Born in Syracuse, New York in 1937, Richard Van Buren studied painting and sculpture at San Francisco State University and the National University of Mexico. While still a student, Van Buren began exhibiting his work at San Francisco’s famed Dilexi Gallery alongside artists as diverse as Franz Kline, H.C. Westermann, Ron Nagle, Ed Moses, and Robert Morris. In 1964, Van Buren relocated to New York. From 1967 to 1988, he taught in the Sculpture Department at the School of Visual Arts. In 1988, he began teaching at the Parsons School of Design. He remained at Parsons until September 2001. He now lives and works in Perry, Maine.
Van Buren has consistently tested material constraints and limitations and in doing so questions the definition and direction of sculpture. He impregnates his signature polyester biomorphs with materials as seemingly disparate as dry pigment, costume jewelry, fiberglass, wallpaper paste, and glitter, in order to present forms which simultaneously reject and depend upon our everyday material-driven culture. Through the creation of his amorphous, uncomfortable and inconsistent forms, Van Buren displays a career-long fascination with the relationship between natural/organic forms and man-made/inorganic materials; especially their ability to mimic and feed into one another.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Van Buren had solo exhibitions at many of the most influential and prestigious galleries, including: Bykert Gallery (1967, 1968, 1969, New York), 112 Greene Street (1972, New York), Paula Cooper Gallery (1972, 1975, 1977, New York), and Texas Gallery (1974, 1976, Houston). During this period, his work also figured prominently in many landmark museum exhibitions, such as Primary Structures (1966, The Jewish Museum), A Romantic Minimalism (1967, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), A Plastic Presence (1970, Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin), and Works for New Spaces (1971, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis), among others. In 1977, the City University of New York, Graduate Center mounted a retrospective exhibition of Van Buren’s work.
The artist’s work is featured in the collections of major museums around the world, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Jewish Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery, Washington, DC; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.