Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Steel Sculpture in Manhattan

Public Art always involves folks like you and me who seek it out, in whichever building or landscape it's installed, we're suppose to look , learn and enjoy. This process begins from the moment the Art is wanted and the project has been budgeted. From an Art installers point of view, companies/ individuals are allowed to respond to the RFP: the formal proposal of the project, only if they're eligible because they've navigated the process, proved themselves worthy and found themselves in a position to be asked. Whatever your credentials or ambition unless you know how to be recognized, even if you have all the necessary paperwork and insurances, you're not necessarily invited to submit a proposal to install the Art. If you want to do this and you are lucky to be invited in the room, get all the info about the project, attend the site visit and meet with everybody else who wants it too, it begins a personal and professional travail, at once cooperative and competitive, to get it done perfectly/ beautifully. This project involves a steel sculpture @ 107" x 72" x 13" with a steel pedestal @ 4' x 8' x 1", both @ about 1300 lbs to be installed in Manhattan. Because of the sizes and weights involved, the logistical difficulty of unloading from the street and bringing them both through a 34" door, the limitations of equipment choices in an enclosed space with floor load bearing restrictions and low ceiling height of 12' 4", professional rigging companies were brought in by the other Art Handling companies as their experts. Generally, Art Handlers have not been seen to be qualified to do this kind of work, even within their own companies, and justifiably so, these projects are dangerous. There is always something that cannot be planned, a tool which was not brought or a dilemma which creates an uncertain drama without an immediate answer. There is little training for this, certainly not on the job site. Luckily, I'm a stone carver who carves heavy, large stones. I love this kind of work and the energy and trouble shooting it demands. It seemed natural to me, early in wanting to do this professionally, seeing which kinds of people and companies were involved, that an Artist could find a place in this. I believe the installation process from start to finish is Art.

The Art Handler is an extension of the Artist, the representative of the person who made the Art: the aesthetic pathway the Artist expresses to us, from inspiration to object, who generally isn't there. We speak/ act for that person. However, the Art Handler, is bound by a pragmatic budget and the constraints of others involved where Art criteria, experience can be minimized because it's a business and competitive pricing is the major concern. Generally, it's for the better, limits have a way to help navigate the choices, however difficult. The Art Handler will have insight, sensitivity and do the right thing as if it is their own piece. We have practiced this on our own stuff and it's the technique which opens solutions. Anyway, the Artist myth is always about struggling, the Art part is making it work, regardless of the problems.

Who speaks for the Artist?