Television Review | A catchy and visually rewarding documentary introduces the creator of monumental steel sculptures, Beverly Pepper

Sculptor Beverly Pepper, who worked until she was almost a hundred years old, also made a lot of environmental art.

Almost a sculptor who worked until his death Beverly Pepper (1922–2020) so long that he would have the ingredients for two, maybe three documentaries. And knowing an extraordinary life story, with a bit of an attitude, even a gossip.

It is therefore reassuring that Luca Cococcetta and Marco Zaccarelli have not fallen for the temptations. They focus on the Italian documentary they directed Beverly Pepper, Woman of Steel (2020) above all to Pepper’s art – and even at a time when his career was unfinished.

Pepper, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, died only after filming the documentary in Italy, where he lived and worked from the 1950s, for more than sixty years. Pepper moved there with her second husband and the father of her two children, but she is still not anyone’s wife or mother in the documentary, not even a “female artist”.

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Narratively the catchy and visually rewarding documentary is dulled in places only by the hyperbolic art speech of the experts. As if Pepper’s large-scale steel sculptures and amphitheater-like environmental artworks that mimic nature weren’t convincing enough, obvious enough in themselves.

Using new interviews and old photos, the directors present many of them at a brisk pace, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of material anyway, because the same Italian company had already produced three other documentaries about Pepper’s art before this. The latest of them, L’Umbria di Beverly Pepper and La Piazzagraduated in 2019.

The core of the story is praiseworthy in the present day, although the creators use a few strokes to illustrate the early stages of Pepper, who started his career as an advertising graphic artist, as well as the transition from painting to monumental, minimalist sculpture. It wasn’t until he was middle-aged that he developed into the sculptor whose main material gradually took the shape of weather-resistant steel, corten steel.

In the documentary Beverly Pepper, Woman of Steel among these steel sculptures by Pepper, four narrow columns of 8-12 meters are particularly highlighted, which he was able to erect in 1979, after long adjustments, in the central square of his central Italian hometown of Todi, Piazza del Popolo.

In the documentary, to Pepper’s delight, the famous poles are returning from their long tour to the square for a while, waiting for their final placement. In September 2019, a park assembled from Pepper’s works is about to be opened in small Tod, located on the top of the hill, where he has designed sculptural benches made of local stone.

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The name of the model is aptly called glasses.

Beverly Pepper, steel woman, Theme at 20:00 and Yle Areena.

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