April 2011- In Los Angeles' Nokia Plaza stands a sculpture of Muhammad Ali that artist Michael Kalish created from 1,300 punching bags, 6.5 miles of stainless steel cable and 2,500 pounds of aluminum tubing. From most views, it appears to be a rainstorm of speed bags, but when seen from the right angle, it's a 2-D vision of the boxer's face. Dwayne Oyler of Oyler Wu Collaborative, Los Angeles, the design and building architecture firm that worked with Kalish, pointed out in a press release that aluminum was ideal for the project because of "its aesthetic qualities, its weather resistance, its weight (or lack thereof) and its workability. Our office has done a series of projects that used aluminum as the primary material, all of which straddle the line between art and architecture, and we are always pleased with the results. This project with Michael Kalish is the culmination of that work."
From industrial metal to work of art
Kalish's tribute to Ali is one of many sculptures around the United States that use aluminum. Kentucky artist Tony Viscardi specializes in contemporary aluminum artwork. Viscardi is self-taught, and according to his website, his mediums of brushed aluminum and neon come from a lifelong fascination with interchanging lights and Art Deco design.
"I chose aluminum because I love the textures I can create with my die grinder on aluminum," Viscardi said in a press release. "I like its contemporary feel and design. I also love aluminum compared to some artists 'choice of stainless steel because of the weight difference." Viscardi uses plasma cutters, jigsaws, grinders, sanding discs, slip rollers and brakes to create his works, incorporating neon to make the pieces glow.
The "Singing River Sculptures" planned in the Shoals region along the Tennessee River are semiabstract works that will honor both the area's musical heritage and the aluminum manufacturing industry. Recycled aluminum donated by Wise Alloys' Muscle Shoals plant will be used for the sculptures, which will be between 18 and 20 feet tall. Artist Audwin McGee created two small-scale models and several drawings, which are on display at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art, Tuscumbia, Ala.
"Aluminum is unique as a sculpting medium in that the weight of the sculpture is forgiving when you begin to reach larger-than-life-size figures," McGee said in a press release. "Personally, I think it is one of most beautiful metals when used as a construction method of sculpture. The metal patina seems drab to some, but used in a way that hosts lots of shadows and voids in semiabstract form, it become more interesting to me than a patinaed bronze." MM