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Richard Rezac
Q&A 08.18.10

.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 the shaping of a massive element that 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, far more jumps and differences than in prior years. previously things seemed to be consciously unified, now they still unify within the sculpture yet individually elements remain more separate and distinct.
It’s true that my earlier sculptures were simpler, more singular and concrete. Maybe the affect 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 be 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 recently as a wall treatment.
.have you ever been surprised by finding yourself engaged or inspired by something that had been around you for years and yet 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.

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