Born in 1924 at Edinburgh of Italian parents. He studied at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1943. He completed his National Service in 1944. Then he studied at St. Martin's School of Art, changing to the Slade School in 1945. In 1947 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, London. In the same year he moved to Paris where he met Giacometti, Hélion, Tzara, Arp, Brancusi, Braque and Léger, and was influenced by Surrealism and Dubuffet's "art brut". In 1949 he returned to London and taught textile design at the Central School of Art and Design until 1955. He began to experiment with serigraphic techniques. In 1951 he designed textiles and wallpaper and sculpted a well for the Festival of Britain. In 1952 he was a founder member of the Independent Group at the ICA, London.
His slide projections Bunk, started in 1947, with their collage of cuttings from advertising, comic-strips, design and magazines, provoked a controversial debate which had a considerable influence on the development of Pop Art. In 1952 he showed at the Venice Biennale. In 1953 he made wooden reliefs to hang on a park wall in Hamburg. In 1953 he collaborated with other members of the Independent Group in organizing the exhibition Parallel of Life and Art at the ICA. Its themes were the mass media, science and technology and their significance for contemporary art. From 1955 to 1958 he taught at St. Martin's School of Art. In 1956 he was represented in the This Is Tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. He exhibited sculptures at the Hanover Gallery, London, 1958, and in 1960 at the Betty Pasons Gallery, New York, and the Venice Biennale. He toured Europe in the same year and made the cartoon collage-film History of Nothing. His robotlike, pseudo-mechanical sculptures began to take on geometrical proportions at the beginning of the sixties.
He studied the works of the
philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. From 1960 to 1962 he was a
guest teacher at the Hochschule für Bildende Künstler,
Hamburg. In 1964 he showed sculptures at the Museum of Modern
Art, New York. In 1967 he received the First Prize for Sculpture
at the Carnegie International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting
and Sculpture, Pittsburgh. In 1968 he exhibited at the Rijksmuseum
Kröller-Möller, Otterlo, and in 1969 his work was
shown at Düsseldorf and Stuttgart. In 1968 he was a guest
teacher at the University of California, Berkeley, and he also
taught in the Ceramics Department at the Royal College of Art,
London. In 1971 the Tate Gallery devoted a comprehensive retrospective
to his work. In 1974 he went to Berlin on the artists' exchange
scheme; of the DAAD, where he was given a comprehensive retrospective
in 1975. From 1977 to 1981 he was Professor of Ceramics at the
Art and Design Department of the Fachhochschule, Cologne. In
1981 he became Professor of Sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden
Künste, Munich. In 1986 he was made "Her Majesty's
Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland" by the Queen.