Equal Forces: The Sculpture and Photography of Kenneth Snelson

Mar 19, 2024 - Jul 7, 2024 | Temporary Galleries

Mirror Mirror 1 Kenneth Snellson

There is little doubt that Kenneth Snelson (1927–2016) was among the most original and inventive artists of the last half-century. Widely acclaimed as a sculptor and photographer, Snelson’s inquisitive disposition and technical brilliance also led to his extensive research into atomic structure and the awarding of five U.S. patents. This, the first of its kind, retrospective, celebrates the extraordinary gift of 42 sculptures and 67 photographs from the artist’s family that now form the Kenneth Snelson Collection at the University of Notre Dame. The exhibition is a unique investigation of sculpture, photography, engineering, and science that surveys the breadth of Snelson’s career. It is the premier temporary exhibition at the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art.

Born in Pendleton, Oregon, Kenneth (Ken) Snelson developed an early interest in optics, engineering, and photography. He attended the University of Oregon and Black Mountain College, where he was a protégé of Buckminster Fuller. Snelson developed a construction technique known as tensegrity wherein sculptural elements are held in place through engineering and tension. Although he initially worked with wood and string, he focused most of his sculptural efforts on stainless steel and aluminum.

Snelson achieved critical acclaim in the 1960s and became one of the most sought-after public artists from the 1970s onward; his sculptures permanently installed in public collections and spaces worldwide. He maintained a lifelong commitment to photography and experimented broadly, incorporating panoramic imagery a generation well before the advent of digital technology. Equal Forces recognizes both the structural essence of Snelson’s sculpture and the centrality of sculpture and photography to his celebrated career.