Variations on a Square

The Summer of 1957 was the beginning of a big change and was a period of transformation for Jim. He traveled in Europe for four months.  He immersed himself in museums and theater and continued to discover new foods and wines. Spending time in France, Italy and Spain, Jim painted and sketched his way across Europe.

In 1958 Jim decided to pursue art full time.  He resigned his position as a scene designer at NBC-TV leaving behind an impressive track record of accomplishment that showed the versatility and breadth of his artistic abilities.

Jim rented a studio in SoHo at 233 Lafayette Street only one block away from famed sculptor Louise Nevelson’s studio.

In his studio Jim began creating what he called “constructions” which were made of found objects as well as objects made by Jim that were movable, articulating and interactive.

One of the first series Jim developed was entitled Variations on a Square. These constructions were based upon two separate asymmetrical trapezoids that if put together would fit together to form a more symmetrical square. This work was inspired by his relationship with his older brother, John.

From a short written piece entitled FRAGMENT #28 Jim says this about Variations on a Square:

“VARIATIONS ON A SQUARE attempts to depict two brothers: one solid, the other, split. Together they form a perfect square. Separate, they are composed of various real fragments, found in the street, in my head and ……”

John, Tesuque Elder and Jim

In the photograph above, made in the 1920s at Tesuque Pueblo, New Mexico, one can easily see the contrasts between the two brothers, variations of a square, if you will.  John is on the left and Jim is on the right.  John appears somewhat detached and his expression appears to be impatient, while Jim is smiling and certainly seems to be enjoying getting his photograph taken.  Jim must have been curious about this man that they were posing with as he’s moved in close enough to be touching the Tesuque elder, while John is keeping a bit of distance. The photograph is from the collection of Wade Bussert.

Below is one of the series, Variations on a Square, from Satch’s collection.  Each piece in this series consisted of a panel showing the two fragments of the square (the two brothers) and an adjacent panel showing some sort of context or possibly a representation of a life event shared by the two brothers.

Variations on a Square

(Click on the photographs to enlarge)


  1. kelly leeman

    Nice insight to pieces that are interesting standing alone, but awesome w the addition of your research.

    Sent from my iPhone

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