Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Izumi Masatoshi Fountain Installation


Fountain Detail Plan


When I decided to pursue stone carving I didn't know what I was getting into. I knew I loved it and everyday I rushed to the studio wanting to study and work. Gradually the stones got larger/ heavier and when I graduated I left not just school but all the tools and friends that helped me move those stones. On my own, if I wanted to continue carving, I had to start over. It took years to get all the equipment necessary to safely handle the material by myself. Along the way I ended up becoming an Art Handler for a living. It dovetailed nicely with being an Artist. I could study my own work in the studio and others Art at work. Slowly I started to incorporate what I learned personally into what was required professionally and I became a sculpture specialist. Like everybody else, I didn't realize when I started what I was building as a student.

Recently, I received an email from a former  classmate in sculpture at the U. of Md. We had accidentally run into each other briefly only once since we left school and she remembered me. She was familiar with my blog, artandarthandling and asked if I would be interested in helping her employer with a project that involved the installation of a stone fountain/ sculpture. It was currently installed in Long Island, NY. It weighed approx. 5,000 lbs. I replied, " Of course I would!"

As a first step, I was sent plans and images. The artist was Izumi Matsatoshi. Reading about him I learned he had worked with Isamu Noguchi in Japan, an early important influence, whose ideas I would embrace and resist. The fountain was beautiful; it was a Zen stone. We arranged a site visit and discussed placement of the fountain in his backyard with the General Contractor who would be responsible for the concrete foundation and the water hookup. I would coordinate with him as well as the NY rigging company that would de-install it and the Artists Art gallery in San Francisco which supplied details provided by the Artist to help me understand how I should install it.

Where he wanted it would not be easy. From the curbed street, obstacles included an irregular flagstone walkway set in stone dust leading to a cedar fence. The fence door opened to another similar flagstone walkway to a flagstone patio, down steps to another flagstone patio set in concrete alongside a swimming pool, then finally to the install spot which was a beautiful flower garden. It would not be easy. I said something like, " ...no problem, we can do it."

It was a two day installation. On the first day, driving in, the radio said it might be the hottest week of the summer, expect triple digits. I rented a forklift to unload the palletized sculpture off the truck. We set 3/4" plywood over the flagstone for the pallet jack to roll over.



The stone was heavy, we pushed and pulled it through the door, over the flagstone walk and stopped at the top of the steps. There were 5 of us. We all looked at the install site on the other side of the steps. So far we had been in shade. It wasn't so bad. The technical details: set up the 1,200 lb. adjustable steel gantry with the 15' I-beam, short leg on top, long leg at bottom, rigg sculpture and trolley over steps, after lowering the pallet to the lower patio, re-locate the gantry over the install site, etc.. wasn't the worst. Where the last step ended, the sun was in full force with no relief. The heat would make it difficult. Personally, I can't remember another summer workday like that, almost unbearable. I told the crew if we can lay it on the lower patio, that's enough, we'll finish tomorrow. Afterwards, when it was all over, I thought it was among the coolest projects I've ever done.

Sculpture is rigged and trollied over steps.

Sculpture is set on granite blocks, level. Plumbing  is ready to be connected, 2" multi-colored river rocks will be placed underneath to complete the installation.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Martin Puryear

The landscape around the studio.

                 
A great benefit in handling Art is meeting working Artists. I get to see what they make and for a short time interact with them in their studio, home and gallery. I'm always respectful of the work and seek to understand what I should do as if it were mine. Personal care along with critical distance can give insights, from where to touch the most fragile object to where to place rigging straps on a two ton sculpture to be picked by a crane. Most times, I'm surprised by these meetings. Because I specialize in what can be difficult,  I'm asked to assist on truly amazing Art projects. Recently, Martin Puryear  asked me help on his most recent exhibition at the McKee Gallery in NYC.

I met Martin Puryear while I was an Art student at the U. of Md. I was still green and didn't know much, if anything. He was a teacher there and friends who studied with him spoke highly of his teaching method. I was never his student but my sculpting teacher, Ken Campbell told me he was the real deal. He had yet to receive his notoriety but I could tell he was serious with ambition. I remember attending a lecture he gave on Constantine Brancusi. Brancusi was an early hero of mine and I studied his work for clues. Martin spoke with authority/ clarity. It was a great talk with slides. Pictures of the Artist working, descibed by a working Artist was a great treat.Some of the things he hinted at, like scale and scope, I am still working on today.

I drove up to his studio in upstate NY and even though I had been there before a few years earlier, on another project, I got lost. He lives off a County Rd. that was not easy to find. I made the mistake of googling his address, relying on an iphone app and guessing. Finally I had to call him and he steered me in.
The Studio


It was great seeing him again and being in his studio. Sometimes it's easy to forget what Art is about. Whatever it is he has it. The first thing I noticed was one of his sculptures was hanging in the air strapped to a chain fall attached to an overhead i-beam bolted to the studio trusses. "That's new," I said. He smiled and told me something like he was still learning.

We were there two days packing his sculptures. Along with his studio assistants I worked alongside a team from Artex, Inc. They had driven a truck filled with materials and their best packers.  It was great fun. Everybody was generous and team oriented. On the third day two trucks came to load and deliver to the Gallery. We now had three trucks total. We filled each box truck with sculptures and in the end took out tape measures to see how it would all fit.

I was only obligated to help in the packing phase of this project, contracted to make sure everything was good from the studio to the truck. Others would be responsible for the rest.  Several of his sculptures were large and heavy. We struggled to get the largest sculptures into the trucks. In the end it was all safely packed and ready for transport. As we were saying goodbye, I felt a real concern about the delivery and installation. The dock door to the gallery is on 58th St. and 5th Ave, NYC. This is among the most difficult places to unload a truck anywhere, let alone three. The largest sculpture had to be rigged for installation. A gantry would be provided  but it was up to the team, along with the gallery technicians to install it. I was a little worried and I asked Martin what he thought. We had a short conversation and I told him not to worry, I'd be there in the morning to make sure the trucks were unloaded and I would help install the sculpture which needed to be rigged by the gantry.

With Martin Puryear rigging his sculpture.









Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kennedy Museum: Jim Dine


I've been an Art student since leaving home. As soon as I found Art was alive I woke up. Fortunately, a teacher in college helped me find my way and taught me stone carving. He gave me a hammer and chisel and said make something. He asked me to learn about things aesthetics could not express.  After a while, I saw in his work what Art attempts to convey and began to understand the distance between stone carving and stone sculpture and how much there is to learn.

The creative wall in my work hit me after the initial excitement exhausted itself. I don't really remember when that happened but I began to question what and why, instead of  just enjoying making sculpture. He could see in what I was making, the trouble I was in. Finally, he said he could start teaching me something.

Art Handling started after school because it seemed the best way to make money. A friend had seen an add on a bulletin board about a job driving a truck and shipping/ handling Art. I had an interview, was hired and a week later drove a 26,000 lb. gvw truck to Texas. I was hooked immediately: visiting galleries, Museums and meeting Artists all across the country, I started to see what I was looking for by handling the efforts of others interested in the same question and proving it in their work, from ancient Art to what's being made now.

The Kennedy Museum of Art, has an exhibition of Sculpture and prints by Jim Dine. It opened last month, July 7, 2011. He's an important American Artist. He's represented by Pace Galleries in NYC. I loved going to their 57th St. Gallery. On the DC/NYC shuttle, it was a common destination. Walking into their store room and then into the Galleries themselves was always a treat. You saw on their walls and floors what the Art world thought about the state of the Art and how it was valued. Every month a new show. I'd go in, sign some paperwork and walk out with an Art piece by someone like Jim Dine.

I was contacted by the head registrar of the Kennedy Museum asking if I would be interested in working with his staff  in installing the sculpture for their  upcoming Jim Dine show. I was recommended to them as a sculpture specialist and they were interested in a bid to help. Many of the sculptures were over 1,000 lbs. and there were logistical problems just moving the crates into the building. The largest, as measured by the paperwork, wouldn't fit through the dock door. I immediately said of course.

I was lucky and got the job. He and his staff were great. Being there for parts of two weeks turned out to be amazing. The town of Athens, Ohio was too much fun: excellent locavore food, great beer and live music, from old time to bebop. The people I met treated me like old friends.



We installed all the sculpture in three days. They were bronzes: large and heavy. Handling them in their crates was difficult but in the end were all placed where an initial site map thought they should go. There was a lot of discussion on object/ floor space relationships. The gantry was set up and we rigged the largest piece. We talked about how the Art looked in the rooms and did what we could: I like seeing tape measures come out and asking if a 1/4" is important. When we were done, it looked good, but we all knew everything was still subject to change.



I returned the next week to help fine tune the exhibition. Mr. Dine would be there to oversee the final placement of his work in the gallery space. I was introduced to him, his wife, the Artist Diana Michener and their assistant, Jason Treffry. I was impressed. Seeing him in the middle of his pieces made me smile. I could see in their interplay what he understood and began to understand why. After a while, he looked at me and said the sculptures have to be rearranged.  "OK, how many?" I asked. He replied, " Maybe all of them."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Capitol of Virginia: Bronze Sculpture Install



We're in the middle of summer and it's hot. Working outside can be difficult and a challenge to stay cool in projects that require clear thinking and constant troubleshooting. It's easy to try for shortcuts to finish faster. Sometimes, unaware of being lazy, you can get yourself in trouble and make choices that lead to more not less work. Moving Art is always problematic, when it's 100 degrees outside it can be a problem.



A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be involved in moving and installing a 1000 lb.bronze sculpture for the Capitol of Virginia's new Visitor's Center in Richmond, Va. I had heard about the project from 2 separate companies and finally was contacted directly by the staff at the Capitol. Apparently, they  hoped the installation could be completed asap and because of it's difficulty there was a lot of uncertainty. The sculpture was too big for the elevator and where it was to be installed there was 32' of steps. From the bottom of the staircase, to the top step, it looked like we had to climb a small pyramid.



There was a flurry of emails as the project scope began to develop. Finally, they asked if I would work with Artex, Inc. as this would simplify the contracting process. The Capitol was very familiar with both of us. I had previously worked for Artex and acted as the on-site project manager responsible for the safe handling/ packing/ and transporting of all the Art when the Capitol was renovated a few years ago and then again, responsible for the installation of the Art when the restoration was completed. That project was about the best thing I have done professionally. For a stone sculptor, handling the Jean-Antoine Houdon's marble sculpture: the full size George Washington and the bust of  Lafayette was a revelation.

The bronze sculpture was to be picked up in Fredericksburg, Va. first. Already at 8 am it was 90 degrees and humid. It was packed in a steel handling frame for transport.



Discussing the project with the owner and the crew the difficulties ahead started to get clearer. The size of the sculpture base @ 72" diameter required us to flip it 90 degrees in order to pass through obstacles, doors and hallways. A forklift would be provided in Richmond to rig it to the door and then we would be on our own. Already dripping from the heat, I started to sweat about the work. As we were leaving, the owner of the sculpture took me aside and said he was most worried about the steps. How were we going to overcome that problem. I told him we were prepared but that I wasn't ready to answer him. He asked how long did I think it would take? " One day," I replied. He smiled and said he and a associate had bet it couldn't be done. I smiled and said I'll take that bet. " How about a coffee at Starbucks?"

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Buddha: Center for Wisdom and Compassion-Tongnyi Nyingjé Ling

In May, I got a call regarding a sculpture I had installed a couple years ago wondering if I could provide another estimate to move and install it again. The sculpture was a stone Buddha that needed to be transported from Vienna, Va. to Berne, NY.  I was driving, there was a lot of static over the phone and  I asked that she email me what she wanted so I could understand the scope of the project. Details in her email included delivery and installation of Buddha asap to the Center for Wisdom and Compassion, a non-profit Buddhist lodge and retreat. There was a special event coming: the visit of His Holiness Sakya Trizin  to bless the lodge and it would be special if the Buddha could be in place to receive his blessing too.  He would arrive in two weeks and they had a limited budget. After a few calls I started to understand their request. I am not a Buddhist, but I honor him and those who believe. I had seen and heard the Dalai Lama speak years ago and his message of peace then is needed even more now. Researching Tibetan Buddhism, I began to see who Sakya Trizin is and what he represents. How could I help?

Unfortunately, because of the budget it was not possible to do the project conventionally. There were a lot of steps and costs: packing/ rigging/transport/installation. However, because of the nature of the project, I found ways to reduce the price. We originally used a small crane to rig Buddha onto the deck but I decided we could do without it and save there. I would make the crate and provide the crew for the de-install in Va. but the largest cost would be transport of that crew to Berne, NY for installation. As our discussions progressed I began to realize that I wanted this project very much to happen. It was becoming personal. I finally suggested I could install Buddha myself if they could have help when the Buddha and I arrived. I believed. I had been preparing for something like this for a long time.

The Buddha is stone and weighs about 1,000 lbs. It was seated in a corner of a living room with the exit door 29" (w) leading to a raised back yard deck. Because of this limitation we packed Buddha outside. We were able to set up my gantry and rig it to the lawn. The gantry is aluminum, very light, with adjustable legs. We put the short leg on the deck and the long leg on the yard with the i-beam level. The rigged crate floated over the rail and landed softly on the grass below.






Monday, May 30, 2011

Planting Spring Sculpture






Spring sculpture planting season is back. After a winter of cold and snow, color is awake and flowers are opening. It's a good time to compliment nature with Art. At home in the landscape, what Artists make can bloom too.

Because I am a stone sculptor, I'm lucky and I get to work with other stone sculptures. Most art handling companies decline these opportunities for obvious reasons: liability and danger. People have gotten hurt and the Art damaged. Specialized equipment is only a first step, how to use the tools and troubleshoot during the project is the Art part. Experience through the job is the least effective way to gain awareness. The practice of art handling, ideally, does not start with the client's work. As scale and scope increases, the ability to test skills diminishes. Who has objects that weigh a ton or more to play with?

This project involved a stone sculpture purchased in Florida and transported to Md. I was asked to provide an estimate based on size and weight of sculpture: 74" x 45" x 50" @ 3,200 lbs. I was told the installation would be straight forward and accessibility to the clients pedestal reasonable. They asked me to google earth the address. I saw where it would be placed and made a proposal. As the project moved forward and the delivery date closer, the client wanted to make sure I understood what was expected. Meeting him at his house, he showed  me where and what he wanted. The pedestal was integrated into the edge of a stone retaining wall. The wall dropped 38" to the main landscape grade covered with decorative shrubs. Beside the pedestal careful roses showed off their spring flowers. Behind the pedestal there was a wall of wild plantings 12" above the pedestal level. Walking through the garden I asked if there was another way inside. The garden gate was only 32" wide. He said to come with him in his car to the house next door where the access would be easier. We drove up the driveway and he pointed through a wall of shrubs and small trees. We walked through them right to the waiting pedestal. He said OK, he'll have a small tree cut down and I could do what was was necessary to get through. I said OK.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mint Museum: Stanislay Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova





Occasionally, you're asked to be involved in a project that comes to you based on goodwill accumulated over years of good service. I had done work for the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC but had not been back there for years. Through mutual friends, Bonsai Inc., I was asked if I wanted to be involved in de-installing and then re-installing a large scale glass sculpture by the Czech artists Stanislay Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova. The Museum was relocating to a new building and this was among the last pieces to be moved. Because of the complexity of the project scope, they wanted someone who could troubleshoot problems and communicate practical answers, having me on board eased their worries. It was a commissioned piece made of 10 cast glass panels, each about a thousand pounds. There were two rows of five panels, the top five were bolted to an i-beam welded to structural steel in the ceiling and the bottom five were bolted to a steel plate on the floor. About 1/4" separated the two rows of shapes and both rows were in perfect plane from top to bottom and plumb side to side. Though difficult, de-installing the piece was the easier part. Confirming how to understand how each glass panel related to each other to make the whole was the question and then transferring this data to the new site, on the third floor of the new building, the challenge. Where it was to be installed, construction crews had already set the i-beam in the ceiling and a steel plate was epoxied to the floor. However, only the holes in the above i-beam were drilled. The construction crew did not want to be responsible for the bolt holes in the floor plate, since we were working inside 1/16" tolerance. That was the Art part. I had fretted how to locate the holes, and since it was my responsibility, thought about lasers, fancy tools and other esoteric measurement schemes. We had 24 holes to drill and each drilled hole had to be tapped square to the floor. They all had to be perfect. In the end I decided simple was best. I had a machinist make an aluminum plug the same diameter as the bolt hole in the ceiling i-beam with a 1/8" hole drilled dead center in the plug. A string line threaded through the hole and a plumb bob was lowered to the plate on the floor. It was about 14' between floor and ceiling. We all watched the plumb bob spin until it finished it's dance pointing to exact dead center. It was perfect.