Richard Nonas was born in 1936 in New York City. An anthropologist, he had an epiphany in the late 1960s:
« One day in New York I picked up two pieces of wood, and there was real emotion there, and no story, no narrative, no reason for that emotion. I could describe the emotion, not in a single word, but there was real emotion. Not fake, not conceptual. But it was just two sticks.
I thought, Wow, maybe it’s possible to communicate abstract ideas directly with objects, in a way you can’t with words. I got really ex-cited, trying and making things, but I never thought about art. Then, two or three months later, a friend of a friend came to my apartment and said, « You idiot, it’s called sculpture! ».
Thanks to an encounter with dancer Trisha Brown, Nonas met Robert Rauschenberg and Alex Hay. Later, he befriended Mark di Suvero, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson and fully embraced a career as a visual artist. His objective was to give space an energetic charge, treating spaces as places-in-themselves (by opposition with spaces to be filled or used). He embraced gravity as a prerequisite for dance and movement, « to bring space down where I can feel it ». His work was notably collected and exhibited by Giuseppe Panza, placing him in the same line of succession as the Minimalists Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Carl Andre.