Mastering Of Metal

By Fleur Chattillon

Most pure metals come from the earth’s crust and have been around for ages. Just like art, they both have a long history which changed over time. How metals were used and seen as something beautiful rather than just practical changed a lot over time dating back from ancient Egypt to the industrial revolution and so on. With the Industrial Revolution, artists had the opportunity to expand their use of materials, rather than just using paint and a canvas. Because textiles and metals could now be used in processing fabric and metals. What started as a pure and practical material changed into Modern art. Find out more in Mastering Of Metal.

You might be familiar with artists using metal as their hardware to create. Here are a few of the most interesting and unique artworks created from some sort of metal.

Metal wall art has been found as far back as 7,000 BC. Funeral masks, necklaces, jewellery, and gold coins have been found in ancient Troy. So it’s quite an old practice, but it became more and more popular as time went on specifically how it was used in art. So we start in 1880.

‘The Thinker’ (1880-1910), artwork made by Auguste Rodin, Image provided by The Met

There are a lot of bronze sculptures in the world, but not a lot with the fame and value of this particular one. Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor who became world famous with his statue ‘The Thinker’ (1880-1910). The Thinker was made to sit over the lintel of Rodin’s monumental bronze doorway, The Gates of Hell, contemplating the fate of the damned.

Tatlins Tower (1919-1920), artwork made by Vladamir Tatlin, Image Andy Roberts

Then around the 1920s, the art form of constructivism came along. Which was much more mechanical-like art in a way. Tatlins Tower (1919-1920), was a design for a grand monumental building by the Russian and Ukrainian artist and designer Vladamir Tatlin, Eventually, it never got built, but the design became a huge example of constructive art.

‘Figure’ (1928), artwork made by Pablo Picasso, Image by Rob Corder

One of the most famous artists of his time was Pablo Picasso, he was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker and theatre designer. And what most people might not know is that he also made metal sculptures. He created this sculpture called ‘Figure’ (1928) as a proposal for a gravesite monument to his great friend, the poet-critic Guillaume Apollinaire, who died in 1918. Again unique art made out of Iron wire and sheet metal.

By suspending forms that move with the flow of air, Alexander Calder, an American sculptor, revolutionized sculpture, with his moving mobiles that embrace change in their aesthetic. Calder’s subtle balance of form and colour resulted in works that suggest an animated version of paintings by friends such as Joan Miró. He made this mobile in 1932, a creative way of using metals instead of a canvas.

‘Cage’ (1965), artwork made by Walter De Maria, Image by © 2023 Walter de Maria

Another American artist who used Stainless steel, metals and Aluminium as a way to explore art and form is Walter De Maria. He created sculptures in the early 1960s. He got inspiration from a lot of different art forms but was mainly focused on the use of simple geometrical shapes. He created the sculpture ‘Cage’ (1965) for his friend John Milton Cage.

A skyline upside down? Cloud Gate, also known as ´Bean´(1980) in Chicago’s Millennium Park is a steel-made sculpture that reflects the vibrant city’s skyline and is monochromatic and brightly coloured. Made by Anish Kapoor who was born in Bombay and moved to London in the early 1970s. He became known in the 1980s for his geometric or biomorphic sculptures made out of granite, limestone, marble, pigment, and plaster.

´The Matter of Time´ (1994-2005), artwork made by Richard Serra, Image by Chen Zou

This incredible metal piece encourages you to become part of it. Richard Serra, also an American artist, made a piece called ‘The Matter of Time’ (1994-2005), which is one of his large-scale steel sculpture installations and maybe also one of the largest in the world. It is installed in the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. Viewers were encouraged to move around, on, in, and through the work to encounter it from multiple perspectives.

We go on with Jeff Koons and his huge Balloon Dog (1994-2000). Jeff Koon Is an American artist recognized for his work dealing with popular culture and his sculptures depicting everyday objects, including Balloon animals. His sculptures are made out of mirror-polished stainless steel and coated in transparent colours which gives his works the real look and feel of a balloon animal you can squeeze.

‘Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Structure with Three Towers’ (2015), artwork made by Haegue Yang’s, Image made by Fleur Chattillon

Using blinds only for your windows or creating art out of them? Haegue Yang’s expansive installation, titled ‘Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Structure with Three Towers’ (2015), Expanded 23 Times, Split in Three, consists of over 500 independent components made of Venetian blinds that together recreate one of LeWitt’s signature works. This shows a new way of using unique metal materials and making art out of them.

Metal rotating in the air and an almost alien-like looking sculpture? Leave it to artist Anthony Howe, who creates wind-driven sculptures with alien looks. This is the AZLON II (2021) made from Linked stainless armatures rotating around a circular axis.

What all of these artworks have in common is that they are of course made of metal, but there also very innovative for their time and all of the artists that made them based their art on the use of material rather than just the subject.

If you enjoyed reading Mastering Of Metal why not read Playground For Adults? 

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