Christopher Wilmarth is best known for his expressive glass and wooden sculptures, created in an abstracted Minimalist idiom. Wilmarth was born in Sonoma, CA, and worked as an assistant to sculptor Tony Smith (American, 1912–1980) before attending the Cooper Union in New York, and graduating with a BFA in 1965. He began teaching at the Cooper Union in 1969, and later taught sculpture at Columbia University. Wilmarth first created works in wood, but preferred sculpting with glass plates and metal. He enjoyed experimenting with the illusory properties of glass, manipulating the shape and the thickness of glass elements to play with the luminosity and opacity of the material, and frequently created sculptures with sparse geometric forms. Wilmarth was particularly inspired by the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, whose views on the intimate relationship between form and spirituality affected Wilmarth’s philosophy about sculpture. In addition to his three-dimensional work, Wilmarth created many drawings and works on paper echoing the aesthetics of his sculpture. He exhibited his work frequently in New York throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and had a devoted circle of enthusiasts of his work. Suffering from an increasing depression, he committed suicide in 1987; the Museum of Modern Art opened a major retrospective of his work soon after. During his lifetime, Wilmarth was awarded several fellowships from both the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Wilmarth's work - etchings, drawings and paintings as well as sculpture - is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Cooper Union Library and other museums and galleries in New York.
It is also in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Des Moines Art Center, the St. Louis Museum and other major museums.