New York (written by the artist, September 1967)
(click on image for larger size)
With the exception of a number of bronze castings, ail my sculpture has been constructed in metal fabricating plants, beginning with a piece commissioned 'for the Saskatoon City Hall in '59 and including Cumbria, the work in this exhibition. Without the facilities to do certain aspects of the work myself, I found this a practical, if somewhat costly, way of getting large-scale sculpture built. Two things are unique about Cumbria, however. It is the largest piece I have ever built and the first of a number of pieces built in Donald Lippincott's plant in North Haven, Conn. To my knowledge, Lippincott is the first fabricator to see not only a need for large-scale work in public locations but also a possible solution to the problems inherent in most commissioned work.
His plant, which was set up solely for making sculpture, provides the facilities and materials for a number of sculptors to realize large pieces on their own terms; which is to say, the sculpture comes about for reasons of itself. If you happen to believe, as I do, that a particular sculpture can look good in a number of different locations, you would doubtless be stimulated by the possibility of working without regard to formally integrated architectural installations. What Lippincott's set-up offers is the opportunity to work on large pieces, under factory conditions, with a degree of experimental freedom generally found only in the studio. What is more, because of Lippincott's faith in large-scale works, at least one alternative has been provided to the problem-ridden, sculpture-competition method of obtaining them.
What I'm looking for during construction of a work is a size appropriate to the scale of the piece. At one time I was apprehensive about having other people working on my sculpture. However, I found that when the circumstances are right a valuable exchange takes place between the fabricator, the men working on the piece and myself. Beginning with rough sketches and "shop drawings" we discuss the varions technical problems involved in trying to get a width of steel to function not only visually but as a structure which is neither underbuilt nor overdone. What must be conveyed to the fabricator (and finally by the piece itself) is the feeling that prompted the work in the first place in the case of Cumbria, a feeling for two pieces of steel weighing five tons, that can be understood as a long narrow line one moment and a hanging heavy slab or a weightiess spread of color the next.
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