I have been working with welded steel as an artistic medium since 1969. Drawing has always been an important aspect of my work. It is important for me to make my own shapes by hand,
rather than rely on found objects or neutralizing the forms, color, or compositions. I feel that pushing the issue of drawing, gives my work a depth not found in the formalist and minimalist art
world or work that relies on mechanical tracing.
My work has grown and changed significantly throughout my artistic career. I grew up in Oakland, California and attended the San Francisco Art Institute on a scholarship. My first one-man show at the age of 20 was in 1966 at the Open Theatre Gallery in Berkeley, California. The show consisted of both paintings and sculptures. Later that year I moved to SoHo, New York and was invited to show with the Park Place Group, an artist co-op run by Paula Cooper. I showed a severe minimalist sculpture at their show in the spring of 1967. Showing with the Park Place Group was a turning point in how I viewed making sculpture. I started feeling that the minimal movement was not interesting me in the way it had as an art student in San Francisco.
In New York I was introduced to the work of various sculptors from the 30’s and 50’s that I found much more exciting. My sculptures before 1969 were constructed out of either fiberglass or wood and poly-chromed. After 1969 I started using steel because of its greater durability. I taught myself to weld and made a group of work that was made up of relatively flat planes that were cut into geometric shapes with an occasional organic form and then welded together. This work was shown at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1971.
A little later the organic forms started becoming more dominant. These sculptures were low to the ground and usually one color. This led me to start making sculptures that were much, more vertical and totemic. I returned to painting my work in the early 80’s as a way to loosen the sculpture from formal restrictions. At the same time I was using cantilevers and complex arrangements as way of expressing my interest in engineering, using the paint as a counterpoint to the structure of the sculptures. This leads me to mention my views on neutralization of form in sculpture and drawing. I see drawing and the use of color as the foundation of making art. Putting a pencil to paper has always been integral to the development of my sculptures. I make my own shapes by hand, not relying on found objects or neutralized forms, colors, or compositions created in a mechanical arbitrary method. The simple act of drawing, gives my work a visceral depth that I find lacking in the formalist and minimalist art world alongside of any artwork that relies solely on mechanical tracing or the removal of the artists hand from the art-making process.
The use of color is equally important as drawing to my work. The steel is the support structure, much like a painter’s canvas, for the colors that I choose. Thus, the paint becomes the sculpture. In the past few years I composed a group of sculptures that are low to the ground and spread out, with the height of the sculptures no higher than two feet. Drawing is integral to this group of sculptures. My process is not random, rather I individually render each shape that goes into the sculptures. The shapes are laid out in a casual sketch that is gradually worked out and tightened into a final sculpture. The compositions are free in form, yet not random, and intended to encourage the viewer to see the individual shapes within the whole. They are layered like a classical orchestral music composition in that there are many different rhythms and sounds that all combine into one whole, but when read carefully you become aware of all the individual parts and instruments. The viewer sees hard, crisp colors that rise to the surface and grab their attention, while the majority of the sculpture is painted a muted color. This contrasts greatly with much of my earlier work which is overall bright and colorful.
Recently, I have been making small, vertical, steel sculptures, no taller than eighteen inches, and painting them with acrylic paints. This most recent work is a more familiar form to me, although the technique is slightly different than in the past. I normally use activated enamel car paint, but wanted to use acrylic as a way to free myself from technical constraints. I consider these sculptures to be sketches, working them out in a rapid intuitive fashion. In going back to the vertical form I believe I am successfully confronting the sculptural clichés of drawing and engineering in space, because I have made low, spread out work that relies on engineering to a lesser degree. I feel that I have a better understanding of sculptural composition and am able to avoid any clichés and consummate my vision in a natural fashion through my use of drawing and color. I don’t just make, I create something that is uniquely mine.