Jene Highstein, 1942-2013


An artist best known for refined post-Minimalist sculptures, Jene Highstein died at age 70 in New York on Apr. 27 after a brief battle with lung cancer. Soft-spoken and admired for his intelligence and humor as well as his work, Highstein developed, over the course of a nearly five-decade career, a spare and evocative sculptural language. He favored monumental forms and was adept in a wide range of mediums, including stone, metal, wood, glass, concrete and resin. His work is related to Minimalism but is distinctive in its sensuousness and its use of curving lines and organic shapes inspired by nature.

“My sculpture is centered on a continuous search for new forms,” Highstein said in a press release for his 1986 solo exhibition at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Penn. “The work is not derived from images, but is rather an evolution of abstract forms which trigger associations with nature.”

Born in Baltimore, Md., Highstein attended the University of Chicago in the mid-1960s, and, subsequently, the Royal Academy Schools in London and the New York Studio School, earning degrees in philosophy and art. He also has a background in experimental theater, and often collaborated with dancers, musicians and other performers. He designed sets for a number of theater productions over the years, particularly the ELD Dance Company, based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Highstein began showing his sculpture in the late 1960s. His first exhibition was held at the Lisson Gallery, London. He later showed in New York with Holly Solomon and, more recently, at Ace Gallery, Los Angeles; Texas Gallery, Houston; and Danese in New York. Among his numerous museum solos were those at the University Art Museum, Berkeley, Calif. (1980); the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (1991); and MoMA PS1, New York (2003).