Giving Life to Objects:
The Bernard Brenner Sculpture Collection
Nov. 1, 2018, to Feb. 28, 2019
Scott Room, 3rd Floor, Gordon Library
On Nov. 1 Gordon Library will open a new exhibit featuring the life and work of the sculptor Bernard Brenner. The exhibit marks the 10th anniversary of the donation of 73 of his works, along with an archive of photographs, slides, sketchbooks, drawings, computer-generated art, news articles, and publications about Brenner’s art, to WPI by his daughter, Rebecca Brenner.
It opens in conjunction with the 2019 Innovator of the Year ceremony; this year’s honoree, Diran Apelian, Alcoa-Howmet Professor of Mechanical Engineering and founding director of WPI’s Metals Processing Institute, was a student of Brenner’s when he was at Drexel University and credits his mentor with encouraging him to pursue his own sense of aesthetics and style. Apelian worked with Rebecca Brenner to select the works that became part of the Bernard Brenner Sculpture Collection at WPI.
In addition to works from that collection, the exhibit includes material from the accompanying archives that help illuminate Bernard Brenner’s creative process and the course of his career as an artist. Born in Philadelphia in 1927, he began painting and sculpting professionally after serving in the Army Air Force during World War II and graduating from Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota. He later earned a master’s in clinical psychology from Temple University and studied the use of art in therapy regimens for children with mental disabilities while working as a clinical psychologist on behalf of the Devereux Foundation.
Though he practiced in multiple mediums, Brenner is best known for his sculptures, most of which are cast bronze or forged steel. He was heavily influenced by non-western cultures and sought to capture within his own works the “energy that permeates” the artifacts. To Brenner, African, Indian, Chinese, and Native American art expressed the universal mystery and timelessness of the shared human experience. His public art adorns more than two dozen commissioned settings and has been featured in more than a hundred showings.
Brenner died on in 2004 at age 77. In addition to the donation of the Brenner Collection, in 2017 Rebecca Brenner established the Bernard Brenner Endowment for the Metals Processing Institute and announced plans to create the Bernard Brenner Endowed Scholarship Fund at WPI.
The current exhibit of Brenner's works will be available to view through C Term. Many of the items on exhibit were originally featured in the 2008 Gordon Library exhibit titled, Weights + Shapes: The Bernard Brenner Sculpture Collection. Additional selections of Brenner sculptures can be seen on display on the first floor of the Gordon Library, at the Metal Processing Institute in the Washburn Shops and in the offices of University Advancement at 85 Prescott Street.