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Partnership sculpts artists' vision.

Partnership Sculpts Artists' Vision

There is little difference in the relationship between foundrymen who work with designers and engineers as opposed to artists. The artist, like any other foundry customer, expects a high quality casting that is faithful to the pattern. The differences arise in the customer involvement on the foundry floor. It is these moments of intervention and awareness that castings do indeed become artwork. Unlike a commercial casting, which often fulfills a utilitarian need, sculpture usually presents a purely artistic need.

Early metal workers were often revered for their supposed command of magical powers. Alchemists, for example, were believed to have the secret that allowed them to transform base metals into gold. Metals historically have been used to instill respect and awe in many ways, such as sacred uses and as badges of power for kings and emperors. Metal tools and weapons have provided a sense of admiration throughout the ages.

The artist, driven to make powerful and meaningful work, adds the permanence and strength of metal to his art as if to lend its power to his own.

Copper alloys have certain valuable properties that determine what fields of application are suitable for the metal. For copper, its electrical and thermal conductivity, resistance to corrosion, malleability and formability are significant. In addition, it has a pleasing color, is nonmagnetic and takes a variety of finishes.

When copper is combined with other metals to make bronze alloys, the tensile properties are greatly improved without much sacrifice of other properties. Copper alloyed with zinc is a brass while copper alloyed with tin is a bronze. The alloy of choice for most cast sculpture is silicon bronze. A highly workable material, it is relatively easy to cast, and can be welded, brazed and soldered for the repair and joining of smaller sculptures to make larger works that appear parting-line free.

For the artist, metalcasting transforms complex forms and textures into durable and traditional reproductions. Because production of cast sculptures is usually limited to small numbers, it is difficult to test gating and soundness prior to pouring, so an alloy is needed that is easily cast and repaired.

Once the sculpture is cast, the metal must be soft enough to be finished with relatively simple hand tools. Because of the limited production, the complexity of form precludes use of automatic finishing techniques. But this in itself adds to the overall personality and character of the piece because it is in this handwork that much of the special quality of art casting lives. While the artist's design may have no unintended elements, it is the hands of the skilled craftsman that can bring about unintended but wonderful effects.

To the artist the conductivity of the metal makes it cool to the touch. There is a physical reaction to touching it. Its weight gives it substance. Its beautiful warm color is capable of an infinite variety of patinas, imparting an infinite shading of meaning and mood.

It is at this point that metalcasting and art merge. The artist is as interested in strength, formability and corrosion resistance as the foundryman. The artist goes beyond these physical and mechanical traits. For him, the metal is alive and needs to be coaxed into making a statement. Its luster catches light and pulls the eye around the form. The spirit within the metal speaks to the artist in terms of its color and intensity.

In many ways producing an industrial casting, such as an engine block, is not so different from casting a piece of bronze art. In the end, the engine block goes its functional finite way; the other becomes infinite, defining space, involving us in the shared experience with the sculptor's art, giving witness to the quality and character of our time, testimony to how we see ourselves in our society.

PHOTO : Engineer-turned-foundryman Richard Polich encourages artists to take an active part in casting their own work. Here, he lends a hand grinding the lower half of a large bronze sculpture in the foundry's assembly area.

PHOTO : Richard Polich (above) has operated his art foundry along the Hudson River since 1970. His foundry has recently merged with Britain's Morris Singer Art Foundry. Polich will head all art casting operations in the new organization's foundries in England, Canada and the U.S.
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Title Annotation:special section: Artcasting '90; art foundries specialize in producing cast metal sculpture
Author:Singer, Tallix Morris
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Words:717
Previous Article:Moldmaking techniques match artist's sculpting style.
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