Paul Evans' Sculpture Front Series
An Interview with Dorsey Reading
Master welder, metalworker, and craftsman Dorsey Reading began working for Paul Evans right out of high school and stayed for 23 years. He became Evans’ most relied-upon employee and was responsible for executing many of his designs. We spoke with Reading about the Sculpture Front series, and he provided unique insights into both the history and process of one of the most rare and expensive lines from Paul Evans’ studio.
How did the Sculpture Front series come about?
Paul created the line, in part because the welder we used at the time gave us latitude to make more complicated work. Paul came out with a sketch and said “we’re going to make this big screen for America House”, and that led to the Sculpture Front line. That first screen stood in the window of America House.
What was America House and can you tell us more about their association with Paul Evans?
America House was a gallery on West 53rd St. where Paul’s work was first introduced to New York City in the early 1950s. It was originally founded as a cooperative shop by Aileen Osborn Webb in 1940 to feature American-made crafts and it had a bit of everything, all by craftspeople like Paul. This is where the first piece of Sculpture Front, a three-by-eight-foot screen, was shown in 1961, and from which all the Sculpture Fronts evolved.
catalog, c. 1965. Image courtesy of Dorsey Reading.
How many Sculpture Front pieces did the studio create and how long was the series in production?
The series started with that first screen at America House in 1961 and was in production until about 1980. Because the line was more costly and labor intensive, Sculpture Front works were all made-to-order and I'd say that all in all, between cabinets and screens, we only made about 50-60 total.
to a sculpture front cabinet, c. 1966. Courtesy of Paul Evans.
How much did this cabinet cost at that time?
I was getting a dollar an hour so it cost about $80 of my time, at a dollar an hour, to make this. $900 was the cost to America House and they likely sold it for about two-and-a-half times that. When we got an order for one of these it was like heaven!