New York Times; April 29, 2006
Isaac Witkin, Innovator In Abstract Metal Sculpture
By KEN JOHNSON
Isaac Witkin, a sculptor whose bold, colorful abstractions helped to shake up the art scenes in London and New York in the 1960's, died on Sunday at his home in Pemberton, N.J. He was 69.
The cause was a heart attack, said his daughter Nadine Witkin.
In his 20's in London, Mr. Witkin was part of a new generation of artists who changed the face of British sculpture. His brightly colored fiberglass works were non-representational but had a witty, Pop Art-like look. He had his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the Rowan Gallery in London and two years later was included in an important show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery called ''The New Generation: 1965.''
In 1966 his work appeared in one of Minimalism's defining exhibitions, the famous ''Primary Structures'' show at the Jewish Museum in New York.
In later decades Mr. Witkin produced elegant abstractions in welded steel and cast bronze, which he exhibited at Marlborough Gallery in the 70's, at Hirschl & Adler Galleries in the 80's and in the last two decades at Locks Gallery in Philadelphia. Isaac Witkin was born on May 10, 1936, in Johannesburg. He attended the St. Martin's School of Art (now Central St. Martins College of Art and Design) in London, where he studied with the sculptor Anthony Caro, and his fellow students included the sculptors Barry Flanagan, Phillip King, and William Tucker, who all achieved international reputations.
After finishing his formal studies in 1960, Mr. Witkin worked as an assistant to Henry Moore for two and a half years before returning to St. Martin's to teach. In 1965 he took a teaching position at Bennington College in Bennington, Vt. In the 60's the school was a magnet for modernist artists like Mr. Caro, Kenneth Noland, Paul Feeley and Jules Olitski, who, along with the critic Clement Greenberg, collectively came to be known in the art world as ''the Green Mountain boys.'' Mr. Witkin taught at Bennington until 1979.
After moving to Bennington, he created welded steel works reflecting the influences of Mr. Caro and David Smith, joining heavy industrial steel forms with complex Cubist compositions. From the late 70's on, he worked mainly in bronze. He poured molten metal into sand molds, creating organic forms that he assembled into monumental sculptures recalling the works of his mentor Moore.
Mr. Witkin, who became an American citizen in 1975, moved to New Jersey in the early 80's. In 1987 he bought a 22-acre blueberry farm in Pemberton and lived there the rest of his life. After leaving Bennington, Mr. Witkin held teaching positions at Middlebury College, Parsons School of Design, the Philadelphia College of Art (now part of the University of the Arts) and, most recently, Burlington County Community College in New Jersey.
Mr. Witkin's marriage to Thelma Appel Johnson ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter Nadine, of Manhattan, he is survived by another daughter, Tamar Witkin-Marcus of Milford, Conn.; his brother, Jacob Witkin of Burbank, Calif.; and his sister, Deborah Witkin of Johannesburg.
* Copyright 2007