Dimitri Hadzi (1921 – 2006) is among the most distinguished modernist sculptors, creator of works in bronze and stone that are powerfully abstract and expressionist in character. His contribution to the international language of sculpture continues to influence and inspire through permanent installations and collections, and exhibitions worldwide.
Born to Greek-American immigrant parents in New York City, he had a talent for drawing at an early age and won a prize for his young ability. But, it wasn't until after serving in the Air-force in the South Pacific during WWII that he turned his sights fully to painting and sculpture, going on to study both at Cooper Union. Eventually, he would become a mainstay of the Cambridge, MA art community. He was a Guggenheim Fellow (1957), the winner of the Venice Biennale Award (1962), and the Rome Prize (1974).
His most notable sculptures are: Copley Place Waterfall (Boston, MA), Owen Glass Co. (Toledo, OH), as well as Thermopolis, adjacent to Boston’s City Hall Plaza, and the former Omphalos in Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA).
Hadzi is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art; National Gallery of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; The Phillips Collection and the Guggenheim Museum.
Additionally, Hadzi was also a prolific painter, and printmaker. He also taught at Harvard University for over a decade. Famously, David Hockney attended one of Hadzi’s classes at the Carpenter Center at Harvard, where Hadzi served as director. The two of them spent time together painting and discussing techniques. Hockney gifted Hadzi one of his paintings.
He worked alongside his good friend, Nobel Prize winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney at Harvard, and he sketched while Heaney worked and read his poetry in Hadzi’s studio in Cambridge. Several of Hadzi’s etchings are featured in published collections of Heaney’s work. Hadzi often spoke of Heaney, saying much of his work was inspired by his poetry. Their friendship lasted until their respective deaths.
Three Generations, ca. 1998
As the name suggests, Three Generations, consists of five ceramic pieces representing grandparents, parents, and child. In his later years, Hadzi began to embrace the ceramic medium due to the physically demanding nature of his large-scale sculptures. He also became more reflective on the subjects of life, legacy, and family.
Here he uses bold, yet elegant, almost-chess like pieces to represent the hierarchy of family. Each one has its own identity, defined by strong and distinct circular and triangle shapes. The contrast between colors of blue, orange, and brown express not only masculine and feminine energy, but also the interplay of lineage, which culminates in the soft brown of the small child piece.
Safe Haven, 1998
Hadzi began this painting in 1996. It's done in oil paint, and like his other work, has an abstract theme that invokes an unknown subconscious full of color. At same time, this piece has shapes and hues that feel familiar. Upon its completion in 1998, Hadzi said, “I feel safe that it’s a good painting. I feel satisfied with the end result.”
Written by Jeannine Falino:
Dimitri Hadzi (1921-2006) didn’t plan to make ceramics in his eighties. By that time he had already achieved international recognition as a sculptor, working in bronze and stone in an abstracted, expressionistic style centered upon ancient Greek historical and mythological subjects.
Born in Brooklyn to an immigrant Greek family, Hadzi served in World War II, later attended Cooper Union, and emerged as a sculptor in the postwar era. He spent over two decades in Europe, living primarily in Rome, and traveling to Greece, Turkey and Egypt, while building a reputation with exhibitions at the Guggenheim, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the United States Pavilion of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. His sculptures reside in major private and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, and Lincoln Center; selected public commissions are located in Harvard Square, Stanford University, and Saint Paul’s Church in Rome. He was invited to teach sculpture at Harvard in 1975, where he stayed until his retirement in 1989.
Hadzi first experimented with ceramics in 1952 when he attended the Museo Artistico e Industriale in Rome to study ceramics, metalwork, jewelrymaking, and bronze casting; two years later, he won third prize in the Deruta International Ceramics Competition in Perugia, Italy. In 1957 he was commissioned by the Rosenthal Porcelain Company to produce porcelain reliefs in a series that included designs by such luminaries as Henri Moore and Lucio Fontana.
Hadzi did not return to clay until fifty years later, when a chance visit to the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill brought him into contact with potter Chris Parris, then teaching at the center. Intrigued by the possibility of exploring the medium once again, he hired Parris to become his studio assistant, and the two set about installing a kiln in his Cambridge studio.