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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

Sculptor lectures, moves 'Us and Them'

By Brenna Greenfield
Staff Writer


Friday, March 10, 2006

Tuesday at 3 p.m. sculptor Josh Garber, assistant professor of art and art history John Saurer and a crew of 14 hefted Garber’'s piece, “"Us and Them,"” into its new home in Dittmann Center’s main hallway.

The sculpture, formerly housed in the Science Center lobby, was moved in anticipation of the upcoming construction of a new science facility. Faculty members in Dittmann have long-coveted the massive sculpture.

"We really love this piece and we were really interested in having it,”" said Director of Flaten Art Museum and Assistant Professor of Art Jill Ewald.

"Us and Them"” was constructed in 1990 and provides what Garber calls an “illusion of strong mass,” a recurring theme in subsequent work. “

"I love how the gutsy steel rods are bent to make this flowing piece,"” Ewald said.

The move comes right on the heels of Garber’s Monday night lecture when he presented his work and ideas to a filled Dittmann auditorium.

Garber, a Chicago-based sculptor, has been working professionally since the late 1980s, and his metal sculptures appear in many public spaces.

During his lecture Garber explained that the heaviness of "“Us and Them”" is something he has moved away from over the years.

"When I was younger, I wanted to conquer everything,”" Garber said. “"Now I focus on subtle refinements.”"

Garber graduated with a B.F.A. in ceramics from Alfred University in 1986, and his background in ceramics still informs his primarily metal-based work. He begins each design with clay maquettes, smaller models that direct the end product.

When Garber first began working, he crafted brass and stainless steel into loopy, curving forms. He also made a book-inspired series from multiple sheets of metal, folding the pieces together, and giving them names like “discourse” and “volumes.”

Garber described his current medium as “thousands of aluminum bars welded together.” Because he has stayed with aluminum for some time, Garber has gradually made more complex forms and appreciates the subtle changes in his work. An average piece takes two months to create, and Garber spends “eight hours a day underneath a hood.” This led one audience member to ask if Garber “sculpts to weld or welds to sculpt,” which elicited a laugh.

While Garber's style has evolved over time, recurring threads connect all of his pieces. His work is dualistic, what Garber calls “the inherent contradiction of taking something rigid (like metal) and making it look soft and tactile, battling material.” His pieces can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, yet still exude fluidity and motion. Garber has tried reversing the creative process by hardening fabric but finds this direction unsatisfying.

Garber also emphasized accessibility in his work. He believes contemporary sculpture constructs barriers between the viewer and the design, and wants his own projects to be very tactile-based. “Touching is another realm of human experience that offers an alternative to an intellectual experience,” he said.

Garber's next big project is in Phoenix, Ariz., where he is creating a design for a light rail station in a crime-ridden part of the city. The work will be completed in 2008 and will welcome commuters to the station. He describes public commissions as “very technical, rewarding and difficult at the same time.”

Garber's lecture is the third of six public Arnold Flaten Memorial Lectures. Next up is Liz Quisgard, a mixed media painter, who speaks Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m.





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