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Richard Rezac Text


.there’s a lot more metal than usual, have you noticed that?
I have noticed, but I don’t know why, other than a normal difference in emphasis. In many instances with these newer works, the added metal is aluminum plate, used as a fairly mute element and these serve as trays, in a sense, similar to the role that canvas plays in a painting. The reflectivity and neutral color of aluminum offers a quiet complication, but also holds the other elements in the sculpture, both physically and compositionally. Two of the works contain cast bronze, which has been a material and process that I have used for many years.

.pattern and decoration in sculpture—you address that often in this body of work, but always keep us coming back to sculpture. is juggling that an effort?
I don’t find this an undue effort, but I agree that it presents a paradox. Traditional pottery decoration throughout many centuries and cultures balances this integration. Because I always begin with a drawing in the process that leads to a sculpture, and geometry is the visual language that I use, pattern and decoration can easily appear within the drawing. But these elements come from the overall, circumscribed form and usually fit within its visual logic, as a breaking down or highlighting of constituent parts. Consequently, the pattern—as it’s transposed to a sculpture, takes on a structural role and, I think, grows from the center of the sculpture rather than laying on the surface.

.are your drawings the actual working drawings, or do you redo them for presentation? is there another step between the drawing and the sculpture?
They are working drawings, always serving as a plan for a sculpture. Many of them, of course, end at a standstill and no sculptural work comes of it. And I have never redrawn them after they reach their final state, just as one wouldn’t think to correct a sketch in a sketchbook after that observation had occurred.
Most of the time, there is a second step, which involves a three-dimensional, full-size mock-up so that I can better visualize the full composition. These are done quickly with informal materials so I can alter them as needed, and through this second phase I can come to know, for one thing, what materials to use to build the sculpture.

.you’ve traveled with some frequency to see specific architects’ work. who and why, and would you say something about architecture’s relationship to your sculpture?
The influence of architecture on my sculpture has been indirect, but as important as anything else for me. Moving to Chicago in 1985 was the start. Living with the buildings of John Root, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe made me appreciate how profound great architecture could be. So, over the years I have been able to see, in a concerted way, traditional Japanese architecture (and gardens), Shaker and Czech Cubist architecture, Josip Plecnik’s and Palladio’s buildings, Christopher Wren’s churches and most fully, Italian Baroque architecture, especially those works of Borromini. Great architecture somehow accomplishes several seemingly contradictory things at once, and that integration on such a consuming and historic scale is an ongoing lesson. Mostly I approach it, in a sense, at eye-level and can best appreciate the details, inside and out, where joints transition, for instance, or where the shaping of a massive element begins near the ground. The connection to sculpture in these moments is self-evident, but my interest exceeds any immediate formal application. I am not a representational artist, and am not interested in direct quotation, so it is the principles that I sense in this architecture that makes me want to see more of it.

.the relationship of elements within the last few bodies of work seems quite eccentric, with far more jumps and differences than in prior years. previously things seemed to be consciously unified; now, although they still unite within the sculpture, individual elements remain more separate and distinct.
It’s true that my earlier sculptures were simpler—more singular and concrete. Maybe the effect of Baroque architecture partly explains the complications in my recent work, its separate and numerous elements. But more than that, I want to establish an order that is then questioned, and my use of the grid and repetition permits an approach to disorder. Ultimately, I want unity as in the earlier works, but the multiplication within, present in these newer works, means a more spatial reach, further out.

.despite the last 20 years of bigger is better, your scale remains human. would you comment on why you choose to be there?
There are several reasons. By beginning the formulation with drawing, paper sheet size and even pencil, hand and ruler, encourages a focus and a near view that is body size. And it’s easel-painting size, a one-to-one experience, which I derive great meaning from. So, the making is always at arm’s length and that is how I see it best. Also, since I make them primarily with rather simple hand tools, and they need to have a certain degree of regularity in profile or contour to retain their immediacy, or unity as you put it, the carving, shaping and modeling by hand, or assembly of like parts, seems to circumscribe an appropriate size, fit to the nature of the material and its surface as worked. Very large object sculpture, monumental sculpture, has a disconnect with its surface, whereas that bond remains instrumental in my work.

.do you generally begin with something specific that you have looked at, and then move it further into abstraction?
No, but in works that I title, which are few and far between, I do have an idea or motive when I begin, and it’s fair to say that I move that literal image or concept toward abstraction. Mostly though, I begin with a blank sheet of paper, not knowing what may develop. It is a process of trial and error with incremental changes as I go, and there is typically shifting emphasis from too much to too little until I reach a conclusion. I use graphite and colored pencil for this reason, as it is cleanly erased, and the color becomes assigned code, as different material or spatial placement. Occasionally I transcribe part of a completed drawing as a starting point for another one, but then that soon changes.

.is a body of work made for an exhibition or do you make work and the exhibition comes out of it?
I do not make a sculpture, or group of sculptures, for a specific exhibition, but make them one by one, on their own. When a show is offered, then I prefer to include works that have as much difference—in several respects—yet are coherent as a group. I cannot predict, during a given time period, what proportion of works will be oriented on the wall, floor or suspended, or—as recently—a wall treatment.

.have you ever been surprised by finding yourself engaged or inspired by something that has been around you for years and that you’ve never really paid attention to?
No, I can’t say that I have. At long distance, through memory or recollection it sometimes happens, but not coming from older photographs. And again, these tend to be the ones with titles.

.do you ever just want to make a mess?
(Laughter) Good question. It never shows up in my sculpture, if what you mean by that is outward appearance. Most of the time I am patient about things, and move slowly, so I have time to pick up after myself.


What do you think about the relationship of fantasy, abstraction and personal idealism in art making?
Well, those three words suggest an internal state or position, an avoidance or rejection, I suppose, of representation as we normally view it. And that does describe my involvement.

How is your interest in a form or structure begun - from inside out or outside in; do you develop ideas pictorially or diagrammatically in a note book?
Diagrammatically, but I don’t use a notebook. I rely on geometry as a language, but I use it intuitively. I begin what eventually becomes a sculpture by drawing in an exploratory way so I try to approach each work with little preconception. I think of the sculptural form as a whole entity, so I don’t divide it, or think of it as originating from the inside or outside. I do recognize, though, that when a work is finished it can subdivide, or lose a sense of the whole, through color, reflective surface, repeated forms and so on.

When you work with a particular form for years, are you sometimes surprised to find where it leads?
Not exactly surprised. There is an unfolding that occurs and because my process is relatively slow and deliberate, I usually can feel what’s around the corner. Baroque architecture is important to me and it offers a good example of a single motif, or principle, that can release multiple possibilities. In this show, spheres are in several works and the cap portion of the standing orange sculpture has been used in other past works - a tapered oval.

Are there many preliminary drawings and or models for the sculptures and do these sometimes unexpectedly inform the 2D/3D playfulness that seems underpinning your work?
Yes, there are always preliminary drawings, and I often make models beforehand. The drawings, of course, are not renderings but instead resemble architectural drawings and serve the same purpose - to clarify and set proportions - and with additional views, like plans and elevations, they can convey the three-dimensional relationships. So I can resort to a silhouette and read that sufficiently on paper to proceed. But there is a continuing exchange between two and three-dimensional perception here: a flat shape on paper becomes a volumetric profile which can sometimes look flat again. The models are made in an expedient material and full-size. I usually adjust these and sometimes radically so. I almost never determine the material or color until I have resolved the model and it’s convincing to me.

What has kept you so intent with the one to one human scale?
Well, it is the most obvious and constant measure that we have. It is much less clear or visible now, but certainly in past work I used a strict one to one ratio in determining the forms in my sculpture. Those that were a quotation of a part of the body, or the sources that were, or are, related to the body, like furniture, windows, architectural molding and so on. With sculpture that is abstract, I find also that this sensation - the familiarity of size - is a necessary pivot or mooring and so it allows me to incorporate more unlikely elements or choices in my work.

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