milwaukee Art Center.