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.